Authorization to Use Radioactive Materials


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I) holds a Type A Broad Scope Radioactive Materials License issued by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) in accordance with the Illinois Radiation Protection Act.  The Urbana campus is also required to register radiation-producing machines and laser sources with the same agency under the Radiation Protection Act and the Illinois Laser Systems Act, respectively. The Urbana campus is also committed to protecting the health and safety of its faculty, staff, students, visitors, and environment by appropriately identifying and managing radiological hazards. Additionally, campus is committed to minimizing radiation exposures to faculty, staff, students, and visitors, resulting from the use of ionizing radiation sources in teaching and research, to levels that are as low as is reasonably achievable.

The radiation safety program applies to all University personnel on the Urbana campus and all visiting academic, faculty, staff or students, who use ionizing radiation sources or Class IIIB or Class IV lasers on or off of campus. The radiation safety program provides comprehensive health physics support services to the U of I.  

All ionizing radiation sources will be used in a manner that is consistent with state and federal laws and regulations and with the requirements of the campus Radioactive Materials License. All radiation-producing machines and laser systems must be registered with the IEMA through the Division of Research Safety (DRS) and must be operated in compliance with state regulations.

Responsibilities for Radiation Safety

The U of I strives to maintain a safe and healthy working and learning environment for faculty, staff, students, and visitors. The cooperation of the entire campus community is needed to realize this goal. This is particularly true of research and teaching that involves radiation sources, where the Campus Radiation and Laser Safety Committee, DRS and radiation safety officer (RSO), principal investigators (PIs) and department heads, and laboratory workers share the responsibility for creating and maintaining a safe workplace.

Radiation and Laser Safety Committee Responsibilities

The Radiation and Laser Safety Committee advises the Chancellor through the Vice Chancellor for Research and DRS on matters related to the campus radiation safety program. The Committee is composed of academic staff and faculty members representing various areas of research and teaching, and members who represent the campus administration including the campus RSO.

The Chancellor delegates authority to the Committee to oversee the use of radiation sources throughout the campus.  The Committee has the authority to permit, deny, or revoke authorization for individuals to obtain and use radiation sources at the U of I.

The responsibilities of the Radiation and Laser Safety Committee include the following:

  1. Review proposals for unusually hazardous uses of radiation sources as deemed by the RSO, and establish criteria for equipment and procedures to ensure employee, student, and public safety.
  2. Review cases that involve repeated infractions of the rules and regulations for protection against radiation, including lasers.
  3. Review accidents that may involve exposure or serious economic loss and other cases for which reports to outside regulatory authorities are required.
  4. Review public relation problems that involve radiation sources and lasers.
  5. Review appeals from radiation users and modify rules or the decisions of DRS personnel where necessary.
  6. Meet formally as often as necessary, but at least four times per year, to review the campus radiation safety program with DRS personnel.
  7. Recommend the establishment or modification of campus radiation and laser safety policies.
  8. Work with DRS to effectively use electronic communication to keep committee members abreast of unusual events between committee meetings.
  9. Review communications between DRS and government agencies that affect the campus radiation safety program and the campus radioactive materials license.

Division of Research Safety Responsibilities

  1. Provide advice and assistance to all concerned on all aspects of radiation safety.
  2. Approve proposals for procurement, use and transfer of radiation sources except proposals involving unfamiliar or extreme hazards that DRS judges as requiring review by the Committee.
  3. Receive and monitor all shipments of radioactive materials, deliver acceptable incoming shipments to the consignee, and ensure that outgoing shipments conform to shipping regulations.
  4. Maintain permanent records of receipt, use, transfer, and disposal of radioactive materials.
  5. Supervise and assist in disposal of radioactive wastes.
  6. Assign personnel monitoring devices (e.g., film badges, dosimeters) when necessary, give instructions in their use, and maintain personnel monitoring records.
  7. Check radiation monitoring and survey instruments for proper operation and calibrate as often as necessary.
  8. Assist in designing and selecting equipment, shielding, and facilities and in the formulating operating procedures for new or modifying existing installations or buildings.
  9. Calculate the levels of radiation intensity, time limits of personnel exposure, and minimum working distance around accelerators, reactors, X-ray machines, and other intense radiation sources.
  10. Perform and keep records of leak tests on sealed sources.
  11. Make and keep records of systematic surveys in areas where the presence of radiation or contamination of surfaces, air, or water is suspected, and notify the area supervisor of the results. In some cases this may require detailed monitoring of an operation from beginning to end by a DRS member.
  12. Report hazardous radiological conditions promptly to the individual responsible and, when necessary, to the immediate supervisor and the Radiation and Laser Safety Committee.
  13. Supervise and assist in decontamination of all but minor spills.
  14. Schedule routine medical examinations in accordance with established policy; help establish criteria, and make arrangements for such examinations as may be required in emergency situations.
  15. Enforce all written directives of the Committee.
  16. Stop any operation or deny access of any individual to radiation sources in the interest of safety. Such action must be reported verbally and in writing to the Committee as soon as possible.
  17. Grant exemptions to the rules (or impose more stringent restrictions) in emergency situations when, in the judgment of DRS, such action is necessary to reduce risk of serious injury or economic loss. Such actions must be reported verbally and in writing to the Committee as soon as possible.
  18. Maintain files of federal, state, and local licenses and registrations concerned with radiation sources and initiate applications for renewals and/or amendments of same.
  19. Determine whether a radiation incident requires a report to any governing body and prepare such reports for the approval of the Committee. Exception: If an immediate report is required, the campus radiation safety officer shall (with knowledge and approval of the chairman if possible) file such report with the appropriate authorities and shall provide copies to the Committee.
  20. Be familiar with the federal, state, and local laws relating to radiation and be aware of changes in such laws as they occur. Inform the Committee when such changes make modifications of policy desirable and institute necessary changes in the radiation safety program.

