Release and Recycling of Scrap Metal

IAEA Report on Radioactive Scrap Recycling. Specific Safety Guide No. SSG-17

February, 2012. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has published a guidebook that looks at steps that metals recyclers should take to protect themselves against radioactive material being delivered to their yards. The guide, Control of Orphan Sources and Other Radioactive Material in the Metal Recycling and Production Industries, sets out responsibilities of operators in the metal recycling and production industries, besides assigning responsibilities to governments and their regulatory bodies.

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The HPS has issued its standard, Surface and Volume Radioactivity Standards for Unconditional Clearance. The standard adopts the effective dose definitions of NCRP 116, which is compatible with ICRP 60. It lists a primary dose criteria that provides reasonable assurance that a dose of 10 µSv/y (1 mrem/y), above background to an average individual in a critical group for the unconditional clearance of materials from regulatory control won't be exceeded. It provides screening levels for surface and volume contaminated material and equipment, and clearance screening levels for soil. Current BSS clearance values are based on 10 µSv/y (1 mrem/y).

Most border crossings now have monitors for detection of radioactive material, as do many junk yards and scrap metal brokers. Most monitors are set at background or slightly above, there is zero tolerance for radioactive scrap metal in those shipments passing through the monitors. 

While there have not been limits for volumetric contamination, since 1974, scrap metal has been released from licensed facilities, DOE sites, and by State regulatory agencies using the surface activity guidelines based on Reg. Guide 1.86. Those guidelines address levels of surface activity, fixed and removable, above background that can be free released.  A new ANSI standard allows for risk-based release limits to be derived on a case-by-case basis.  There is already commerce in radioactive scrap metal, oil and gas companies have been selling used oilfield tubulars to China. There is also a growing black market in radioactive scrap metal disposal and trade. Therefore, there is an international effort to harmonize and adopt regulations that control this practice.


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