National infrastructure for the prevention of illicit trafficking of radioactive materials

Fixed radiation detection system at Piraeus port

The national infrastructure for the prevention and combating illicit trafficking of radioactive materials was developed on the occasion of the Olympic Games 2004 in Athens, given the strict safety requirements. The existing infrastructure is related to know how and specialized detection equipment, to skilled personnel and to intervention procedures in case of an emergency.

a. Installation, maintenance and operation of detection systems

As a part of the actions for combatting illicit trafficking in radioactive materials, radiation detection systems have been installed at the access gates of Greece. More specifically:
• Fixed automated radiation detection systems and portable equipment for secondary inspections have been installed at five customs stations, including the Athens International Airport and the port of Piraeus at two posts, covering the freight station at Ikonion and the Passenger Terminal of Piraeus Port Authority;
• Portable radiation detectors have been distributed to another 30 customs offices, 20 border guard police stations and five divisions of the Hellenic Coast Guard.

In cooperation with customs offices, EEAE centrally controls and monitors all radiation-related incidents. The detection systems are interconnected to a database installed at EEAE. By such means, EEAE may effectively support the customs officers who manage cases of illicit trafficking and directly support the detection systems; the maintenance and calibration of these systems has been assigned to EEAE.

The radiation detection systems:
• do not emit radiation
• may not harm passers-by and employees' health, no matter how close they are
• warn on the existence of radioactive materials, as human senses may not perceive the presence of radiation.

Since 2003, EEAE has been in close cooperation with the Ministry of Finance (General Directorate of Customs), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the US Department of Energy for developing a national infrastructure capable of combating illicit trafficking of radioactive and nuclear materials. Under such cooperation, Greece has been provided with technical support for becoming more effective in combating illicit trafficking of such materials at certain access gates of the country.

b. Handling Alarm Procedures

In case of radiological findings, the standard procedure includes a primary radiological inspection and a secondary one.The primary radiological inspection is performed by portable and fixed radiation detectors, whilst portable instruments are solely used during the secondary inspection. If the radiation dose rate is higher than a reference value (100 μSv/h), then EEAE has to be immediately notified. In any case that radioactive material is detected (actual alarm), EEAE has to be notified.

Alarm categories
• False alarm. Activation of the detection system as a result of an electronic noise, without any radiological substance being present.
• Innocent alarm. Activation of the detection system as a result of a radiological substance related to natural radioactivity or a radioisotope used in medicine.
• Real alarm. Activation of the detection system as a result of an unjustifiable existence of a radiological substance not related to natural radioactivity or a radioisotope used in medicine.

If a radiological risk is identified, then EEAE activates its response mechanisms and respectively informs the International Incidents and Trafficking Database (ITDB).

c. Training of personnel
The support of the national infrastructure for combating illicit trafficking of radioactive materials is inextricably connected to the education and the ongoing training of the personnel working at the access gates of the country. To this end, EEAE has developed a related educational program entailing both theoretical and practical training in radioprotection and radiation measurements. Such program includes, among others, the presentation of methods for the detection and recognition of radioactive sources, the radiation protection principles and the rules for the transport and management of radioactive materials. The practical part of the training is about coordination issues, as provided for in risk management plans, how to limit the effects arising from exposure to radiation, etc.

During the last three years, EEAE  has run 3 seminars on a yearly basis, in compliance with the quality system ISO 29990:2010.


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