Language selection


Section J

Disused Sealed Sources

J.1 Scope of the section

This section addresses Article 28 (Disused Sealed Sources) of the Joint Convention, which requires that:

1. Each contracting body shall, in the framework of its national law, take appropriate steps to ensure that the possession, re-manufacturing or disposal of disused sealed sources is done safely.

2. A contracting party shall allow for the re-entry into its territory of disused sealed sources if, in the framework of its national laws, it has accepted that the sealed sources can be returned to a manufacturer qualified to receive and possess the disused sealed sources.

J.2 Introduction

In Canada, the NSCA establishes requirements for the protection of health, safety, security and the environment, as well as the fulfillment of Canada's international obligations and commitments on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The CNSC is the regulatory authority responsible for controlling the export and import of risk-significant sealed sources in Canada and is mandated by the NSCA to:

  • regulate the development, production and use of nuclear energy in Canada,
  • regulate the production, possession, use and transport of nuclear substances, along with the production, possession and use of prescribed equipment and information,
  • implement measures that respect international control of the development, production, transport and use of nuclear energy and nuclear substances, including the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and explosive devices, and
  • disseminate scientific, technical and regulatory information that concerns the CNSC's activities and their effects on the environment and the health and safety of persons of the development, production, possession, transport and use of nuclear substances referred to above.

Radioactive nuclear substances, whether in sealed or unsealed source form, have many industrial, medical and educational applications. A wide variety of organizations, including universities, hospitals, research organizations, government departments are typical users of sealed sources.

Most sealed sources are small in size and their radioactivity may range from tens to billions of Becquerels (Bq). When a sealed source is no longer required or has decayed beyond its useful life, it may be treated as radioactive waste and sent to a licensed waste management facility. If a source's radioactivity has decayed below its exemption quantity or its clearance level, it may be released from regulatory control, pursuant to section 5.1 of the NSRDR. Sources that remain within regulatory control must be managed in consideration of all existing regulations.

J.3 Regulatory framework

In accordance with section 26 of the NSCA and subject to regulations, no person shall possess, transfer, import, export, use, abandon, produce, or service a sealed source, except in accordance with a licence.

As defined in the NSRDR, ‘sealed source' refers to a radioactive nuclear substance in a sealed capsule or bonded to a cover, where the capsule or cover is strong enough to prevent contact with or dispersion of the substance - under the conditions for which the capsule or cover was designed.

The NSRDR has recently been amended to include the latest international levels established in the 1996 edition of the IAEA International Basic Safety Standards for Protection against Ionizing Radiation and for the Safety of Radiation Sources. Exemption quantities are minimum threshold values below which regulatory control is not required. Nuclear substances in these quantities do not pose any significant risk to persons or the environment.

Individuals who wish to obtain a licence to import, export, use, abandon, produce or service a sealed source must provide the information required under section 3 of the NSRDR. For controlled nuclear substances or for the export or import of high risk, radioactive sealed sources as identified in the IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sealed Sources, separate licence requirements are provided in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Import and Export Control Regulations. There are additional requirements for persons wishing to apply for a licence to transport nuclear substances. The requirements are prescribed by the Packaging and Transport of Nuclear Substances Regulations.

J.4 Sealed sources used in Canada

Through Canada's regulatory control program, the NSC must license activities involving sealed sources. Each licence specifies the isotope and the maximum quantity (in Bq) of each radioactive nuclear substance.

J.4.1 Disposal of sealed sources in Canada

There are no sealed source disposal facilities in Canada. A sealed source may only be transferred in accordance with the conditions of a licence or the written instructions issued by the CNSC. For long-term management, radioactive sealed sources may be returned to a manufacturer. They may then be disposed, sent to a licensed waste management facility, or transferred to a person authorized to possess the sealed sources. If a sealed source has decayed below its exemption quantity or its clearance levels - as identified in Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 of the regulations - it may also be released from regulatory control, pursuant to section 5.1 of the NSRDR.

Once a sealed source is no longer needed or wanted, it may be shipped directly or through licensed collection firms to AECL CRL for management or to be returned to its nation of origin.

J.4.2 The National Sealed Source Registry and Sealed Source Tracking System

In 2004, the CNSC formed a project team to develop the National Sealed Source Registry (NSSR) and the Sealed Source Tracking System (SSTS). The team worked throughout the following year to design and build the system. In 2005, the project team recommended to the Commission Tribunal that 278 licences be amended to require licensees to report the movements of their sealed sources.

On January 1 2006, the CNSC implemented the SSTS and the NSSR. The NSSR was designed to hold information about radioactive sources in all categories for licensees. The SSTS was designed to enable the reporting of receipts, transfers, imports and exports of all high-risk radioactive sources (Category 1 and Category 2), within strict time limits. Each import, export, receipt and transfer is called a "transaction" for SSTS purposes. The SSTS tracks all high-risk radioactive sources throughout their complete lifecycle.

