chapter  7
16 Pages

The Safety of Radiation Sources and the Security of Radioactive Materials

Introduction ....................................................................................................................................133 Quantifying the Problem................................................................................................................134 Current Issues.................................................................................................................................135 A Yardstick for Safety and Security ..............................................................................................137 Requirements for Safety ................................................................................................................137 The Agency’s Current Program .....................................................................................................145

Sources of ionizing radiation (or radiation sources, for short) are used throughout the world for a wide variety of beneficial purposes, in industry, medicine, research, defense, and education. There is currently an increase in developing and promoting the application of techniques that use radiation properties, particularly in the developing world. Today additional radiation sources are used for diagnosing or treating illnesses that were before undetectable or incurable, for producing more and better food for a demanding and growing population, and for facilitating the technical processes required by modern industries. These sources can be in the form of radiation generators, such as X-ray apparatuses and particle accelerators, or devices containing radioactive materials. Many applications involve sealed devices with the radioactive materials firmly contained or bound within a suitable capsule or housing. Some also involve radioactive materials in an unsealed form. The risks posed by these sources and materials vary widely, depending on the radionuclides, the forms, the activities, etc. Unless breached or leaking, sealed sources present a risk from external radiation exposure only. However, breached or leaking sealed sources, as well as unsealed radioactive materials, may lead to contamination of the environment and the intake of radioactive materials into the human body. Thus, radiation sources can be detrimental to human health.