Radiation Safety

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is deeply engaged in ionizing radiation research and didactic training. Both radioactive materials (RAM) and radiation-producing equipment (RPE) are in use at its various facilities. Rensselaer is authorized to use RAM and RPE as per the term and conditions of two licenses issued by NRC and NYSDOH and is registered Radiation Installation with NYSDOH.

Contact Rensselaer's Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) for more information about radiation safety.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has had a formal radiation safety program since shortly after World War II. All the radiological activities at Rensselaer are carried out as per the rules and regulations of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). The NRC related rules and regulations for protection against ionizing radiation are contained in 10 CFR Part 20, titled “Radiation Protection” accessible at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission website. In addition, the NYSDOH licensing provisions and the standards for protection against ionizing radiation are contained in NYSDOH Sanitary Code, Title 10, Chapter I, Part 16, titled "Ionizing Radiation," accessible at New York State's Department of Health website. Part 16 of that code also contains regulations for non-byproduct materials such as radium, as well as for registration and condition of operation of X-ray equipment.

Regulations on the disposal and discharge of licensed material to the environment are specified by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in the New York Code, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR) Title 6, Chapter 4, Part 380, “Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Radioactive Materials”, accessible via New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation website.

Over the years, Rensselaer's radiation safety program has been modified several times to reflect changes in (1) the number and types of Rensselaer's facilities involving ionizing radiation, (2) the State and Federal regulations and (3) Rensselaer's administrative policy. These modifications have been accompanied by variation in the degree to which the administrative control of radiological safety has been centralized. The current program is highly centralized but strongly dependent on each individual user, where the success of any radiation safety program resides.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is deeply engaged in ionizing radiation research and didactic training. Both radioactive materials (RAM) and radiation producing equipment (RPE) are in use at its various facilities. Rensselaer is authorized to use RAM and RPE as per the terms and conditions of two licenses issued by NRC and NYSDOH, and is registered Radiation Installation with NYSDOH.

The principle objectives of Rensselaer’s Radiation Safety Program (RSP) are to maintain compliance in every facet of its NRC and NYSDOH licenses, and ensure that the radiation exposure to its personnel and environment is “as low as reasonably achievable” (ALARA).

Rensselaer is committed to the safety of its personnel, members of public and environment from radiation exposure risk, and has developed policies, guidelines and procedure to ensure a safe work environment.

Rensselaer’s radiation protection guidance sets forth a dose limitation system based on the following three principles:

Justification: There should not be any occupational exposure of persons to ionizing radiation without the expectation of an overall benefit from the activity causing the exposure;

Optimization: A sustained effort should be made to ensure that collective, annual, committed, and cumulative lifetime doses are maintained as low as reasonably achievable with economic and social factors being taken into account; and

Limitation: Radiation doses received as a result of occupational exposure should not exceed the specified limiting values contained in the NYSDOH Sanitary Code., Title 10, Chapter I, Part 16, titled "Ionizing Radiation."

Administrative Control

Radiation Safety Officers (RSOs): RSOs manage day-to-day radiation control activities and have the authority to halt operations involving radioactive material or radiation machines if unsafe or unacceptable conditions exist. RSOs also determine compliance with policies issued by the committees and by federal, state and local agencies, and carry out the policies and recommendations concerning radiation and nuclear safety as established by the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Committee throughout the Institute.

Radiation Safety Officers report to the Director of Department of Environment, Health, Safety and Risk Management (EHS&RM), which in turn reports to the Vice President of Human Resources, who acts as the representative of the President and the Board of Trustees.

Radiation and Nuclear Safety Committee (RNSC): The RNSC is composed of representatives of the faculty in each academic department that has users of radioactive material and/or radiation-producing equipment, representatives of administrative departments or divisions that may be impacted by or contribute to activities involving sources of radiation, representative of the RPI Management and the RSO. The RNSC reports to the Vice President of Human Resources.

The Committee is responsible for:

• Setting Institute policies for radiation and nuclear safety, and giving such advice and assistance as may be requested by the RSO.

• Reviewing and approving all requests for use of radioactive material within the institution.

• Ensuring that all individuals who work with or in the vicinity of radioactive material have sufficient training and experience to enable them to perform their duties safely and in accordance with department regulations and the conditions of this license.

• Ensuring that all use of radioactive material is conducted in a safe manner and in accordance with department regulations and the conditions of the license.

The RNSC meetings are held at least four times a year, nominally twice during the fall semester and twice during the spring semester. The committee may also be called at any time during the calendar year whenever matters of urgency arise, as determined by the Vice President of Human Resources, the chairperson, or the RSO.

Authorized Users: Authorized Users are individuals authorized by the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Committee to use and supervise the use of radioactive materials or radiation-producing equipment. Typically, an Authorized User is a senior investigator or faculty member who has the primary scientific, financial, and legal responsibility for a research program. Authorized Users may use the authorized radiation sources directly or, with the approval of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Committee, may delegate the operational responsibilities to a qualified user. Authorized Users' primary responsibility is to ensure radiation safety in facilities under his or her control.

