Radioactive materials are used in University laboratories because they can be traced through the radiation they emit, making them powerful research tools in biological and physical research. Radiation producing equipment such as x-ray machines, accelerators, and sealed sources can produce physical injury at high enough levels and if ingested or inhaled. Methods of protection are well understood. Strict exposure limits apply and as a result of controls which are in effect, the risk of work involving exposure to these sources of radiation is insignificant.
University policy for radiation protection is set by the University Radiation Safety Committee. No one may use, bring or remove from the University any radioisotopes or radiation producing devices without the approval of the Radiation Safety Officer or the Radiation Safety Committee. Every individual working with radioisotopes, radiation producing devices or in radiation controlled areas must be approved/authorized by the Radiation Safety Officer and/or Radiation Safety Committee and must have appropriate radiation protection training for the material or equipment use.
NRC and COMAR regulations require the University to establish a radiation protection program to control the receipt, possession, use, transfer, and disposal of radioactive material. The program is implemented and managed by the Radiation Safety Office in accordance with policies set by the Radiation Safety Committee. The Office functions include: Authorizing and Approving all uses of radioactive material and radiation producing devices; Training; Surveillance and Monitoring; Tracking and Inventory Control of radioactive materials; Laboratory Inspections; Personnel Monitoring; and Emergency Response.
Training is required for all individuals working in or frequenting a restricted area as defined by NRC and COMAR regulations. Individuals must be informed of health protection problems associated with exposure to radioactive materials and radiation producing equipment and with the applicable precautions and procedures required to minimize exposure, to operate the devices, applicable regulations and license conditions, responsibility of reporting promptly any condition which may lead to or cause a violation of regulations, or unnecessary exposure to radiation; appropriate response to warnings; and radiation exposure reports which are available. The extent of the training and instructions shall be commensurate with the potential radiological health protection problems encountered.
The University Radiation Safety Office should be called if there are questions on any situation involving radiation. Personnel using material and equipment should:
Radioactive materials must never be disposed of in regular trash. Custodial personnel can be very helpful by being on the alert for containers in the regular trash carrying the radiation symbol, so as to prevent their release.
The NRC and COMAR regulations require reports or theft or loss of licensed materials; of incidents; and of exposures, radiation levels and concentrations of radioactive material exceeding the limits in accordance with 10 CFR 20 and COMAR 26.12.01.01. Reports may be by telephone after occurrences become known, or written reports, depending on the severity of the occurrence as given in the regulations.
In accordance with the requirements of the University Radiation Safety Manual and the license conditions issued by the NRC and COMAR, the Radiation Safety Office conducts periodic radiation surveys of the areas where radioactive materials and equipment are used. The frequency of inspection depends on the specific radionuclides, amounts, laboratory records and other conditions. Laboratory spaces are normally monitored quarterly, but depending on previous inspection violations, the frequency can be done weekly or daily. Radiation producing equipment facilities are inspected yearly.
NRC and COMAR regulations require that the records of the radiation protection program, program content, implementation and effectiveness of the program be maintained. Also required are records of radiation surveys, analyses of doses to individuals as a result of exposures to radiation or intakes or radioactive material, and individual monitoring results. Most records are retained from three years up to termination of license, depending on the record. Some records must be kept only until the next inspection by the regulatory agency.
A complete description of the Radiation Protection Program is contained in the Radiation Safety Manual issued by the Radiation Safety Committee and is an official University document.