Belgium's comments on control of high activity sealed radioactive sources

June 5, 2002

Brussels, 4 June 2002

Proposal for a Council Directive on the control of high activity sealed radioactive sources. Cover note. Comments of the Belgian delegation on the above proposal. Brussels, 28 May 2002 (03.06) (document 9325/02 ATO 65). Full text

Belgium would like to thank the Commission for this quality document, which constitutes a step forward in the prevention of accidents caused by exposure to high activity sealed radioactive sources.

The comments in this document are preliminary in that it has not yet been possible to consult all the parties concerned.

The Directive covers sources emitting 1 mSv/h or more at a distance of 1 metre. Belgium supports that proposal. This dose rate is relevant in that in numerous accidents, sources, given their small size, are in direct contact with the body of the person exposed. Dose rates are thus therefore several orders of magnitude greater and cause serious injury. Belgium therefore considers that sources emitting that dose rate should be included.

Also, the estimate in the inventory of sealed sources would seem to indicate that the distribution of the number of sources as a function of their activity does not increase exponentially for the lowest activity rates. It would seem that the ratio between sources of 100 mSv/h and over at 1 metre's distance and those of 1 mSv/h and over at 1 metre's distance is only two. In other words, adopting a limit of 1 mSv/h at 1 metre would only double the number of sources that would have to be managed by the control system, compared with the threshold of 100 mSv/h at 1 metre.

We feel the wording of recital 7 is rather vague. Moreover, if we compare its content with that of the other recitals, it does not appear to add anything new. We therefore propose that it be deleted or its aim be made clearer.

In recital 9, the idea of "those who may deal accidentally with orphan sources" is too imprecise and, if the text remains too vague, we may not be able to apply a preventive system effectively. We would therefore suggest the following wording: "Accordingly, it is necessary to provide for the identification, marking and record-keeping of each high activity source as well as for specific training and information to those categories of workers who, by reason of their activity, may be accidentally exposed to orphan sources".

Holding of a sealed source may be of two kinds: (a) intentional (legal or illegal) holding of a sealed source; (b) unintentional holding of a source (example: sources may have been lost or forgotten in particular places. The owner, tenant or person in charge of the place therefore becomes, de facto, holder of the source even though he cannot reasonably be held responsible). In our view, therefore, the definition of the concept "holder" should take this fact into account.

We think that the concept "equipment" should be made clear in a definition.

Article 3 is a fundamental part of the Directive. The practical application of paragraph 2 (b) thereof, concerning financial provision, requires clarification. A more detailed examination must be made of whether differences in the manner of constituting financial reserves in the different States might not lead to imbalances affecting transfers of sources or trade. Depending on whether these provisions are intended to apply to the supplier or to the user(s), particular transfer or trade channels might develop to profit financially from the provisions in those States. A proposal for harmonisation would be useful.

In Article 3(3)(b), the term "user" would cover the principle being advocated better than "staff" which is narrower and introduces a notion of belonging to an organisation.

In Article 5(2), care must be taken to see that no confidential information appears among the information accompanying the source. Information on the materials that it contains could be misused.

Article 6(c) should be clarified; is it the intention to introduce obligations in the matter of physical protection?

In Article 7, the identification of sources by a unique number, marked if possible on the source, should be harmonised for the EU as a whole and not only at national level, in order to avoid possible confusion on the occasion of transfers within the EU. Numbers should be marked on sources in such a way that they cannot be erased; we feel that engraving is the best way of meeting this concern.

In Article 9(3), it is necessary to avoid, as far as possible, confusion between the responsibilities of the State, those of the safety authorities and those of operators. The State could promote a system in which the safety authorities carry out controls. The following wording would be better: "... the establishment of systems aimed at detecting orphan high activity sources in places such as, for example, large metal scrap yards and major metal scrap recycling installations or at significant nodal transit points, like customs posts.". There must also be consistency with the Resolution on recycled metals. In that Resolution detection measures are carried out voluntarily and coordinated with the different parties.

Article 9(4) should emphasise more the usefulness and need to target campaigns for recovering sources. The last subparagraph could be deleted as it adds nothing significant to the Article.

Belgium supports the principle of information exchange in the context of international cooperation, but it does not feel that there should be direct reference to action which falls within the ambit of the judicial authorities. It therefore proposes limiting the text of Article 10 to: "Each... high activity sources.".

Belgium supports the principle of Article 11 establishing a guarantee fund for certain types of damage and for the implementation of certain requirements. At this stage, a number of aspects still need to be clarified as regards the scope of the Article and its implementation. The guarantee fund should certainly cover damage caused by orphan sources and therequirements of Article 9.

Bringing other sources within the scope of the Article strengthens radiation protection measures but we should make sure that it is not out of keeping with existing general practices (Basic Safety Standards).

Regarding constitution of the fund in practice, it would be desirable for the sake of clarity, and thus greater feasibility, for each State to examine in the first instance how this might be done. The Commission might also make a proposal along these lines.

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