Comments by Belgium on the proposed Council Directive on the control of high activity sealed radioactive sources

May 12, 2003

Brussels, 09 May 2003

Full text of Document 8891/03
Suite of documents 8891/03

No. prev. doc.: 84/03 ATO 73
No. Cion prop.: 5763/03 ATO 10
Subject: Proposal for a Council Directive on the control of high activity sealed radioactive sources

Delegations will find attached comments from the Belgian delegation on the above proposal.

Proposal for a Directive on the control of high activity sealed radioactive sources and orphan sources ( 84/03 ). - Comments by Belgium

Belgium thanks the Presidency for the proposal for a Directive on the control of high activity sealed radioactive sources and orphan sources ( 84/03 ). Belgium wishes to make the following comments:

Comments on the recitals

(3a) This proposed additional recital is made redundant by Article 3(2)(b). The proposed description of the possible implementing arrangements for the provisions of Article 3(2)(b) contains more detail than the article itself. We consider that this is not the objective of recitals nor is it in line with normal practice. We therefore propose that this recital be deleted.

(8a) We consider that the level of detail in this recital is not consistent with the general objective of a recital. We propose limiting the text to the following: "Cases of unintentional exposures to HASS should be notified to the competent authority in order to take the appropriate heath measures and to analyse the causes of the exposure for relevant feed-back on the management of the sources."

Comments on articles:

Article 1(2):
The proposal for a Directive applies to sources which, at the time of fabrication or placing on the market, emit at least 1 mSv/h at a distance of 1 metre. This dose rate is significant in that, in numerous accidents, the small size of the sources meant that they were in direct contact with the bodies of the exposed persons and the rates were therefore several times higher. For example, a source emitting 1 mSv/h at 1 metre would be at 1 centimetre from the body if placed in a pocket. The dose received in an hour would thus be 10 Sv, which would cause serious or even fatal injuries. If exposure were prolonged for several hours, the situation would become catastrophic.

The problem of sealed sources requires particular solidarity among Member States in the adoption of control measures, in view of the very considerable number of sources in the EU and the numerous transfers of these sources between Member States. It is therefore necessary to ensure optimal harmonisation and to avoid excessive differences between arrangements.

Against this background, Belgium fails to understand why the scope of Article 6(a), (b), (c), (d), (f) and (g) and Article 7 excludes high-activity sources which, as a result of natural radioactive decay, fall below the threshold of 1 mSv/h at 1 metre.

Moreover, the provisions of Article 7 apply at the time of fabrication of the sources. There are thus only two possible scenarios: either the source emits more than 1 mSv/h at 1 metre and is subject to the above provisions, or it emits less than that threshold and is not subject to the provisions, regardless of changes in its level of activity. The exclusion referred to above is therefore pointless, since the measures in question are taken at the beginning of the source's useful life.

In relation to Article 6, we find it difficult to envisage how the projected exclusion would be applied in practice. It is to be assumed that regular tests would be carried out to establish the moment at which the activity level of the source falls below the threshold stipulated in the Directive. From that moment, the checks provided for in Article 6(a), (b), (c), (d), (f) and (g) would no longer apply, and the framework created to protect workers and other people who may come into contact with the source would no longer be effective. This is regrettable because the source could still be dangerous. The change in attitude could also be difficult to explain and justify to personnel operating devices containing the sources.

It is also necessary to examine whether the number of sources that could be affected by the exclusion measure is significant and could create a real economic and administrative burden which would justify weakening the Directive both in terms of its effectiveness and of how such an exception could be perceived by the public.

Belgium considers that sources with short half-lives and, consequently, rapidly decreasing activity could be excluded from the scope of the Directive when they reach the exemption threshold specified in Directive 96/29/Euratom. This threshold is reached rapidly in the case of such sources.

Belgium therefore proposes amending Article 1(2) as follows:

"The Directive applies to high activity sources as defined in Article 2. Member States may exclude sources from the scope of the Directive once their activity has fallen below the exemption levels specified in Directive 96/29/Euratom."

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