WINS held a side-event on the margins of the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology: Addressing Current and Emerging Development Challenges whose purpose was to better understand the roles, responsibilities and possible contributions of various stakeholders in the development and adoption of alternative technologies to radioactive sources.
The event was held on 28 November from 13:15 to 14:15 in VIC, M-Building, Room M2.
Although appropriate security measures will significantly reduce the risks posed by high activity radioactive sources, replacing them altogether with a different, but equivalent technology will contribute to permanent risk reduction. Ongoing research in new technologies and improvements in existing technologies have made many alternative technologies attractive and cost effective. However, there is still more work to be done in relation to certain applications of radioactive sources before they may be successfully replaced by an alternative technology.
Some of the other challenges to effective adoption of alternative technologies include infrastructure, cost, and the availability of appropriate training for staff. Possible mitigation factors include raising awareness among decision makers of the benefits of alternative technologies and ensuring initial and continuous training of staff. Due to technological changes in the new devices, some barriers related to infrastructure (e.g. bunker modification and power supply requirements) are less of a concern now.
To support an effective transition, countries should develop a mechanism as early as possible that involves all relevant stakeholders and clarifies their roles and responsibilities. There also needs to be a transparent procurement process to support a clear expression of the needs and selection of the most suitable technology. Of course, the national regulator plays an essential role in any move to alternative technologies as all uses of ionising radiation should be subject to appropriate regulation and control. Finally, an effective plan for managing disused sources and ensuring their safe and secure end of life is essential to a permanent risk reduction.
WINS identified four major issues to cover during the side-event:
- The availability of non-isotopic alternative technologies to radioactive sources;
- Lessons learned from implementing alternative technologies;
- Key elements of an effective transition process towards alternative technologies and the potential impacts from such a process, and;
- How to effectively manage disused sources.
Countries clearly need access to reliable and comprehensive information so they can better understand the benefits and challenges involved in adopting alternative technologies. Therefore, the side-event focused on:
- Listening to the experiences and lessons learned from those who have undertaken the shift to alternative technologies;
- Reviewing and discussing the prerequisites and steps leading to an effective conversion to alternative technologies;
- Assessing the specific needs and constraints of end-users in various regions of the world;
- Identifying and discussing the roles of respective stakeholders, such as industry, regulators, end-users, the IAEA and international programmes in expanding the use of alternative technologies.
The agenda was built around a number of presentations from invited expert speakers to further explore best practices for the effective adoption of alternative technologies. The interactive discussions were moderated by a facilitator.