IAEA - International Atomic Energy Agency

07/30/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/30/2020 10:28

Streamlining Storage: IAEA Conducts Training in Radioactive Waste Management in Africa

The appropriate processing, conditioning and storage of disused sealed radioactive sources (DSRSs) is essential to ensure the safety and security of people and the environment. These activities, however, can be challenging, particularly for countries that do not yet have domestic know how. Therefore, the IAEA has supported the development of an approach to DSRS management which is simpler and more cost effective for countries with relatively few DSRSs. An IAEA training course in Kampala, Uganda, used, for the first time, this new concept.

The approach involves a facility which provides all the necessary elements for the processing, conditioning and storage of low-activity, neutron- and gamma-emitting sources, of the type typically used in industry and medicine. Called the '2 ISO Container' concept, the facility comprises two standard shipping containers - placed in close proximity to one another - outfitted with appropriate ventilation, contamination control, safety and security infrastructure. One container serves as a processing and conditioning facility, while the other provides for the receipt and interim storage of low-activity disused sealed radioactive sources and then of the conditioned sources.

The facility and its procedures benefitted from an international peer review. A panel of international radioactive waste management experts - from Germany, Ghana, Morocco and the United States - was convened to observe the functioning of the 2 ISO facility as well as the training course itself. They also reviewed the facility and the technical procedures of waste management - from initial receipt to eventual storage - in order to assess the approach against all relevant international standards and best practices. These efforts, financially supported by the European Union, are part of a broader IAEA initiative under the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA), which is focused on providing support to African countries in strengthening their legal and regulatory infrastructure for nuclear safety and security. Use of the facility with active radioactive sources will need to be licensed by the national regulatory body in each country. In Uganda, this had been done prior to the training. 'This approach has been implemented in line with the IAEA Safety Standards,' said Deogratias Sekyanzi, CEO of the Uganda Atomic Energy Council, the country's regulator.

Some countries, such as Cameroon, have well advanced plans for using shipping containers for the storage of disused sealed radioactive sources, but in other countries the safety of this method has not yet been demonstrated. Under a new technical cooperation project, launched this year, the IAEA is working to increase the capabilities of national organizations to demonstrate the safety of storage, explained David Bennett, a waste safety specialist at the IAEA.