The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) helped remove disused highly radioactive matter from five South American countries to keep nuclear safety and security in the region, the agency said in a statement on Monday.
According to the statement, the removal of the 27 disused highly radioactive materials was the IAEA's largest facilitated project ever.
The material, mainly used for medical purposes, such as treating cancer and sterilizing instruments, was transported to Germany and the United States for recycling.
The sealed Cobalt-60 and Caesium-137 sources pose safety and security risks when no longer in use, according to Raja Adnan, director of the IAEA's division of nuclear security.
'The removal of this large number of radioactive sources has significantly reduced those risks in the five countries,' he said.
The project, which started in Peru and Uruguay late last year before continuing in Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay in February and March, was carried out over five months. The transport of sources to Germany and the United States was completed at the end of March.
According to the statement, Minister and Executive Secretary of the Radiological Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Paraguay, Cesar Jose Cardozo Roman, noted that some of these sources were stored at hospitals for more than 40 years.
'With this action, a problematic situation has been solved, improving safety for the public and environment and reducing the risk of malicious use and possible exposure to radioactive material,' he said.
In recent years, the IAEA assisted Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Honduras, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Uzbekistan in the removal of disused sources. The South American operation was the largest the IAEA has so far coordinated in terms of both the number of highly radioactive sources and countries involved.
By Huseyin Erdogan