Backgrounder: Administrative Arrangements for Import and Export of Radioactive Sources
Canada is a global leader in the export of risk-significant radioactive sources that are subject to the provisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources (the Code) and the IAEA Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources (the Guidance) (PDF). As such, the Government of Canada is a strong proponent of the establishment and maintenance of an effective, efficient and harmonized international regime to ensure the safety and security of such sources. In support of such action, the Government of Canada made a political commitment to the IAEA on the implementation of the import and export control provisions of the Code and Guidance. The CNSC is responsible for implementing the requisite import and export control measures under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.
The CNSC is pursuing bilateral Administrative Arrangements with international counterpart organizations in various countries to establish measures to ensure that imports and exports of radioactive sources between Canada and these countries are conducted in a manner consistent with the IAEA Code and Guidance. These Arrangements will assist in harmonizing regulatory approaches for the authorization of imports and exports and will facilitate the sharing of regulatory information related to such imports and exports.
Radioactive sealed sources are used around the world in medicine, industry, agriculture, research and education, and vary widely in radiological risk. In 2005, the IAEA published a risk-based ranking of radioactive sources and practices, which uses five categories. The category assigned to each radioactive substance that makes up a sealed source takes into consideration factors such as the radiological risk associated with the source, the nature of the work or application, the mobility of the source, experience from reported accidents, and typical versus unique activities within an application. These factors are used to assign sources to one of the five categories. Category 1 and 2 sources are considered to pose the greatest risk to human health if not managed safely and securely, while Category 5 sources pose the lowest risk. Category 1 sources are used in self shielded irradiators for experimental purposes or as a means of sterilization. They are also used in gamma knife radiosurgery and teletherapy as part of cancer treatment to control malignant cells. Category 2 sources are used in industrial radiography to detect internal imperfections (voids, cracks, flaws, etc.) in pressure vessels, pipelines, ships and reactor components.
Since the implementation of the enhanced CNSC import and export control program for radioactive sources in April 2007, the CNSC has authorized transfers of risk-significant sources to 80 countries. The CNSC’s regulatory control program is regarded as a “benchmark” program by other IAEA member states, given the measures it has introduced to allow for effective and efficient authorizations.
The establishment of bilateral Administrative Agreements with regulatory authorities in countries with which Canada has substantial trade in risk-significant radioactive sources, and with countries that share Canada’s commitments to international controls on transfers of radioactive sources, is a key element of Canada’s regulatory control program. The objective of the Arrangements is to establish efficient and harmonized bilateral procedures for the implementation of import and export controls, thus reducing the risk of undue delays in authorizing transfers of such sources. The CNSC’s work in developing a model bilateral Arrangement and its practical application is highly regarded internationally.
The CNSC consulted with Canadian industry and analyzed import/export data to identify key trading countries with which establishment of bilateral Arrangements would be a priority for both the CNSC and Canadian exporters. The first of these Arrangements was signed with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2006 and other Arrangements subsequently have come into effect with the Autoridad Regulatoria Nuclear (ARN) of Argentina, the Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear (CNEN) of Brazil, the Ministerio de Minas y Energía (MINMINAS) of Colombia, the Comisión National de Seguridad Nuclear y Salvaguardias (CNSNS) of Mexico, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), the Office of Atoms for Peace (OAP) in Thailand, the Science and Technology Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan, and the Instituto Peruano de Energía Nuclear (IPEN) of Peru.