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The development of a comprehensive and sustainable approach to radiological security requires the proper management of radioactive sources and their protection by adequate security arrangements throughout their entire lifecycle.
One way to reduce the radiological security risk is to encourage the adoption of technologies that do not contain radioactive material, but which achieve the same beneficial results – often called “alternative technologies.” If properly implemented, the transition towards alternative technologies can have a significant impact on improving radiological security, since these technologies are far less attractive for malicious use. Radiological security benefits will only be realized if proper security arrangements are implemented during the transition process, in particular during the transport and end-of-life management of the disused sources.
Each year, thousands of radioactive sources become disused worldwide. Many are exchanged for new ones to continue operation (e.g., industrial radiography and medical teletherapy). Some other disused sources are covered by agreements to return to their original supplier. However, many users cease operations or have no more use for their sources and are not fully aware of options for the adequate or affordable long-term storage or disposal of disused sources.
For instance, many users are unaware of the costs associated with the management of radioactive sources when they become disused, for example, during the transition to alternative technologies. They are unaware that the transportation and disposal costs might be comparable to the purchasing price of the source itself. When confronted with these costly options, some users may opt to not declare their sources as disused and instead store them for extended period of time under substandard circumstances. Poor management of disused high activity radioactive sources has led to significant incidents, which have caused severe damages, including human casualties.
In addition, availability of authorised transport packages, lack of documentation and necessary certificates for sources and devices, insufficient storage capabilities, complex import/export processes, legislative and regulatory constraints from the countries of origin, and the absence of disposal pathways are examples of remaining challenges to an effective management of disused radioactive sources. Finally, in some instances, countries adopting alternative technologies count on international organisations or programmes to help manage disused sources.
Therefore, WINS and the co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Alternatives to High-Activity Radioactive Sources (France, Germany and USA) agreed to co-host a 3-day workshop for European countries aimed at reviewing case studies of effective end-of-life management for radioactive sources; bringing together government representatives, users, industry, and funding organizations regarding disused source management options and considerations; identifying security issues related to the management of disused sources; and addressing the barriers to entry in the adoption of machine-based ionizing radiation technologies.
The workshop supported the implementation of INFCIRC/910 on Strengthening the Security of High Activity Sealed Radioactive Sources. It also complemented the efforts of the Ad Hoc Working Group aimed at facilitating the adoption of alternative technologies.
The workshop was conducted on 28 and 29 March 2023 in Aix en Provence, France. On 30 March 2023, participants were invited to visit selected disused sources management facilities located on the CEA nuclear site of Cadarache.
This workshop was organised with the kind support of the DOE NNSA Office of Radiological Security (ORS).
This workshop reviewed the latest information on the various options to manage disused radioactive sources and how it impacts radiological security globally. It also addressed the necessary requirements of an effective end-of-life management pathway as a prerequisite to successful risk reduction through the replacement of radioactive sources with non-radioisotopic alternative technologies. Lastly, it was an opportunity to strengthen communication channels between users, industry, and funding organizations regarding disused source management options and considerations.
The workshop focused on sealed high activity radioactive sources (Cat. 1, 2 and 3) and provided participants with the opportunity:
National strategies may vary from country to country, and the industrial and commercial approaches may differ for each supplier. Therefore, the workshop was designed around the primary process for designing and implementing an effective end of life management strategy. These steps may include onsite storage of sources or transport for reuse or recycle, return to a supplier/manufacturer, repatriation of legacy sources, consolidation at a storage facility, disposal as waste. For each step, participants identified the key stakeholders and the challenges they may encounter and explored pathways to overcome those challenges.
Expert speakers from participating countries were invited to share their experiences and lessons learned from implementing disused sources management strategies and practices. Industry was invited to speak about management options offered, and their respective planning process. Participants were encouraged to identify immediate steps that can be taken to strengthen radiological security and the management of disused sources in their organisations and countries.
The workshop was attended by 41 participants from 20 countries and the IAEA. participants represented:
The workshop was by invitation only.
The workshop was conducted at the Aquabella hotel in Aix en Provence.
• - Managing End of Life of Radioactive Sources by Deyana Dosieva
• - Final Disposal of Disused Sealed Radioactive Sources in France by Jerome Robin
• - Role of Alternative Technologies and Impact on the Use of Radioactive Sources by Evan Thompson
• - The Role of International Programmes for the Effective Management of Disused Sources During a Technology Transition by Norasalwa Zakaria
• - NNL Experience of Redundant Sealed Source Management by Derek Anderson