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Control of radioactive sources

The Euratom Community rules on radioactive source control.

Safety and security of radioactive sources in the EU

Radioactive sources are used in medicine, research and industrial activities. The radioactive material is sealed in small metal containers and, as long as it is handled and disposed of correctly, it does not pose any threat to human health or the environment.

However, these sources can be lost, abandoned or even stolen. Radioactive material can fall in the hands of people without licence, or the correct knowledge how to handle it. It can also end up in scrap metal recycling plants, leading to accidental contamination. These radioactive sources, which are outside regulatory control, are called orphan sources.

The Euratom Community has specific rules to prevent the exposure of workers and the public to radioactivity that could arise from inadequate control of radioactive sources, and to ensure that each radioactive source is kept under control. They are compiled in chapter IX (sections 2 and 3) of the Basic Safety Standards Directive 2013/59/Euratom.

The requirements are closely linked to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Code of conduct on the safety and security of radioactive sources, and its related guidance.

Shipments of radioactive sources between EU countries

Radioactive sources are frequently transported between EU countries. The specific Euratom Community rules to maintain control of such shipments are described in Council Regulation 1493/93.