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Control of Orphan Sources and Other Radioactive Material in the Metal Recycling and Production Industries
Control of Orphan Sources and Other Radioactive Material in the Metal Recycling and Production Industries
1The term ‘metal recycling and production industries’ is used in this Safety Guide to indicate all those physical and legal entities involved in the recycling of scrap metal, such as facilities carrying out collection, sorting and processing of scrap metal, foundries that melt scrap metal, and industry associations. The term ‘metal recycling and production facility’ is used to indicate any facility within the metal recycling and production industries.
2In this Safety Guide, when there is no need for a distinction to be made between orphan sources and other radioactive material, the generic term ‘radioactive material’ is used, with the meaning of “material designated in national law or by a regulatory body as being subject to regulatory control because of its radioactivity” .
3The term ‘clearance’ is defined in the IAEA Safety Glossary  as removal of radioactive material or radioactive objects within authorized practices from any further regulatory control by the regulatory body. This is a specific use of the normal dictionary meaning of the word, which is ‘removal of obstructions’ or ‘permission to proceed’. In radiation safety, it relates to a process of checking material to determine whether it can be considered as non-radioactive within the context of radiation protection regulations and therefore be released from further regulatory control. Clearance levels therefore specify upper limits on any residual contamination by radionuclides, in much the same way as upper limits are given for a whole range of other possible environmental contaminants in different commodities. Thus, any scrap metal that has been cleared in this way need not be subject to regulatory control and may be regarded as safe for recycling.
4The term ‘facilities and activities’ as used in the Fundamental Safety Principles  is a general one encompassing any human activity that may cause people to be exposed to radiation risks arising from naturally occurring or artificial sources. Facilities within the metal recycling and production industries would therefore be included, even though the presence of radioactive material is unwanted.
5The term ‘radiation risks’ is used in a general sense to refer to:Detrimental health effects of radiation exposure (including the likelihood of such effects occurring).
- Any other safety related risks (including those to ecosystems in the environment) that might arise as a direct consequence of:
- Exposure to radiation;
- The presence of radioactive material (including radioactive waste) or its release to the environment;
- A loss of control over a nuclear reactor core, nuclear chain reaction, radioactive source or any other source of radiation .
6The word ‘threat’ is used in Ref.  for the purposes of establishing safety requirements relating to emergency preparedness for and response to a nuclear or radiological emergency. It is not to be confused with the use of the word in the context of nuclear security, where it relates to criminal acts involving nuclear and other radioactive material (see also footnote 9).
7Reference  describes threat category IV as follows:“Activities that could give rise to a nuclear or radiological emergency that could warrant urgent protective action in an unforeseeable location. These include nonauthorized activities such as activities relating to dangerous sources [see Annex II of this Safety Guide for an explanation of this term] obtained illicitly. They also include transport and authorized activities involving dangerous mobile sources such as industrial radiography sources, nuclear powered satellites or radiothermal generators. Threat category IV represents the minimum level of threat, which is assumed to apply for all States and jurisdictions.”
8In the definition of threat assessment given in the IAEA Safety Glossary  it is noted that use of the term does not imply that any threat, in the sense of an intention and capability to cause harm, has been made in relation to facilities, activities or sources.
9The term ‘operator’ means “Any organization or person … responsible for … radiation … safety … when undertaking activities or in relation to any … sources of ionizing radiation” . Principle 1 of Ref.  places the prime responsibility for safety on the person or organization responsible for facilities and activities that give rise to radiation risks (see footnote 4 for an explanation of the term ‘facilities and activities’). Footnote 5 of Ref.  states that: “Not having an authorization would not exonerate the person or organization responsible for the facility or activity from the responsibility for safety.” Paragraphs 4.19 and 4.24 of Ref.  also refer to the operator(s) of a facility in threat category IV. The fundamental point is that the term ‘operator’ as used in the IAEA safety standards does not apply only to planned exposure situations that are subject to authorization, but also to industries, such as the metal recycling and production industries, in which radioactive material may be present but which may not be subject to authorization by the regulatory body.
10There are some situations (such as the use of some building materials containing natural radionuclides) in which exposures from materials due to radionuclides with activity concentrations below those given in Table 2 would necessitate consideration by the regulatory body for some types of regulatory control .
11An example of such a voluntary arrangement is the ‘Spanish Protocol’, which is described in Annex III.
12Nuclear security is defined as the prevention and detection of, and response to, theft, sabotage, unauthorized access, illegal transfer or other malicious acts involving nuclear material, other radioactive substances or their associated facilities . In this context, it is noted that there is not an exact distinction between the general terms safety and security. In general, security is concerned with malicious acts by humans that could cause or threaten harm to other humans; safety is concerned with the broader issue of harm to humans or the environment from radiation, irrespective of the cause. Both, however, are concerned with negligent actions, and it is this aspect in particular that necessitates effective coordination between the organizations concerned.
