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Sealed Radioactive Sources: Information and Guidance for Key Groups

Every day, regardless of what we do, we are being exposed to sources of radiation. Some are natural sources of radiation found in the environment (like rocks, soils, cosmic rays); others are manmade sources used for a wide variety of beneficial purposes (like diagnostic X-ray equipment, radioactive isotopes used in medicine, or radioactive sources used in industrial applications).

Professionals working routinely with radioactive sources are able to do so safely because of their skills and training, and because they are knowledgeable about the safety features and design of the equipment used. However, when these sources are lost or stolen, they can fall into untrained hands. In such circumstances, radioactive sources may be a serious risk to anyone who touches them, picks them up or simply comes too close, particularly if the sources happened to be damaged. Serious injuries and even deaths have occurred when people who have found and handled a source had no knowledge of what it was or any awareness of the risk involved.

Safety and security of radioactive sources works toward the same goal: protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of radiation. Safety can best be described as the technical and managerial controls in place that prevent accidents and security can best be described as the technical and managerial controls that prevent intentional misuse or malicious acts..

For the last several years, the IAEA has worked with its Member States to raise the awareness of the risks associated with radioactive sources, to ensure that they develop effective systems that would assess, control, prevent, detect and respond to the safety and security issues and challenges surrounding the various uses of radioactive sources. To facilitate international cooperation and information exchange, the IAEA has developed reporting systems and databases, developed and promoted safety standards and security guides, progressed lessons learned through training and exchanging information, promoted various review services and developed codes of conduct, and so on with the aim of strengthening international undertakings to effectively control radioactive sources.

Among these many activities, the IAEA has developed a booklet to help improve communication with key groups about hazards that may result from the loss of control over sealed radioactive sources and measures that should be implemented to prevent it. This guide seeks to raise awareness of the importance of safety and security of sealed radioactive sources, providing answers to questions for non-technical audiences.

Download the “IAEA Sealed Radioactive Sources” booklet

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| Last update: Tuesday, 05 May, 2015.