Radioactive Substances – Use

Key Legislation:

For more detail on the Legislation relevant to this page, please use the following links:

Guidance: HSE Offshore Safety Division Operations Notice 4 – Radioactive Substances Act 1993The Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004 (PDF document)
Consent Needed for Use of Radioactive Sources:

Anyone keeping or using radioactive substances or sources must hold a certificate of registration for each installation obtained from SEPA/EA. Authorisations must be displayed on the installation:

  • Certificate of Registration under Section 7 of the Radioactive Substances Act (RSA) 1993 for Open sources, and/or
  • Certificate of Registration under Section 7 of the Radioactive Substances Act (RSA) 1993 for Closed sources, and/or
  • Certificate of Registration under Section 10 of the Radioactive Substances Act (RSA) 1993 for Mobile Closed sources.

A ‘closed source’ is defined as an object that consists of one or more radionuclides firmly incorporated on, in, or sealed within solid inert non-radioactive material to prevent in normal use the dispersion of any radioactive material. Such sources include sealed sources, electrodeposited sources and foil sources. Sources where there is the potential for contamination of other materials, e.g. radioactive powders, liquids or gases, are termed ‘open sources’.

Certain low activity sources are exempt from the need for registration under Sections 7 or 10 of RSA 1993. If such sources are held, and compliance with the conditions of the relevant exemption order(s) can be attained, the details of such sources need not be included in any application for registration. Copies of the exemption orders can be obtained from SEPA/EA.

How to Apply:

Complete the RSA 1 form (obtained from SEPA/EA) when applying for registration certificates for use of open and closed radioactive sources.

Complete the RSA 2 form (obtained from SEPA/EA) when applying for registration certificates for use of mobile closed radioactive sources.

Who to Apply to:

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) in Scotland; and the Environment Agency (EA) in England and Wales.

When to Apply: 4-5 months prior to the use of radioactive material.
Limits Placed on Use of Radioactive Material:

In addition to reporting/monitoring requirements described below, the Certificate is likely to impose conditions that relate to the:

  • Apparatus, equipment and appliances used on the premises
  • Provision of information concerning the removal of radioactive material from the premises
  • Prohibiting of selling or supplying radioactive material from the premises unless it has been duly labelled/marked
Monitoring Use of Radioactive Substances: Not required but full records must be available for SEPA/EA inspectors.
Lost Sources:

It is a condition of registration under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 that sources which cannot be recovered from downhole are notified to HSE as soon as loss is determined.

Note: SEPA/EA will regard the source as “in storage” and may require further recovery attempts at well decommissioning.

Who to Report to: SEPA/EA.
What to do if in Breach of Consent:

Immediately inform SEPA/EA.


Use, accumulation or storage of radioactive material or use of mobile radioactive equipment without proper authorisation is an offence under the Act. Not complying with any limitations or conditions set by authorisation or non-compliance with enforcement or prohibition notices is an offence under the Act. A person guilty of these offences shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both, or on conviction on indictment to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or both.

Failure to display documents on premises as required under Section 19 of the Act is an offence liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or on indictment to a fine.

Failure to keep required records is an offence liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or a prison sentence not exceeding 3 months, or on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 2 years.

Renewal of Certificate of Registration: SEPA/EA will review an operator’s registration at intervals of approximately 4 years.
Qualified Experts for Radioactive Waste Management: A consultation is being carried out by the EA, SEPA and the NIEA.The consultation is about setting a common standard in the UK, for the competences of a Qualified Expert who can advise employers about radioactive waste management and environmental radiation protection, to meet the requirements of the Radioactive Waste Legislation
Proposals for an Integrated Framework of Environmental Regulation: The proposals outlined by SEPA will deliver a simpler legislative framework which will enable SEPA to focus greatest effort on the environmental problems that matter most. It will provide a more consistent range of enforcement tools so that, proportionate and effective action can be taken against those who would damage the environment. The consultation that has been undertaken is built on previous consultations focusing on changes to the structure of environmental protection legislation in order to create a new, integrated framework for the permissions (licences, permits, rules, etc.) which will be used to control activities which could harm the environment.
OSPAR’s Radioactive Substances Committee (RSC) OSPAR’s RSC met in Brussel’s primarily to discuss the finalization of the report on the Fourth Periodic Evaluation (4PE) of progress towards the objective of the OSPAR Radioactive Substances Strategy.The 4PE focuses on discharges of radioactive substances from the nuclear and non-nuclear sectors. It will from RSC’s contribution to OSPAR’s Intermediate Assessment 2017 (link here).
Consultation on the transposition in England and Wales of Articles 14(5)-(8) of the energy efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU): This consultation sought views from interested parties on proposals to amend the Environmental Permitting Regulations to include some parts of the Energy Efficiency Directive (England and Wales only), helping Defra to identify cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency.

This consultation is accessible from the Defra website and concluded on 21 March 2014.

UK Policy: A policy statement,  Policy Statement for the Long Term Management of Solid Low Level Radioactive Waste in the United Kingdom (PDF document), was published in March 2007 as a result of public consultation. The policy amends or replaces relevant parts of the ‘Review of Radioactive Waste Policy: Final Conclusions’ White Paper published in July 1995. The policy statement covers all aspects of generation, management and regulation of solid low level radioactive waste.