Radiation Protection Today - Spring 2022 | Page 16

Lessons From History

The sad tale of the missing sources
SRP Past President Sheila Liddle has been a Radiation Protection Adviser ( RPA ) for the Consortium of Local Education Authorities of Primary and Secondary Schools ( CLEAPSS ) for twenty years , providing advice to Local Education Authorities ( LEAs ) from the South West to those in the Midlands , and in Wales .
CLEAPSS provides an RPA service to LEAs requiring this . The normal arrangement is for the school to appoint a Radiation Protection Supervisor and the LEA will provide a Radiation Protection Officer ( RPO ). The RPO carries out visits to ensure compliance with local authority arrangements and regulations , and will report their findings to the CLEAPSSappointed RPA .
Schools and colleges use a range of radioactive sources as part of their physics teaching . There have been a number of instances where sources have gone missing , and their loss has been reported through the appropriate channels . This tale shows what can happen if the response becomes escalated out of proportion .
The incident started with an email from an LEA RPO who had audited a school and found that their radioactive sources were missing . The sources mislaid were four standard cup sources , original activity
241 60 226 90 185 kBq of Am , Co , Ra and Sr . As they
60 were quite old , the Co would have decayed to a negligible quantity .
I advised them that they needed to report the loss to the Health and Safety Executive ( HSE ) and the Environment Agency , but that , firstly , I would do some monitoring to establish that they were actually missing and not just mislaid .
School staff were in the process of transferring equipment from the old science labs to newly constructed ones .
The Head Teacher remembered transferring the sources to the new technician ' s storeroom . However , as not all equipment had been transferred , some time later the sources were used in the old building for a science lesson . The science teacher remembered requesting the sources be made available in the old labs . He did not remember them being locked away , and believed the technician to have done this . The folder containing information relating to the sources was found , but the paperwork had not been kept up to date , the
AWRE last
Laundry entry being several years previously , and there was no log of movement of the sources . Unfortunately , the technician involved had now left the school .
I carried out monitoring in the old labs , the old technician ' s storeroom / office and the new storeroom and labs . Most of the cupboards had been emptied . No radioactive sources were found . It was decided that the loss should be reported to the appropriate authorities , as the sources may have been disposed of by accident .
The school decided to issue a statement asking anyone finding the sources to contact the school or police immediately . A copy was sent to the local press .
The HSE ( regulator ) was informed , together with the local police ( including the Counter Terrorism Security Adviser ), local Council , Public Health Wales , Natural Resources Wales and the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service .
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