Radioactive Sources: Discussing Safety and Security

Building Capacity for Radioactive Source Management
Following the Director General’s address, the conference’s two Co-Presidents welcomed attendees. Nathalie Semblat, Deputy Director and Senior Program Manager for Nuclear and Radiological Security, Weapons Threat Reduction Program, at Global Affairs Canada — the country’s ministry for foreign affairs — echoed Grossi’s praise for the Code of Conduct and drew attention to growing international support to other guidance documents, including the Supplementary Guidance on the Import-Export of Radioactive Sources and the Supplementary Guidance on the Management of Disused Radioactive Sources.

The guidance documents describe options for the management and protection of disused radioactive sources and outline the responsibilities of parties, including operators and regulatory bodies. They emphasize disposal as the final management option for disused sources; encourage countries to implement national policies and strategies to manage disused sealed radioactive sources (DSRSs) in a safe, secure and sustainable manner; advise on cases of returning sources to their country of origin; and on reusing and recycling DSRSs.

“The IAEA continues to assist us all in ensuring that our radioactive sources are both safe and secure. An increasing number of countries have availed themselves of peer review and advisory services provided by the IAEA,” Semblat said, explaining that peer reviews have been particularly helpful in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of national infrastructures for the safety and security of radioactive sources.

Semblat spoke about IAEA capacity-building projects, such as the IAEA Regulatory Infrastructure Development Project (RIDP), which is establishing and enhancing national regulatory infrastructure for radiation safety and security of radioactive material in Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean; and a large-scale project for enhancing the safe, secure and sustainable management of DSRSs, which is offering technical assistance to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific and Africa.

Ensuring Benefits
The conference’s other Co-President, Luis Huerta Torchio, Executive Director, Head of the Division of Nuclear Research and Applications at the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission also addressed attendees: “While globalisation may present challenges to safety and security matters, it is also an opportunity for close cooperation. Indeed, international co-operation is a key requirement in ensuring the safety and security of radioactive sources at a high level and it is in the spirit of that international co-operation that we are gathered here in Vienna.”

Huerta said that it is of the utmost importance that the conference examines the impact of technological advances in nuclear science and technology on the safety and security of radioactive sources, emphasizing that, “the benefits of the use of radioactive sources, wherever they are used on the planet, must be ensured against any risk to people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.”

“Nuclear science and technology are continuously expanding their applications to new domains,” Mr Huerta highlighted. “The safe and secure operation of these advanced technologies is an issue of continuous study.”

Huerta emphasized the importance of nuclear safety and security in the management of radioactive sources throughout their entire lifecycle. He described how in 2019, the IAEA launched a multi-regional project on the sustainable management of disused sealed radioactive sources — a project in which Chile is participating. “For Chile, participation in this project is the best way to improve the management of radioactive sources storage,” he said.