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Oklahoma State University
University Research Compliance

A unit in the Division of the Vice President for Research

Radiation Safety - Generally Licensed Materials and Devices

Generally Licensed Materials and Devices

The Radiation Safety Office should be consulted and involved in the purchase of any radioactive material or device.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) allows for certain commonly used instruments and devices to be used on a general license, so long as they are used for the purpose for which they were designed. However, this does not mean that use of these devices is free from regulation. There are often leak test requirements and, in some cases transportation requirements as mandated by the Department of Transportation (DOT), that will still apply to users of such devices. Disposal of generally licensed devices will also be regulated and must be done according to hazardous material disposal regulations.

Generally licensed materials include unenriched uranium and thorium compounds, and small plated or plastic-encapsulated disks, commonly referred to as “check sources” or “button sources”, that contain “exempt” quantities of radioactive material. Because these sources are generally licensed, vendors may ship it to you without informing you that transportation and/or other regulations may apply.

For instance, with regard to uranium and thorium compounds, a general license does apply up to a certain point. However, if the cumulative total for an institution exceed 1.5 kg of uranium and thorium compounds in dispersible form then a specific license is required. As such, the Radiation Safety Office must know who has these compounds and how much they have.

As for check sources, some of them may be subject to transportation requirements by DOT. The term “exempt” quantity may only refer to exemption from NRC regulation.

Typically, a generally licensed device will consist of radioactive material contained in a sealed source within a shielded device. The device is designed with safety features that minimize risks of exposure so that it can be used by individuals with minimal radiation training or experience. Interference with or disabling of these safety features will mean the device no longer meets generally licensed device requirements.

Below is a list of some of the more common generally licensed devices available.

  • Gas Chromatographs with Electron Capture Detectors (Ni-63)
  • Liquid Scintillation Counters with Internal Sources (Cs-137, Ba-133, Eu-152)
  • Calibration Standards for Liquid Scintillation Counters (H-3, C-14)
  • Gamma Counters with Internal Sources (I-129)
  • Isotope Generators (typically Cs-137)
  • Static Elimination Devices (typically Po-210)
  • Check Sources or Button Sources
  • Survey meters with check sources
  • Vacuum tubes with Kr-85
  • Uranyl acetate, Uranyl nitrate, Thorium nitrate

Because generally licensed material and devices are still subject to transportation requirements, these shipments will be labeled to identify them as radioactive. University Mailing Services (UMS) will only release radioactive material packages to Radiation Safety personnel. To avoid a delay of release of your generally licensed material or device, as well as any inadvertent regulatory violations, you should always contact the OSU’s Radiation Safety Office before purchasing generally licensed materials or devices to ensure that all regulatory requirements are understood and can be met. For more information, click the links below or contact the Radiation Safety office.

NRC - Frequently Asked Question about General Licenses

NRC - General License Uses of Nuclear Materials