The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has published a safety guide for metal recyclers.
This follows publication of its safety standard Control of Orphan Sources and Other Radioactive Material in the Metal Recycling and Production Industries.
The safety guide recommends that metal recyclers apply a graded approach on the basis of the size of the individual metal recycling and production facility and on the radioactive material that it might reasonably be expected to encounter.
In practice, this means that small- and medium-sized facilities should have some awareness of the problem and be able to visually recognise suspect material and know who to contact in the event of a discovery.
On the other hand, large facilities should be equipped with radiation detectors and should have sufficient radiation protection expertise available to undertake an initial response and to isolate suspect material.
The guide also shows how irrespective of the regulations within any state, radioactive material may become mixed with scrap metal destined for recycling from sources such as medical, industrial, research and military applications.
When it comes to international shipments of scrap metal, the Safety Guide requires that metal recyclers should provide a statement indicating whether the scrap metal has been subject to radiation monitoring and the results of this monitoring. It also says operators of large facilities should conduct appropriate radiation monitoring to determine whether the scrap metal being processed and any resulting products and wastes are safe.
It also calls for monitoring of scrap metal entering a facility even when the supplier provides its own results of radiation monitoring.