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Radiation Monitoring in Armenia

#A-1468


Radiation Monitoring of the Territory of Armenia and of the Armenian Enterprises in Order to Detect Orphan Radioactive Sources and to Dispose of These Sources in Accordance with the Established Procedure

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-EHS/Environmental Health and Safety/Environment
  • ENV-MIN/Monitoring and Instrumentation/Environment
  • ENV-RWT/Radioactive Waste Treatment/Environment
  • ENV-SPC/Solid Waste Pollution and Control/Environment

Status
3 Approved without Funding

Registration date
20.10.2006

Leading Institute
A.I. Alikhanyan National Science Laboratory, Armenia, Yerevan

Supporting institutes

  • Research Center For The Problem Of The Non Proliferation Of Weapons Mass Destruction, Armenia, Yerevan

Collaborators

  • [Individual specialist]\nNational Nuclear Corporation Limited, UK, Knutsford\nUniversity of Florida / Laboratory for Development of Advanced Nuclear Fuels and Materials, USA, FL, Gainesville\nNuclear Safety Solutions Limited, Canada, ON, Toronto

Project summary

The use of radiation sources in various fields of human activity, in addition to nuclear reactors, is extended every day. Despite of the safety precautions provided for during planning and operation period, the losses of and incidents with radiation sources at production enterprises and scientific organizations happen more often, than at nuclear reactors. Any such incident - in contrast to the incidents at nuclear reactors - affects only a restricted number of people. Nevertheless, for the involved people the incidents’ consequences can be rather serious.

Radioactive materials as closed sources are used for various purposes in the industry, medicine, scientific examinations, for teaching and manufacturing of a quantity of consumer goods. They are used for X-ray study, sterilization, radiation therapy and nuclear medicine, borehole logging, in detecting devices registering the a surface level, thickness, density and moisture content, in antistatic devices, lightning protectors, smoke sensors. As regards their activity, all these sources are extremely different.

The lost, stolen or accidentally left sources are most often the reasons of radiation accidents. The sources radiant can be in possession of people that could not know about its nature and the hazard concerned with it. In similar cases people can get very high dose due to an external irradiation or pollution. Therefore the priority should be given to the search of radiation sources by all available means including investigations, monitoring as well as using various radiation devices. It turned out, that the search of lost sources by radiation monitoring devices could be efficient if they are those highly active gamma rays sources applied, for example, in industrial radiography or radiation therapy. The search efficiency depends on sensitivity of available monitoring devices, total activity and protection degree. Devices with large NaI detectors are capable to reveal such radiation sources at a distance of several hundred meters even if the source is kept in its screening container.

According to statements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts, the radioactive materials necessary for manufacture of "dirty charges" can be found practically in each country of the world, and more than 100 countries are unable to realize sufficient control to prevent the theft of these materials or even to detect such facts.

IAEA notes that while a series of the states having controlling systems are now strengthening quickly their safety measures, many other countries do not have enough resources or national structures for an effective control of radioactive sources. The orphan radioactive sources not falling under the influence of official regulating supervisory control are widely spread in the states of former Soviet Union.

According to the Agency, so-called "dirty charge" does not use radioactive material for nuclear explosion which takes place at detonation of nuclear weapons. As a result of the explosion of common types of explosive and radioactive materials used in dirty charges, radioactive substances scatter over large territories. As at any explosion, the population in immediate proximity to the place of explosion, can be injured or killed, while the radioactive materials scattered over large territories can cause radioactive damage. The most serious consequences of the dirty charge application can be overirradiation of a number of people, as well as disturbance of the social sphere functions related to evacuation of the population, decontamination of territories and economic losses.

After disintegration of the USSR, there is a situation in Armenia when at the factories using the ionizing radiation sources the supervisory control of these sources has been extremely weakened for the following reasons:

  • Many factories do not work since the early nineties up to present.
  • At privatization of many enterprises factories using the ionizing radiation sources were not taken into account (with all the ensuing consequences).
  • In connection with shutdown, the enterprises could not carry out appropriate supervisory control of the ionizing radiation sources because of lack of:
    • means and reserves,
    • qualified specialists at these enterprises,
    • relevant knowledge about treatment of the ionizing radiation sources,
    • special devices.
There are many facts confirming the foregoing. In particular, in Armenia there are many cases when highly active sources have been revealed at private persons who have practically no idea of the danger to which they and their surroundings were run. During only 2004 there was revealed about 10 ionizing radiation sources (with activity from 5x1010 to 3x1011 Bq). Besides, the situation is complicated by the fact that the ionizing radiation sources can become the clandestine (illegal) market subjects or be used for other purposes by people who do not suspect of the hazard.

There are many cases when during outwards transportation the ionizing radiation sources and radioactive materials have been detected in consignments of metal scrap. Armenian customs officials from Meghri frontier check-point have detected a high-level radiation source in the metal scrap delivered to Iran. The source was neutralized. IAEA was informed of the incident.

The developed situation represents an actual danger to both the enterprise workers and the population. And it is necessary to note one more aspect of the problem. The question is radiation terrorism, as in view of the developed situation, the possibility of the ionizing radiation sources theft is rather strong. Some events (in particular, in the Chechen Republic) are known when terrorists threatened to use the radiation weapons against the population.

The purpose of the offered Project is the increase in protection degree of the enterprises personnel and the population with respect to the ionizing radiation sources, as well as prevention of illegal transportation of such sources both within the territory of Armenia and through the national boundary, namely:

  • Active revealing and identification of all ionizing radiation sources belonged to and located in the territory of enterprises.
  • Revealing of orphan ionizing radiation sources, their identification and disposal in accordance with the established procedure.
  • Bringing storage and operation conditions of the ionizing radiation sources to conformity with corresponding norms of radiation safety and sanitary rules (according to the ICRP and IAEA recommendations).
  • Establishment of supervisory control over transportation of the ionizing radiation sources.
  • Disposal of the detected ionizing radiation sources with expired application time; disposal of such sources at the request of enterprises (their owners) or on demand of regulating authorities.

All the foregoing will allow to reduce sharply the irradiation probability for the enterprises personnel and the population as well as the ionizing radiation sources transit through frontiers.


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