The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), an independent administrative authority set up by law 2006-686 of 13 June 2006 concerning nuclear transparency and safety (known as the “TSN law”) is tasked, on behalf of the State, with regulating nuclear safety and radiation protection in order to protect workers, patients, the public and the environment from the risks involved in nuclear activities. It also contributes to informing the citizens.
Industry has long used sources of ionising radiation in a wide variety of applications and locations. Radiation is produced either by radioelements--essentially artificial--in sealed or unsealed sources or by electric generators. For example, its uses include:
- industrial irradiation for sterilisation of medical devices and food preservation;
- industrial radiography used in non-destructive inspection techniques such as gamma radiography for inspecting defects in welds;
- monitoring parameters (dust in the air, basis weight of paper, fluid level, soil density or humidity, logging, etc.);
- radioactive tracers, particularly in research where they are incorporated in molecules as a tool for investigation in cellular and molecular biology;
- measurement of wear, detection of leaks and friction, construction of hydrodynamic models and in hydrology;
- electric generators of X-rays to inspect merchandise containers or in explosion radiography programmes.
Industry also needs nuclear facilities that are not directly related to nuclear power for producing radiopharmaceuticals, processing and packaging low activity waste and nuclear maintenance activities.
The primary issue in the use of sources is to monitor that the safety of workers, the public and the environment is properly assured. This effort is complex to the extent that, not only are sources varied, but they, like their users, are quite numerous (approximately 30,200 sealed sources for 6,000 users).
It is thus important to be able to follow the conditions for storage, use and disposal of sources from the manufacturing stage to the end of service life.
Issuing and renewing authorisations to store and use sources of ionising radiation constitutes an important part of ASN’s work. In examining these cases, ASN may turn to the expertise of IRSN and, if necessary, to organisations that it recognises as competent in the fields of radionuclide source safety and electric generators of ionising radiation.
ASN also performs inspections that depend both on the nature of these sources and the stage of manufacture and use. For unsealed sources, which may be considered as “perishable”, the user monitors non-contamination and environment. ASN may also perform this type of inspection.
In industry, ASN pays special attention to the use of gamma radiography and accelerator devices.