Dangerous Co60 sources discovered in scrap metal containers

Print View Posted on: 21 March 2019

Event Date: 07 March 2019 Event Type: Radiation Source
Event Location: Netherlands, Port of Rotterdam INES Rating: 2 (Provisional)

On 13 November 2018, 28 January 2019 and 7 March 2019 potentially dangerous Co-60 sources were found in scrap metal containers. In all cases, the sources were discovered as a result of the triggering of alarms of radiation detection portal monitors.

In the three shipments, identical sources were found: metal cylinders of approximately 1 cm radius and 10 cm length containing Co-60, with activities in the range of 20 to 30 GBq per source. The first container of stainless steel contained 5 sources, the second contained 3 sources and the third container contained 1 source.

On the outer surface of the containers, radiation dose rates varying between several mSv/h to several tens of mSv/h were measured. The dose rate on the surface of all recovered sources was up to several Sv/h per source. Although these are very significant dose rates with the potential to cause serious harm when prolonged exposure takes place, there is no indication that any overexposure to the sources occurred during transport and handling of the sources in the Netherlands.

All recovered sources have been stored safely at the national radioactive waste facility. The process of sorting and recovering the sources is performed under supervision of the ANVS.

There has been contact with the counterparts of the shipping country about these incidents, but up to this date, the origin of the Co-60 sources has not been found. The ANVS informed the IAEA and other regulators through ITDB and USIE reports.

A very similar finding in the Port of Hamburg was recently reported by Germany. It is concluded that, depending on the origin and the scenario that caused the sources to end up in the scrap metal, there is a serious possibility that more similar sources may turn up in scrap metal containers. Because of this, the event is considered highly relevant.

INES Rating: 2 - Incident (Provisional) as per 13 March 2019
Release beyond authorized limits? No
Overexposure of a member of the public? No
Overexposure of a worker? No

Contamination spread within the facility? No
Damage to radiological barriers (incl. fuel damage) within the facility? No

Degradation of Defence In-Depth Yes

Person injured physically or casualty? No
Is there a continuing problem? Yes

Mark van Bourgondiƫn
Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection

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