13 One of the following approaches could be used for implementing this recommendation: (a) The government could encourage the establishment of a system whereby the metal recycling and production facilities, possibly through their trade associations or users of radioactive material, cover, by insurance or other means, the costs of recovery of radioactive material or remediation of a contaminated facility. (b) The government itself, through the regulatory body or otherwise, could cover the cost of regaining control over radioactive material, including any arrangements for its subsequent management.
14 Customs and border authorities have, inter alia, responsibility for preventing the unauthorized import or export of potentially hazardous material including radioactive material. A major current concern is the threat to national security that may be posed by the illicit trafficking of radioactive material. To counteract this threat, some States have established radiation monitoring programmes at border crossings. Such monitoring programmes also contribute to preventing radioactive material mixed with scrap metal from being transferred across borders. For this reason, there are considerable benefits in the coordination of policies and strategies for safety and security regarding the establishment of radiation monitoring programmes at border crossings.
15The appearance of such injuries among the family and friends of scavengers of scrap metal was the first indication of the accident that occurred in Goiânia in 1987 (see Ref. [I–2] of Annex I).
16Such leaflets, posters and basic checklists of initial actions to be taken are particularly important for small and medium sized enterprises with very limited knowledge of radiation safety
17This is a general principle of health and safety, and many States will have legislation that makes this responsibility a requirement, irrespective of the nature of the hazard.
18Some States require certification that the shipment has been subjected to radiation monitoring and shown to be safe for recycling. Such certification is a formal statement and implies that the monitoring has been carried out by a body that has been accredited by an appropriately competent organization.
19In Ref.  the term ‘practice’ is used for those situations where radioactive material (or other source of ionizing radiation) is deliberately used for one purpose or another (see Ref. ). The term ‘authorized practice’ is used to distinguish those practices that are required to be conducted in accordance with an authorization from the regulatory body from other activities that do not need or are not amenable to control.
20Qualified experts may be private individuals or may come from a private or governmental organization (see Ref. ).
21Neutron detectors are used to detect the presence of fissile material such as 239Pu. These are frequently used in border monitoring equipment where the concern is with the detection of illegal transboundary movement of nuclear material. There are, however, neutron sources that are used in general industry. Americium-241 in combination with beryllium, which is used in moisture gauging equipment, is a common example.
22The alpha decay of 241Am is accompanied by the emission of 60 keV photons, which, being of low energy, are readily shielded.
23Because of its volatility, 137Cs will become entrained with furnace dust (see Ref. ).
24During the monitoring of a vehicle containing scrap metal, the background radiation level is reduced by up to 20% due to the shielding provided by the vehicle and its load .
25The investigation level of the instrument cannot be set at the background radiation level, as this would result in an excessive number of false alarms because of the probabilistic nature of radioactive decay
26Alarms may be actuated if the radiation level exceeds the alarm threshold or a suspect package is visually identified in a consignment of scrap metal.
27Activity concentrations of radionuclides somewhat above the values given in Tables 1 and 2 may go undetected depending on the shielding provided by the scrap metal and the sensitivity of the radiation monitor to the radiation that is being emitted (see para. 4.7).
28Such a temptation may arise because the operator may want to avoid either increased scrutiny by the regulatory body or being obligated to provide adequate control over an orphan source or other radioactive material that the operator did not seek to possess (see para. 3.15 and footnote 13).
29There are significant differences in the behaviour of the radionuclides that might become mixed with scrap metal. For instance, 60Co will largely remain with the metal phase during melting, while 137Cs (usually present in sealed sources in the form of caesium chloride) is more likely to become mixed with dusts or be emitted as an airborne effluent. Americium-241 and radionuclides of natural origin are more likely to become mixed with slag
30 Off-site response should be based on national criteria for response to a radiological emergency. However, it is considered unlikely that actions to protect the public will be necessary as a result of environmental contamination following a release of radioactive material to the atmosphere due to the inadvertent melting of an orphan source.
31 Footnote 3 in Ref.  states: “‘Remediation’ does not imply the elimination of all radioactivity or all traces of radioactive material. The optimization process may lead to an extensive remediation but not necessarily to the restoration of pre-existing conditions.”Categorization of Radioactive Sources
1Possible delayed health effects are not taken into account in this statement.
Tags applicable to this publication
- Publication type:Specific Safety Guide
- Publication number: SSG-17
- Publication year: 2012