Achieving readiness for prompt recovery of orphan radioactive sources

From EPSA - European Public Sector Award


The general objective of the project is to avoid and mitigate consequences of possible accidents caused by orphan radioactive sources. The problem is especially vital in post-soviet countries, where, due to rapid changes in society, there was a breakdown in the former regulatory system and a restructuring of the economy, during which many radioactive sources and other radioactive materials were abandoned, lost, stolen, etc. In order to prevent a recurrence of accidents with orphan sources, it was necessary to improve the capacity and emergency preparedness of state institutions for acting in such situations and recovering discovered orphan sources. This requires quick and effective recovery of orphan sources upon discovery, and ensuring their safe handling.

Although Estonian governmental institutions had put a lot of effort into creating the necessary infrastructure capable of dealing with such situations, there were still a lot of gaps, ambiguities and contradictions in the existing legal framework before the implementation of this project, and the roles and functions of agencies responding to the situations were not always clearly laid out. This all resulted in a relatively long delay between the discovery of a source and an operative response to correct the situation.

To be completely prepared to act without delay in case of a radiological incident, an operational response system for alerts was set up in A.L.A.R.A., a radioactive waste management agency. Now, there is always a person on duty, ready to immediately act in the case of an orphan source radiological incident. Thus the agency is always prepared to immediately recover the source and transport the object to safe storage. Besides setting up such an operational response system, it was also necessary to develop a proper radiation safety quality system. Proper training of personnel, covering documentation procedures, recovery, handling, transport and necessary radiation protection measures was also a part of project. There are also plans to upgrade existing radiological measurement instrumentation and waste handling and treatment equipment in the near future.

Creation of the successfully functioning system for prompt recovery of orphan radioactive sources was the main outcome of the project. A good foundation for better cooperation between different agencies acting in the field of radiation protection was laid down as a byproduct. A new network made up of personal contacts between specialists of involved institutions has already been established and plans of joint field training operations for location and recovery of orphan sources are underway. To achieve better sustainability, the members of the project have launched another innovative project in the field of environmental legislation of radiation safety. The project has thus improved the performance of public administrations, making them more efficient, effective and environmentally-conscient. The project has also raised public awareness of the range of problems related to orphan sources. The project is carried out by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication, in close cooperation with other relevant institutions (Rescue Board, Environmental Board, Environmental Inspectorate, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Interior, radioactive waste management agency A.L.A.R.A.).

Award info
Award category: going green
Award type: submission
Award year: 2011
Project type
Sector: Public administration, modernisation, institutional affairs, reform
Type of activity:
Keywords: Sustainable environmental management, radiation protection, knowledge and quality management
Short English description: The general objective of the project is to avoid and mitigate consequences of possible accidents caused by orphan radioactive sources.
Further information
Organisation: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication
Other applicants:
Level of government: national level
Size of organisation: >100
Number of people involved: 1-5
Country: Estonia
EU membership: EU member
Language code: en
Start date:
End date:

Achieving readiness for prompt recovery of orphan radioactive sources (59.4376941, 24.9133657)
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