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Take part in BIR survey to help counter threat of inadvertent radioactive contamination of scrap

  • 23 July 2021

Inter-governmental experts agree that the metals recycling industry should remain vigilant as radioactive sources continue to be found in scrap and as radioactivity is detected in some, albeit few, metal products.

Radioactive sources that are licensed for use by other industry sectors continue to be either lost or misplaced by their users, or are liable to being stolen. If not recognized as radioactive sources when subsequently sold or discarded, these become inadvertently mixed into scrap collection systems. Scrap yards, especially processors, and their customer metalworks therefore need to remain vigilant in order to protect their employees, their facilities and their customers. Where the in-depth detection systems installed, maintained and operated by recycling facilities and metalworks fail to prevent radioactive materials from entering furnaces and therefore castings, radioactive contaminated goods may still appear on the market.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the world’s central inter-governmental forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the nuclear field. The IAEA maintains an incident and trafficking database (ITDB) which facilitates information exchange and provides material that can be used to analyse patterns and trends. States are encouraged to report a variety of incidents to ensure a broad scope of information provided through the database. Furthermore, the IAEA provides an ‘App’ mobile application Tool for Radiation Alarm and Commodity Evaluation (TRACE), developed as part of a co-ordinated, IAEA-led research project involving experts from more than 20 Member States, using information on commodities and isotopes collected by radiation portal monitors. TRACE is designed to help customs officers determine whether radiation alarms going off at border crossings are sparked by goods containing Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM), or whether the alarm could indicate material warranting further inspection based on the description of goods used in international trades and the Harmonized System Code (HS Code).

Dr Alvaro Rodríguez de Sanabria, who was among the authors of the Spanish Protocol for radiological surveillance, and BIR Trade & Environment Director Ross Bartley continue to represent the concerns of metal recyclers in inter-governmental meetings involving the IAEA and national authorities. To help Alvaro and Ross to better represent and so protect recyclers’ interests, we ask each owner/operator of a scrap yard or metalworks to answer a few questions in the survey HERE. The “5-minute survey” will remain open until the BIR Convention in October, but it would be helpful if you would please respond at your earliest convenience.

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