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Problems With Pigs – Radioisotope Handling Outside the Hot Cell

Abstract of the technical paper/presentation given at:
Canadian Radiation Protection Association (CRPA) Annual Conference
April 30–May 3, 2018

Prepared by:
Adam Dodd
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission


The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulates isotope production accelerator facilities in Canada, including the safe transport and handling of the resulting radioisotopes. These have been routinely shipped across Canada for many years, but due to the increasing demand for positron emitting radiopharmaceuticals, the amounts of radioactivity being shipped and the frequency of shipments are also increasing. As a proactive risk mitigation exercise, a review of recent hazardous incidents involving the transport and handling of radioisotopes is presented with common failure modes and the causes identified.

Positron emitters with higher energy emissions such as Zr-89 and I-124 are now being considered by many facilities, and existing designs may not provide a sufficient level of radiation protection. Commonly used pig designs were reviewed, and alternative designs using tungsten, which provides more shielding for higher energy emissions than the currently used lead, were considered. The practical aspects of pig manufacture and maintenance resulting from this choice of shielding material are considered in this presentation.

Introducing design modifications to shipping packages could further improve the design of pigs as it would allow greater freedom for design modifications. The regulatory implications for such design changes are also discussed.

The purpose of this presentation is to stimulate discussion on how to reduce the frequency of hazardous incidents and cumulative radiation doses in the transport and handling of radioisotopes. A collaborative approach for solving these problems among similar facilities is proposed.

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