Principal Investigator/Unit Head Responsibilities

In addition to assuming all the responsibilities of an individual radiation user, the PI shall:

  1. Be responsible for ensuring that all personnel, particularly new personnel, who have access to radiation sources under his/her jurisdiction, are properly instructed and that they possess the necessary skills and disposition to cope with radiation safely. The minimum training requirements are outlined in Section 3.0 of the Radiation Safety Manual.
  2. Determine the types of radiation sources, equipment, facilities, and procedures needed for his/her work.
  3. Comply with all radiation permit requirements.
  4. Ensure that the procedures for purchase, acquisition, use, and transfer of radioactive materials are followed in work under his/her supervision. This includes keeping accurate inventory and disposal records.
  5. Routinely check protective equipment and instruments to ensure they are working properly and adequately performing their intended functions.
  6. Work with DRS to solve radiation safety problems unique to his/her situation and to correct violations of federal, state or local rules and regulations.
  7. Assist DRS in complying with existing laws and license requirements (maintenance of records, preparation of reports) by providing necessary information and assistance.
  8. Obtain the prior approval of the campus radiation safety officer before individuals age 18 and under are allowed to work in a radiation laboratory.
  9. When away from campus for an extended period, ensure that radioactive materials and work involving radiation sources receive adequate supervision. A PI that will be absent from his or her laboratory for a period of three months or more must designate a temporary supervisor and inform DRS in writing of this designation. The education, training, and administrative authority of the person designated as temporary supervisor must be sufficient to ensure that all safety requirements will be met and must be acceptable to DRS.
  10. Inform DRS of an intention to cease using radioactive material, an extended departure from campus is planned, or if there is any reason the obligations in the Radiation Safety Manual cannot be met.
  11. Report lost, stolen, or missing sources of radiation to DRS. DRS is required to notify state regulators within 24 hours after when the absence becomes known.

Unit heads shall inform DRS whenever any radiation permit holder of their unit will be absent from campus for more than three months and whenever there are circumstances that might require additional assistance from DRS (e.g., temporary disability).

Worker Responsibilities

The individual user has the final responsibility for the safe use of the radiation sources to which he or she has access. He/she shall:

  1. Keep his/her exposure as low as practical;
  2. Wear assigned personnel monitoring devices in an approved manner;
  3. Be familiar with and comply with all sections of the Radiation Safety Manual applying to his/her work;
  4. Be familiar with the nature of his/her area's radiation sources, the extent of their potential risk, and use the proper means of coping with them safely;
  5. Monitor his/her area frequently for contamination.
  6. Clean up minor spills immediately.
  7. Dispose of radioactive waste in an approved manner.
  8. See that sources, containers, and the area are properly labeled and posted.
  9. Assist in maintaining required records and inventories.
  10. Prevent unauthorized persons from having access to radiation sources in his/her area.
  11. Protect service personnel, allowing no maintenance or repairs of area facilities or equipment unless approved by the area supervisor and/or the DRS.
  12. Notify his/her supervisor and DRS of unexpected difficulties.
  13. Be prepared to handle accidents or injuries with common sense.
  14. Notify and seek the assistance of his/her PI and DRS as soon as possible in emergencies.
  15. Take no action that would interfere with the responsibilities of his/her laboratory supervisor.
  16. Notify his/her supervisor immediately of any last, stolen, or missing source of radiation.

Authorization of Ionizing Radiation Sources

The procurement, possession, or use of radioactive material is permitted only pursuant to a Radiation Permit issued by DRS. A permit is also required for technologically “enhancing” naturally occurring radioactive material. This section discusses the application process, responsibilities for maintaining a permit, steps to amend or terminate a permit, and the policy on abandoned radioactive materials.

Radiation Permit Application Process

Appendix E of the Radiation Safety Manual has a copy of the Radiation Permit Application. Complete the application and submit it to DRS.