The procedure for the designation of Authorized Users, and for specific Authorization, is contained in “Application for use of a source of Radiation." Further information on the establishment of Authorization is available in that procedure.

Radiation Safety Program: Functions and Controls

The radiation safety training given by the Radiation Safety Officer or the department of EHS is designed to ensure that users of ionizing radiation, both x-rays and radioactive materials, have the knowledge and skill to work efficiently and effectively in an environment with radiation while minimizing radiation exposure to themselves and other workers in the laboratory.

Radiation safety training is provided either through formal classroom training or electronic presentation using the Percipio system administered by Rensselaer. All faculty, staff and students have Percipio accounts which they can access by logging in with their RCS userID and password. Others requiring radiation safety training will be provided with means of completing on-line training or classroom training.


The documentation of the radiation dose received by persons working with radioactive material and radiation-producing equipment is critical to minimizing such exposures and ensuring compliance with state and federal regulations. The best available approach to monitoring occupational radiation exposure to individuals is through the use of personal dosimeter. Rensselaer requires appropriate use of dosimeters in a fashion that is minimally intrusive to the worker, yet is effective in the documentation of compliance with the "As Low as Reasonably Achievable" (ALARA) approach to minimizing radiation exposure. Badges are obtained through the Radiation Safety Officer or department of EHS .

Personnel monitoring devices are changed on a quarterly basis or as deemed necessary by the RSO. Records of personnel exposures shall be maintained by the department of EHS, and yearly radiation exposures shall be supplied to all individuals who are required to wear dosimetry devices. Radiation exposure reports for personnel are also available upon written request to the RSO.

Personnel monitoring devices can be requested by completing the institutes Dosimeter Request Form and submitting it to the Radiation Safety Officer.

If required, all authorized users must have a radiation monitoring equipment (survey meter), appropriate for the type of radiation work performed, at their approved radiological work location(s). These survey meters are calibrated annually through the department of EHS. Please contact the RSO for survey meter calibrations or in case a survey meter is malfunctioning.

No sources of radiation (machines or radioactive materials) may be brought to the Rensselaer campus without prior approval of the Radiation Safety Officer. All purchases and approvals are processed through the OSCAR purchase requisition system; instructions on using OSCAR are available from Rensselaer's Purchasing Department.

In the rare instance where radioactive material is obtained outside of the context of a purchase (for example, as a sample, gift, etc.), a written request detailing the isotope, activity, and form must be sent to the Radiation Safety Officer and approved before the radioactive material can be transferred to Rensselaer.

Purchases/shipments of radioactive materials must be directed to the following address:

ATTN: Radiation Safety Officer
Cogswell Stockroom, Room 219
110 8th Street
Troy, NY 12180-3590

The transportation of radioactive material between locations on the Rensselaer campus may be performed either by hand or by Rensselaer vehicle; transportation in privately owned vehicles is forbidden. Please contact the Radiation Safety Officer to make arrangements for the transportation of any radioactive materials on campus.

Transportation or shipment of the material to off-campus locations may be performed only by common carrier. The Radiation Safety Officer or EHS staff will inspect all packages prior to shipment to ensure compliance with the Department of Transportation regulations.

Radioactive waste should be segregated into separate waste containers for each isotope. Solid waste and liquid waste must not be mixed, and contaminated sharps should be stored separately in sharps containers. Radioactive waste should be stored in sturdy containers that are not so large that full containers become too heavy to lift. The outside of the waste container should be label clearly with “Caution – Radioactive Waste” and the isotope it contains. Hazardous waste labels should not be used for radioactive wastes. Please contact the Radiation Safety Officer to arrange for radioactive waste pickup.

Radiation producing equipment shall not be disposed of as general equipment. Please contact the Radiation Safety Officer for the disposal process.

A radiological emergency involves either the uncontrolled release of radioactive material or the excessive exposure (that is, exposure in excess of the NYSDOH established guides) of personnel to ionizing radiation. These emergencies will include but not be limited to:

  • Personnel exposure or suspected exposure to possible internal deposition of radionuclides. This could be airborne concentrations of radionuclides, body contamination or inadvertent ingestion.
  • Personnel exposure (or suspected exposure) to external radiations in excess of established guides.
  • Uncontrolled release of radionuclides to the building, premise, neighborhood, or sewers.
  • Accidental contamination of onsite areas or equipment.

In an emergency, always contact Public Safety first by calling (518) 276-6611. Public Safety will then contact the Radiation Safety Officer and any others who may need to respond to the incident.

Safe Use of Radioactive Material and Spill procedures.

The Radiation Safety Manual was prepared for Rensselaer laboratory and facility users who utilize radioactive materials and/or equipment which can produce ionizing radiation. The document is revised periodically and can be reviewed and downloaded from the institute’s website.

Comments and suggestions for improving the document, as well as the procedures and regulations contained within, are welcome and may be sent to the Radiation Safety Officer.

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