Companies in the beverage and paper industries use radioactive sources safely

Inspections by the Authority in 2023 revealed that beverage and paper manufacturers work safely with sealed sources containing radioactive materials. Manufacturers use these radiation sources to measure the thickness of paper or the filling height of beverage containers. Our inspections did reveal minor violations of the rules, which have since been resolved by the companies in question.

Enlarge image ingekapselde bron drankenbedrijf
Image: ©Refresco

Radioactive substances cannot escape from a sealed source

Radiation is used for various applications in the industry, such as measuring the thickness of paper and the filling height of beverage packaging. Companies use sealed sources or alternative techniques for this purpose. A sealed source is a radioactive source in which the radioactive materials are carefully contained so they cannot escape. Some health risks are involved. That is why working with sealed sources is so important. We will perform inspections to ensure that companies are using them safely and professionally.

Inspections at 5 paper manufacturers and 14 beverage manufacturers

In 2023, we conducted inspections at five paper manufacturers and 14 beverage manufacturers. These companies are representative of the entire business. We selected companies that use sealed sources and companies that use alternative techniques, for example X-ray devices. During the inspections, we checked to see if the sealed sources were used safely and correctly. The application of alternative techniques was reviewed with the same goal in mind.

Imperfections discovered, but solved after follow-up inspections

Our Inspection results of the use of radioactive sources in the paper and beverage industries (in Dutch) describe our inspections. We observed imperfections at eight companies. For example, the storage facilities containing the sealed sources had to be fire safe. That was not always the case. The companies also did not perform annual checks on the sources. We did note during our follow-up inspections that the companies were quick to resolve all imperfections.

Alternative techniques are even safer

Many companies in the beverage industry have made the switch from sealed sources to alternative techniques in recent years. They are now using X-ray devices instead of sealed sources to determine the filling height of beverage packaging. We believe this is a positive development. You can turn of a device, but a sealed source will always emit. For this application, this means that the risks associated with a sealed source are higher than the risks associated with an X-ray device. The paper industry is still looking for suitable alternatives.

Industry association is also involved

We have also shared our inspection results with the industry association involved and with the Dutch Society for Radiation Protection. We expect that other companies also working with sealed sources will check for any imperfections. We will pay extra attention to this in future inspections.