CHAPTER 10: Radiation Safety

(by Dr. Jason Engbrecht, Radiation Safety Officer, January, 2007)

10.0 Introduction

Radioisotopes in Minnesota are regulated by the State of Minnesota (  The stated purpose of these regulations is (a) “to control the receipt, possession, use, transfer and disposal of licensed material” and (b) ensure that the “total dose to an individual…does not exceed the standards for protection” (10 CFR 20.1001).  Thus, State Codes require that no isotopes may be obtained, used, or disposed without the required licenses and training.  Moreover, these regulations specify specific procedures and limits (including record keeping) that must be met to ensure secure and safe use of radioisotopes. 

Demonstration that these rules are actively in place are required to keep an institutional license:  a licensee is subject to inspection at any time.  Both government entities require a Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) to oversee the safe storage, use and disposal of materials.  Thus, anyone considering using isotopic materials must first contact the RSO (Dr. Jason Engbrecht; x3849,

10.1 Requesting to Use Isotopes

10.1.a Proposal.  Anyone proposing to use radioisotopes is required to submit a written proposal to the RSO that contains the following information:

  1. Documented training of the PI in proper handling, use, and monitoring the relevant radioactivity.
  2. The isotopes, chemical form, amounts (mCi or Bq) to be used and total amount expected to be held on campus at any given time.
  3. A detailed protocol that covers storage location, use site(s), any procedures (chemical reactions, centrifugation, spectrophometry, chromatography, etc.), a waste collection plan (dry and liquid), a personal protection plan, a monitoring plan, and the expected duration of use.  Direct reference to the appropriate government regulations is useful (see References 1 & 2 below).
  4. A lab-specific training and safety program for students that includes written standard operating procedures and an isotope specific exam to be completed by anyone using the isotope.

10.1.b Acceptance.  The RSO will determine if the proposal is covered by an existing licensure and if the proposal meets St. Olaf standards for safety.

  1. If the proposal is reasonable, but not covered under the existing licensing, the RSO in consultation with the Chemical Hygiene Officer (CHO, Dr. Patrick Ceas), the relevant department chairs and Associate Dean, will determine the suitability of applying for an amended license.
  2. If the proposal seems reasonable to all parties, the RSO will make that application.
  3. Any grant proposal that includes isotopic use will require a signature from the RSO signifying that we are licensed to carry out this activity.

10.2 Responsibilities

10.2.a Principle Investigator (PI).  Once a given isotopic use has been licensed and permission has been granted, the PI is responsible for carrying out the work as described, logging use and location of the isotopes, and monitoring and maintaining lab safety for all personnel.  Careful attention to these responsibilities is needed in order for each PI and the College to maintain its licenses with the State and the NRC.   The PI will:

  1. Obtain in writing from the RSO clearance for any purchases or transfer of radioisotopes. (i.e., Purchase orders must be signed).
  2. Contact the RSO in writing prior to any changes in protocol, location, or amounts of isotope to be used
  3. Ensure that all materials are secured at all times and that storage sites are clearly posted with the relevant information.
  4. Implement the training and safety protocols described in their proposals.
  5. Provide all users with necessary personal safety items (gloves, lab coats, badges) and provide appropriate shielding in work areas, for stored materials and waste
  6. Conduct wipe tests or other appropriate monitoring each time isotopes are used.  Monitoring should occur annually even if the isotopes are stored.
  7. Maintain an accurate and current log of usage and disposal.
  8. Report annually to the RSO with copies of use and monitoring records.
  9. Work with the RSO and CHO to ensure timely disposal of all waste.
  10. Secure the area and contact the RSO and CHO immediately in the event of an accident.

10.2.b Radiation Safety Officer.

  1. The RSO will provide an annual training program if there are to be a number of users.
  2. The RSO will meet with the PI(s) on a regular basis to ensure that all government regulations are being followed.
  3. The RSO may halt activities at any time if there is a reason to believe safety is compromised or government reporting requirements are not being met.

10.3 St. Olaf College Resources for Isotope Users

10.3.a Questions & Training. The RSO and CHO are happy to work with PIs in considering protocols, safety plans and any other aspect of isotopic use. 

10.3.b Waste Labeling, Storage & Disposal. There is a secured site for storage of waste in Regents Hall.  Follow the procedures found on the University of Minnesota’s Radiation Waste website:

  1. The RSO and CHO must be notified if you plan to store materials in this facility.
  2. All materials must be clearly labeled with the your name, date, isotope, amount (in mCi or Bq), all chemicals, the half-life (and if relevant, the date expected at which 10 half-lives will be complete).  If it is in liquid form, the volume must be given.
  3. Scintillation vials must include the name of scintillation fluid and approximate total volume.
  4. All sharps (glass, needles) must be stored in protective containers.
  5. Incidental waste (diaper paper, gloves, kimwipes) may be stored in well-labeled heavy plastic bags.
  6. Disposal will be arranged on an annual basis depending on need.
  7. See the University of Minnesota Radiation Protection Division as a good resource for advice on safe waste handling and other matters:

10.3.c Critical References for Isotope Users.

  1. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Rules and Regulations, as Title 10, Part 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations titled "Notices, Instructions, and Reports to Workers; Inspections" (10 CFR 19) and Part 20, titled "Standards for Protection Against Radiation" (10 CFR 20). The NRC regulations may be viewed via the Internet at
  2. The State of Minnesota regulations regarding isotope use may be viewed at
  3. The University of Minnesota’s Office of Radiation Protection is a wealth of information.  The main page is found at:

10.4 Documented Training

We must have on file written documentation of training for all users and for all personnel (students, staff) who will work in the space where isotopes are stored and used.  Without this documented training in our files, we would be in violation of the State and Federal Codes.  The language below is to be used to document the training and must be attached to a copy of the written materials for all training events (even informal conversations with students).  As noted above (10.1.a(4)), preparing these documents is required prior to granting an individual PI permission to use radioactive material. 

The specific training will depend on the circumstances: good sources include the Univ Minnesota web site ( and “At the Bench: A Laboratory Navigator” (ISBN 0-87969-523-4; a copy is located in the BioMolecular Shared Research Space in RNS 375).

I have read and understood all of the material written above.  I have discussed this with my instructor and had opportunities to ask questions.  I understand the importance of all of the safety precautions for the health and well-being of myself and others who work in or enter this space.  I understand the containment and reporting procedures in the event of a spill.  I understand that I am using regulated materials that may not be removed from the designated areas or shared with anyone else.  I am willing to take the responsibilities described above.

Signed: _______________________________  Date: ______________

Printed name: ___________________________

I, as the supervising PI, have discussed the responsibilities and precautions associated with isotopic use with the individual named above.  I believe that the individual understands the procedures and is able to undertake them.

Signed: _______________________________  Date: ______________

Printed name: ___________________________