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The application of sealed radioactive sources is widespread with sources of different types and activities used for a very wide range of applications. The activities of such sources range from very low activities for sources such as reference sources to Spent High Activity Radioactive Sources (SHARS) with activities in excess of 10kCi. During the earlier years mainly Radium sources were used in mostly medical applications. Since the early 1950’s, however, a greater variety of isotopes became available for use in medical as well in industrial applications. Today thousands of sources are used all over the world in developed as well as in developing countries.


Prudent and proper management of disused sealed radioactive sources and in particular disused high activity sources has become a high priority for many safety and security reasons over the past decade.  In many countries there is a lack of proper management due to a poor or absent accounting infrastructure. Some countries do not have legislation in place to regulate the control over spent sources. The problem exists in both developing and developed countries with some differences:

In Developing Countries many sources are lost due to inadequate accounting systems or as a result of a lack of expertise or funds.

In Developed countries large numbers of sources are normally found in these countries which make record keeping and accountability very difficult.



Necsa has designed and manufactured (under contract with the IAEA) a mobile hot cell specifically for the handling and conditioning of disused high activity sealed radioactive sources. This unit, a first in the world, is used worldwide in countries without the required infrastructure to handle these high activity sources. The unit, which fits into two ISO shipping containers, is shipped to a country where it is assembled, operated and dismantled again after all the sources have been made safe. The sources are removed from the working units (teletherapy heads and dry irradiators), placed into stainless steel capsules and welded into “special form” again and then either stored  in a long term storage shield (provided by Necsa) in a waste storage facility in the country, or the sources are being repatriated back to its country of origin.


The use of the mobile hot cell allows not only for the safe handling of disused high activity radioactive sealed sources but it also provide a safe and secure storage configuration for the sources in a country and a unique mechanism for the repatriation of sources back to its countries of origin.


Three SHARS Operations successfully completed in:





Mobile Hot Cell proved itself as a very useful tool for the management of disused sealed sources and proved itself under various conditions.