September 21, 2021

IAEA holds meeting on Smoke Detectors to Improve Radioactive Waste Management

2 min read

Experts from around the world met at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to discuss national approaches for dealing with disused ionizing smoke detectors (ISDs), which contain sealed radioactive sources.

Collected disused ISD are transported to the radioactive waste management organization. (Source: Public Company Nuclear Facilities of Serbia)

The meeting, held on 8-12 May, was to help develop guidance for Member States on the safe and secure management of disused detectors.

The most common ISD installed worldwide contains small amounts of Americium-241 to detect smoke. Individual ISDs, classified by the IAEA as consumer products, do not pose a radiological risk. “But many disused smoke detectors together may pose a potential radiation exposure risk,” said Juan Carlos Benitez-Navarro, an IAEA expert and the Scientific Secretary of the meeting at IAEA headquarters in Vienna.

National approaches for dealing with disused smoke detectors vary. Most countries collect and manage disused ISD as radioactive waste, dismantling them to isolate the radioactive components and minimize the amount of waste requiring long-term management.

The meeting, attended by 17 experts from 14 countries, offered an opportunity to share national experiences and approaches to managing disused ISDs. Experts focused on the dismantling, conditioning and storage of detectors after they are collected, as well as the cost of waste management and the provision of information and assistance to the general public.

The IAEA will use the information gathered to draft guidance to help Member States manage ISDs and their sealed radioactive sources in accordance with IAEA safety requirements. The report is expected to be published next year.

“It’s our hope that Member States will use this Technical Report as a practical guide for improving national capabilities in the safe management of radioactive sources contained in disused ionizing smoke detectors,” Benitez-Navarro said.

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