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Document 32003L0122

Radiation – preventing exposure from sealed sources (until 2018)

This summary has been archived and will not be updated. See 'Setting basic safety standards for exposure to ionising radiation (from 2018)' , 'Dangers arising from ionising radiation (from 2018)' for an updated information about the subject.

Radiation – preventing exposure from sealed sources (until 2018)


Directive 2003/122/Euratom — safety standards to protect against radiation



It introduces tighter rules on dealing with ‘sealed radioactive sources’. It also harmonises the EU-wide approach.

‘Sealed radioactive sources’ are small amounts radioactive material that are:

permanently sealed in a capsule, or

bonded to a non-radioactive material

to prevent leaks/contamination.

They have many uses (e.g. medicine, research and industry).

The Directive applies to high-activity sealed radioactive sources (HASS).


Abandoned, lost or misplaced sources (or sources moved without authorisation) are called ‘orphan sources’.

Orphan sources can be a health risk. The Directive aims to reduce this risk.

It asks EU countries to:

clarify who is responsible for recovering orphan sources

set up systems to detect orphan sources (e.g. in metal scrapyards)

run campaigns to recover orphan sources

train workers to handle sources safely.

Rules for source holders

Holders must keep records of all sources they are responsible for. Records must include:


transfer details (of location and/or responsibility)

identification markings.

They must also:

check source condition regularly

run tests (e.g. leak tests) to international standards

prevent loss, theft and unauthorised use (and tell authorities if this happens)

provide radiation protection training for workers

inform authorities if people are exposed to radiation.

EU countries must:

designate a competent authority to implement the Directive

set up a prior authorisation scheme for equipment using high-activity sources

ensure holders have safety rules in place and can pay for re-use or disposal

create a transfer tracking system

ensure funding is available to recover orphan sources

cooperate with other EU Member States in the event of loss, removal or theft — or discovery of orphan sources.


From 31 December 2003.

It has been repealed by Directive 2013/59/Euratom, which has incorporated its main provisions. Directive 2013/59/Euratom will take effect on 6 February 2014.


Council Directive 2003/122/Euratom of 22 December 2003 on the control of high-activity sealed radioactive sources and orphan sources



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2003/122/Euratom



OJ L 346, 31.12.2003 pp. 57–64


Council Directive 2013/59/Euratom of 5 December 2013 laying down basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation, and repealing Directives 89/618/Euratom, 90/641/Euratom, 96/29/Euratom, 97/43/Euratom and 2003/122/Euratom (OJ L 13, 17.1.2014, pp. 1–73)

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee: Experience gained in the implementation of Directive 2003/122/Euratom on the control of high-activity sealed radioactive sources and orphan sources (COM(2015) 158 final of 16.4.2015)

last update 15.10.2015