During its first year of operation, the CNSC conducted outreach activities to inform licensees about the regulatory changes concerning source-tracking. The CNSC also prepared demonstration CDs with "how-to" guides about the source tracking system. An information package - which consisted of a letter, a demonstration CD and security authorization codes - was sent to each the CNSC licensee whose licence had been amended. For the first half of 2006, all SSTS transactions were reported by mail, fax or email. In July 2006, the CNSC launched a secure Web site for reporting SSTS transactions, using the Government of Canada "E-pass" secure technology.

By the end of 2006, the SSTS had logged more than 30,000 transactions for Category 1 and Category 2 source imports, exports, transfers and receipts. The majority of these transactions represented bulk shipments, including imports and exports, by a single, large Canadian source manufacturer. In December 2006, the CNSC was tracking 1,638 Category 1 sources and 3,920 Category 2 sources in Canada.

In 2008, the NSSR will be expanded to include Category 3, 4, and 5 sources.

J.4.2.1 Import and export of radioactive sealed sources

The enhancement of Canada's export and import control program for risk-significant sealed sources is the result of the government's commitment to two key IAEA documents: the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources and the IAEA Guidance. Under the leadership of the IAEA, the Code and the IAEA Guidance were developed internationally to improve the safety and security of radioactive sources around the world. In support of the IAEA and its efforts to develop a global control regime, the Government of Canada committed to meet the provisions contained within the Code and implement an export and import control program as outlined in the IAEA Guidance.

Under the Code, the CNSC is the Canadian regulatory authority responsible for controlling the export and import of hazardous sealed sources. By implementing export and import control measures, the CNSC enhances national and international safety and security. These measures make sure that only authorized persons are recipients of risk-significant sealed sources. The the CNSC's export and import control program is consistent with the Code and IAEA Guidance and aims to:

  • achieve a high level of safety and security regarding risk-significant sealed sources,
  • reduce the likelihood of accidental harmful exposure to risk-significant sealed sources or the malicious use of such sources to harm individuals, society and the environment, and
  • mitigate or minimize the radiological consequences of any accident or malicious act involving risk-significant sealed sources.

Effective April 1, 2007, the CNSC amended all licences dealing with the export and import of high-risk sources. The amendment restricts the general export authorization included in the "possession and use" licence to require the licensee to apply for a separate export licence for risk-significant radioactive sources.

In considering an application to export risk-significant radioactive sources, the CNSC must satisfy itself that the importing state meets the expectations specified in paragraph 8(b) of the supplementary guidance, regarding Category 1 sealed sources, and paragraph 9(b), in respect to Category 2 sealed sources. Where such assurances cannot be obtained, the CNSC may consider authorizing the export under the requirements described in paragraphs 15 and 16 of the supplementary guidance.

In assessing an importing country's or facility's capabilities, the CNSC may also take into consideration some of the following concerns:

  • whether the recipient facility has been engaged in clandestine or illegal procurement of radioactive sources,
  • whether import or export authorizations for radioactive sources have been denied to the recipient facility,
  • whether the recipient facility has diverted, for purposes inconsistent with the IAEA Code of Conduct, any previous import or export of radioactive sources, and
  • the risk of diversion or malicious acts involving radioactive sources.

The CNSC has fully implemented the requirements of the IAEA Code and supplementary guidance in its enhanced export and import control program. Before it grants any export authorization of Category 1 radioactive sources, the CNSC ensures - through the use of special IAEA forms available to member states - that the importing state gives the CNSC its consent to import Category 1 sealed sources. Category 2 sealed sources do not need prior consent. In all cases, the CNSC's export licence requires that a prior shipment notification be issued to the CNSC, the importing country and the importing facility. Notification must be seven days before the intended date of shipment.

In support of the enhanced the CNSC export and import control program, Regulatory Guide RD-341, Control of the Export and Import of Risk-Significant Sealed Sources, has been published in draft form. In order to assist licensees in applying for an export licence, the guide will be available in the near future.

Since the start of the program on April 1, 2007, the CNSC has received more than 350 applications to export Category 1 and Category 2 radioactive sealed sources to over 69 states.

J.4.3 Retention of records

NSRDR requires every licensee to keep a record for a period of three years of any transfer, receipt, disposal or abandonment of a nuclear substance. Requirements include:

  • the date of the transfer, receipt, disposal or abandonment,
  • the name and address of the supplier or the recipient,
  • the number of the licence of the recipient,
  • the name, quantity and form of the nuclear substance transferred, received, disposed of, or abandoned,
  • when the nuclear substance is a sealed source, the model and serial number of the source, and
  • when the nuclear substance is contained in a radiation device, the model and serial number of the device.
  • J.4.4 Safety of sealed sources

The requirement to licence sealed sources (pursuant to the NSRDR) ensures that throughout its lifecycle of, a sealed source is possessed, transferred, imported, exported, used, abandoned, produced or serviced in accordance with regulatory requirements.

J.5 Sealed sources in the international community

The re-entry of disused, previously exported sealed sources is permitted either by an import licence (in respect to controlled nuclear substances) or in accordance with a general import authorization on possession and use licence issued by the CNSC.

Previous Page | Table of Contents | Next Page

Page details

Date modified: