New Guidance for Security of Radioactive Sources


B. Dodd, N. Goevelinger


Following concerns regarding the possible use of radioactive sources for malevolent purposes, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is developing guidance on the security of radioactive sources. This is important for health physicists because the safety and security of radioactive materials are intimately linked. Indeed, it can be argued that security is a prerequisite for radiological safety. For example, the fatalities and serious injuries from the GoiĆ¢nia and Thailand accidents (IAEA 1988, 2002) were the direct result of high activity sources not being stored securely. Not only does improving the security of radioactive sources help reduce the probability of them becoming orphaned, it also makes it more difficult for them to be acquired for use by those with malevolent intent. Existing source security requirements in the International Basic Safety Standards (FAO et al. 1996) are fairly general, designed to prevent inadvertent loss of control rather than deliberate theft. Therefore, new recommendations are needed with a graded approach towards increased security that also addresses the attempt to steal radioactive materials by those with malevolent intent. To this end, the IAEA is developing interim guidance for comment for the security of radioactive sources that attempts to balance the need for continued use of radioactive sources for beneficial purposes with the need for increased security. This balance is expressed in the concept of "as secure as reasonably achievable (ASARA), activity and application being taken into account." In the event that the additional security measures do not prevent theft of the material, they will still provide for the early identification of the loss, thereby enabling rapid response by appropriate authorities. The new guidance is consistent with the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security or Radioactive Sources (IAEA 2001) as well as a Safety Guide on the Safety and Security of Radiation Sources that is being drafted. It should be noted that in IAEA documents, such as the Code of Conduct and the report on the security of radioactive sources, as well as this paper, the term 'management' has a specific, defined meaning that covers the whole life-cycle of sources. It is "all activities, administrative and operational, that are involved in the manufacture, supply, receipt, storage, use, transfer, import, export, transport, maintenance or disposal of radioactive sources."


This abstract was presented at the 36th Annual Midyear Meeting, "Radiation Safety Aspects of Homeland Security and Emergency Response", Regulatory Issues Session, 1/26/2003 - 1/29/2003, held in San Antonio, TX.

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