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Training national operators in Egypt to condition low activity radioactive sources for safe and secure storage

28 May 2013
A national workshop providing on-the-job training for operators tasked with the pre-treatment (conditioning)  for the safe disposal of radium-226 and other disused sealed radioactive sources has taken place in Egypt as part of the IAEA’s interregional technical cooperation project INT9176, ‘Strengthening Cradle-to-Grave Control of Radioactive Sources in the Mediterranean Region’. The workshop was organized in collaboration with the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority (EAEA), with the support of the European Union. It was attended by twelve members of the EAEA (managers, operators and technicians).

The trained operators together with the IAEA experts. The operators were trained in testing the capsules
after welding.

Radioactive sources are widely employed for beneficial purposes every day – in industry, medicine, agriculture and research, for example. However, radioactive sources that are outside effective control create safety and security risks. Non-regulated trade accidentally involving radioactive sources or contaminated materials can result in the inadvertent release of radioactivity to the environment. To protect the public from the hazards of ionizing radiation, “cradle-to-grave” control of radioactive sources is essential. The Egypt workshop focused on the latter part of the cradle-to-grave process, where disused sources are prepared for final disposal.  

The first day of the workshop was dedicated to technical presentations on cradle-to-grave management of disused sealed radioactive sources (DSRS). Lectures on DSRS conditioning were provided by external experts, and in later sessions the working layout, operational procedures, radiation protection aspects and capsule welding techniques were discussed in detail.

The following four days were devoted to practical training for the local team, covering preparations for conditioning, and conditioning operations. Working shielding was erected on the working areas for each operation (source reception, encapsulation, welding, bubble test and containerization), and the welding machine was put into operation and tested. A ventilation system was installed and tested, and two local welders were trained in tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding techniques for stainless steel capsules. The radiation doses that the staff would receive during the DSRS conditioning operations were estimated and the local team was trained to do the calculations. Finally, cold runs of planned operations were conducted and all safety aspects were discussed. The IAEA technical officer inspected the operational area and verified that the working conditions fully met the technical requirements. Two additional cold runs were conducted with dummy sources, and this time the persons involved used their all protective clothing. After successful cold-run operations, the local team was ready for real operations, and the radium-226 sources to be conditioned were selected and segregated.

Twelve brachytherapy radium needles with a total activity of 18 mCi  (670 MBq ) were conditioned into one capsule. The capsule was welded, tested and placed correctly in the lead-shielded storage container. The team checked for contamination and found none. No incident or contamination occurred during the source conditioning operation. The IAEA technical officer monitored all operations, which were conducted according to the written procedures and safety requirements. All operations were conducted by the Egyptian team, which demonstrated their capabilities to conduct such operations.

At the close of the workshop, the IAEA tem met with Mr. Abdel-Fattah, Chairman of the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority, who noted that the support received from the IAEA and the EU under INT9176, and the effectiveness of the hands-on training, was highly appreciated by the Egyptian authorities.


The IAEA is helping its Member States to increase their own capacity to manage disused sealed radioactive sources (DSRS) through an interregional technical cooperation project, INT9176. The project was initiated in 2012 in collaboration with the European Union, with the objective of ensuring an adequate and permanent control over radioactive sources at State level, benefiting from the use of a harmonized regional approach consistent with IAEA safety standards and other international best practices. This is done through capacity building activities and the provision of expert advice to participating Member States. In urgent cases, or where local infrastructure and human resources are inadequate, the IAEA can also provide direct assistance: sending qualified expert teams and mobile equipment to the country and to deal with the problem.

Currently, nineteen IAEA Member States are participating in the project, with a focus on countries around the Mediterranean Basin. The project is scheduled to run until 2015 and is funded jointly by the IAEA and the European Union. Technical inputs are provided by IAEA staff from the Waste Technology Section of the Department of Nuclear Energy and the Waste and Environmental Safety Section and the Regulatory Infrastructure and Transport Safety Section, both of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security. Project Management is coordinated by the IAEA Department of Technical Cooperation.

This workshop was carried out with funding
by the European Union and the IAEA.

Responsible/Contact: Department of Technical Cooperation | Last update: 04 Jun, 2013

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