The DRS reviews the application, prepares a radiation permit specifying the quantities, locations and conditions for use of radioactive materials, and obtains the approval signatures of the campus RSO and the Radiation and Laser Safety Committee Chair. The permit is then returned to the applicant in duplicate. The PI and his or her unit head must sign and return one copy of the permit to DRS, thereby acknowledging their acceptance of the responsibilities associated with the permitted activities. The other copy of the permit is retained by the PI and must be made available to persons using radiation sources under its provisions.

Once all signatures have been obtained, the permit is in effect and procurement of radioactive materials may commence (see Section 4.0 of the Radiation Safety Manual). Before operations under the permit commence, DRS personnel will inspect the laboratory to ensure that the area is properly posted, waste cans and radiation detectors are available, and other conditions specified in the permit are met.

Radiation Permit Validity

A permit is valid as long as the conditions in the permit are fulfilled and there is a need for radioactive materials in the laboratory. In some cases, a PI may need a radiation permit for a specified period of time. At the end of that time, the permit should be deactivated in accordance with Section 2.4 of the Radiation Safety Manual. If no radioactive material usage is planned for several months or more, the PI should request that the permit be deactivated.


A permit can be amended at any time, e.g., to include additional types or quantities of radionuclides. To do this, the PI sends a written request describing the desired change to DRS. DRS evaluates the change. If the amendment is approved, the RSO authorizes the new permit, and a copy is sent to the PI. Additional signatures are not required.

Deactivating/Reactivating a Permit

A laboratory must be free of any radioactive material (in the form of contamination, source vials, waste or stored samples) before a permit can be deactivated. Radioactive material must be properly disposed or transferred to another laboratory with an authorized permit as described in Section 4.3 of the Radiation Safety Manual. Laboratory personnel should perform surveys to ensure that no contamination exists in the lab. Once surveys have shown that the laboratory is free of contamination, laboratory personnel should remove or deface radioactive labels and markings. DRS personnel should then be contacted to perform a final survey and remove the radioactive material postings from the laboratory entrances. The permit is deactivated when all areas have received a satisfactory final survey and postings have been removed.

A PI can simply reactivate a previously deactivated permit by contacting DRS. No additional signatures are required to reactivate a permit.

Abandoned Radioactive Materials

Campus units are responsible for decontaminating facilities and for identification and proper disposal of radioactive materials abandoned by their personnel.

Situations may arise in which unknown or abandoned radioactive materials and/or contamination are discovered. In such cases, the campus unit is responsible for performing detailed analyses and disposing of such materials and/or reducing contamination to acceptable levels as stipulated by regulatory agencies.  If a campus unit is not able to assume these responsibilities or perform these required tasks within a reasonable time frame, it may enlist the services of a qualified outside vendor or DRS on a cost-reimbursement basis).

If unknown or abandoned radioactive material or contamination is discovered, DRS will request the responsible campus unit in writing to effect cleanup within 60 days. After 60 days, DRS may assume responsibility and proceed to complete the task unless DRS and the responsible campus unit agree otherwise. The campus unit will reimburse DRS for the costs incurred in the process. The Radiation and Laser Safety Committee will arbitrate any disputes that may arise.

Radiation Safety Training Requirements

Each PI is responsible for providing radiation safety training to persons using radiation sources under his or her supervision at intervals not to exceed 12 months. Regulations also require each PI to provide awareness training at the same interval for anyone who frequents radioactive materials locations under his or her supervision. Other individuals may provide the training under the supervision of the PI.  DRS has developed web-based training modules to provide a general background in radiation safety and can provide general training to personnel upon request. 

The law requires that individuals shall be instructed in the following topics before working with radioactive materials:

  • Health protection problems associated with exposure to radioactive materials or radiation;
  • Precautions or procedures to minimize exposure;
  • Purposes and functions of protective devices employed;
  • The permit conditions and the applicable portions of the Radiation Safety Manual;
  • Employee responsibility to promptly report any condition that may lead to or cause a violation of the regulations or cause an unnecessary exposure;
  • Actions to take in the event of an emergency;
  • Radiation exposure reports that workers may request.

Particular attention should be given to contamination survey requirements, dosimetry requirements, necessary documentation, safety precautions/equipment, authorized radionuclides, possession limits, precautions during pregnancy, and locations where radioactive materials are authorized. State rules require that this be augmented by annual radiation safety training.

The extent of the instruction shall be commensurate with the potential radiological health problems in the work area

Records of this instruction must be maintained by the PI for audit by DRS personnel or for inspection by state regulatory personnel.

Abbreviations, Conversions, Examples and Formulas

Found in Appendix D of the Radiation Safety Manual.


Definition of radiation terms can be found in the Appendix F of the Radiation Safety Manual.

Last Update: 6/26/2020