Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Guidance on the Management of the Disused Radioactive Sources

‚ÄčAbout the Guidance

The Guidance on the Management of Disused Radioactive Sources provides further guidance regarding the establishment of a national policy and strategy for the management of disused sources, and on the implementation of management options such as recycling and reuse, long term storage pending disposal and return to a supplier.


Disused sources

Disused sources are defined as sources that are no longer used and there is no intention of using them again in the practices they were authorized for. Spent sources, which can no longer be used for their intended purposes as a result of radioactive decay, are a sub-set of disused sources.

If lost or not properly controlled, disused sealed sources can be a threat to human health and the environment. Exposure to large doses of radiation from an unshielded high-activity source can be lethal or cause severe radiation injury. If the source capsule is damaged, the radioactive material can be released and dispersed, resulting in contamination to the environment and potential radiological hazards for people.

Through its Safety Standards and other documents, such as the Code of Conduct on Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources and the Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources, the IAEA provides the international requirements and recommendations for an appropriate and sustainable regulatory system for the control of radioactive sources. The Agency also provides various tools to assist regulatory bodies in strengthening the effectiveness of their activities, including the Self-Assessment of Regulatory Infrastructure for Safety (SARIS), the Regulatory Authority Information System (RAIS), the Control of Sources Network (CSN) and the Radioactive Waste Management Registry (RWMR) for operators.

The IAEA also assists its Member States in implementing safe and cost-effective technologies for recovering, conditioning and storing sealed radioactive sources. Direct assistance includes:

  • Search for potential orphan sources, as well as recovery and safe management of found sources;
  • Recovering, characterizing and conditioning of disused sealed radioactive sources, including radium sources, lightening conductor sources and smoke detectors, for long-term storage or disposal;
  • Completion of national inventories of disused sealed radioactive sources, source characterization and record-keeping; and
  • Providing assistance for the repatriation or recycling of high-activity disused sealed radioactive sources.