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Ensuring the security of sealed radiation sources in hospitals
Date: 2024-03-29    Source:IEC   

When most people think of radioactive materials, nuclear plants and weapons come to mind and we are all aware of the risks relating to both areas. We forget that hospitals around the world use  potentially dangerous radioactive materials to treat illnesses like cancer as well as for disinfection and that these materials need to be stored securely on the hospital premises. Ensuring the security of these sealed radiation sources in a medical environment is the focus of a new standard which is currently being developed by SC 62C, which prepares the benchmarks for equipment used in radiotherapy, nuclear medicine and radiation dosimetry.

The standard provides measures for manufacturers regarding physical security but also involves hospitals, asking them to implement the proposed measures and to complement them. It references existing standards dealing with the safety of safes and vaults.

"One of the challenges is that hospitals must remain open to the public, they have to stay welcoming and friendly spaces, for both patients and visitors. This means that screening people entering the hospital is not really desirable. More extreme measures, like using armed police to guard the materials, even less so," explains the Secretary of IEC/TC 62 Regina Geierhofer.

Best to establish proper safety specifications for the locations where these sealed radiation sources will be stored in an international standard. The genesis of IEC 63322 is also prompted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which indicates that "activities such as the medical uses of radiation, the operation of nuclear installations, the production, transport and use of radioactive material, and the management of radioactive waste must be subject to standards of safety."

The intent of the proposed standard is to complement or augment the different specific regulations that cover the security arrangements to safeguard high-activity sealed radiation sources in clinical use.

"This is a new area of standardization for our TC. Ensuring the security of buildings and rooms has always been more of an ISO prerogative. In this particular case, however, we have decided to use our specific knowledge of radiation protection and combine it with the experience gained with cyber security standards (e.g. ISO/IEC 81001 series). We needed to fill a specific security gap for an area, which lately gets less publicity than cyber security, the physical security of radioactive materials. Experts coming from a wide variety of countries, stretching from the US and several European countries to India, Japan, China and Russia, have collaborated to produce the document," Regina Geierhofer adds.

The standard is now in CDV stage - meaning this is the last stage at which technical comments can be taken into consideration. The committee draft for vote (CDV) is submitted to all IEC National Committees for a 12-week voting period. It is expected that the standard will be published in around a year and half from now.

(Source: IEC)


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