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Open sources


Work with all open sources of ionising radiation requires specific control measures to be followed in order to keep yourself and others safe and to protect the environment.

Key risks

  • When working with any radioactive sources there is a risk of exposure to ionising radiation.

  • With open sources there is also a risk of radioactive material entering the body through ingestion or inhalation causing the radiation exposure of internal organs and tissues.

  • Below are the key risks for work with open sources that could lead to radiation exposures:

  • Exposure to radiation from unshielded sources of hard beta radiation or gamma rays;

  • Contamination of the hands or skin which could lead to the inhalation or ingestion of radioactive material (e.g. due to contamination of hands left unwashed before eating);

  • Theft or loss of sources which could put the public at risk of exposure.

  • Inappropriate disposal of radioactive waste which could lead environmental contamination.

What you need to do

  • Follow the New Users instructions to complete the necessary registration process and training requirements.

  • Work with your Principal Investigator (PI), Radiation Protection Supervisor (RPS) and Radiation Safety Coordinator (RSC) to decide which handling area will be appropriate for your experiment.  If this is not already a registered radiation area it must first be registered with the Radiation Protection Manager.

  • Carefully read and follow the ‘Local Rules’ for the use of unsealed radioactive material that have been written for your research group (see template in 'Downloads' below) .  If the Local Rules do not fully cover the work that you are intending to undertake ask your Radiation Protection Supervisor (RPS) to rectify this before starting work.

  • Always use the appropriate protective clothing, equipment and facilities as detailed in the Local Rules.

Risk assessments

Before you begin work with open sources you will need to read the appropriate generic risk assessment - see 'Downloads’ at the bottom of this page.

In addition a dose assessment is required to be completed for your work on RSID. However if your research group is doing similar work with the radionuclide you want to use then a dose assessment will already have been completed and you just need to ask for your name to be added as a user.


To protect the public and the environment work with open sources of radiation is subject to the conditions of an environmental permit issued to the University by the Environment Agency.  Following the instructions above and the procedures detailed in the Local Rules and the Ionising Radiation Protocol (Standard and Guidance) below will secure compliance with the permit conditions.  The permit can be read in full here (you will need to login with your University IT username and password to access this).

Contact the Radiation Protection Manager if you need more guidance or advice.

Open Sources Downloads