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Control of orphan sources and other radioactive material in scrap metal

Orphan radioactive sources or other radioactive material are sometimes unintentionally collected as scrap metal destined for recycling. Over the past decades, there have been several accidents involving such material. These accidents exposed individuals to radiation and lead to harmful environmental, social and economic impacts.

Member States need to build capabilities to search for orphan sources and deal with them safely and securely. Safety Guide No. SSG-17, Control of Orphan Sources and Other Radioactive Material in the Metal Recycling and Production Industries, provides recommendations on ensuring the safety of workers in the metal recycling industry and the public in relation to the control of radioactive material in scrap metal and metal products. The document addresses the responsibilities of the government, the regulatory body, and the industry; monitoring for radioactive material; response to the discovery of radioactive material; and management of recovered radioactive material.

Development of a non-binding Code of Conduct

There are no globally agreed procedures established for the safe handling of radioactive material in scrap metal when first discovered at border monitoring locations. When shipments of scrap metal containing radioactive material are rejected and transported without the proper application of radiation safety provisions, it becomes challenging to bring this material back under the regulatory control.

As a response to increasing global concerns, the International Conference on Control and Management of Radioactive Material Inadvertently Incorporated into Scrap Metal was organized in February 2009 in Tarragona, Spain to address these and other issues.

As a result of the recommendations of the International Conference and following the direction of the IAEA General Conference [GC(57)/RES/9], the draft text of a non-binding Code of Conduct was developed through three open-ended technical meetings and published in February 2014: Results of the Meetings Conducted to Develop a Draft Code of Conduct.

Development of a toolkit and e-learning

The IAEA has developed a toolkit and e-learning material on the control of radioactive material inadvertently incorporated into scrap metal or semi-finished products of the metal recycling industries.

The toolkit is a collaboration and information exchange platform to support national regulatory bodies and the metal recycling industry in this area. The platform includes, among others, a catalogue of previously detected radioactive material in the metal recycling industries, and case studies of previous incidents. The toolkit enables uses to identify sources and radioactive material when encountered and to foster better communication among different stakeholders. The toolkit also includes information resources such as IAEA publications, posters, videos and self-assessment questionnaire.

The e-learning course discusses topics such as the metal recycling sector, prevention, monitoring and detection, orphan sources, detection at borders and response, investigation and recovery. Participants are awarded with a certificate upon successful completion of the course.

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