Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Regulation of radioactive substances in Northern Ireland

Regulation of radioactive substances in Northern Ireland

Radioactive substances exempt from the need for a certificate

If the radioactive materials you keep and use, along with the radioactive waste you accumulate and intend to dispose of are not out of scope then they are the subject of regulation.

It is recognised that the risk associated with a number of common activities, and the use of certain radioactive materials, poses a very low risk to the public if certain conditions are met. These activities are classed as exempt from the need for a certificate of registration or authorisation, meaning there is no need to inform the regulator, or apply for a certificate when working with these materials, so long as the conditions are complied with in full.

Failure to meet the conditions of an exemption could result in a fine or imprisonment.

If the materials you keep or use and the wastes you accumulate and intend to dispose of are not out of scope or exempt, then you will need a certificate of registration or authorisation from your environmental regulator.

What you must do

It is your responsibility to satisfy yourself that the radioactive materials you use, and the radioactive wastes that you produce are exempt from the regulations. You must be able to demonstrate the reasons for your decision to your environmental regulator.

Certain conditions must be met if you intend to carry out activities using radioactive materials that are exempt from regulation.

General conditions for exempt unsealed source materials

  • Keep adequate records of exempt materials held on site and retain these records for 1 year after the materials have been removed.
  • Ensure where practicable that all exempt radioactive materials, or their containers, are clearly labelled.
  • Allow your environmental regulator access to your records to demonstrate that the conditions which apply to the exempt materials are being met.
  • Keep all exempt radioactive materials safe and secure to prevent loss, accidental removal, spillage or theft.
  • Make sure that all containers are fit for purpose and not damaged in a way that could release radioactive materials.
  • If radioactive materials are lost or stolen, report this immediately to your environmental regulator and include details of any other loss or theft, or suspected loss or theft, in the previous 12 months. ( this is only necessary above a certain quantity of radioactivity)

You can find the information you need to decide if your radioactive substances or radioactive waste is exempt from the regulations in Section 3 of the Government guidance:

GOV.UK: Guidance on the scope and exemptions from radioactive substances regulations in the UK

Specific conditions for exempt activities

Very low level radioactive waste

Medical and veterinary uses of radioactive substances

Radioactivity in museums

Waste sealed radioactive sources

Small sealed radioactive sources

Uranium and Thorium

Small amounts of open radioactive sources

Lamps with radioactive substances

Radioactive material and waste “stored in transit”

Interpretation of “relevant liquid”

NORM industrial activities

Further information

DAERA Northern Ireland: Radioactive substances


Complying with your certificate

If your use of radioactive material or the radioactive waste you produce is not “out of scope” and is not covered by an exemption then you must apply for:

  • A certificate of registration to keep and use radioactive material
  • A certificate of authorisation to accumulate or dispose of radioactive waste.

You must comply with the conditions in your certificate of registration or authorisation. Conditions control the impact your radioactive substance activities could have on the environment and human health.

Your environmental regulator will carry out site inspections, conduct audits and review information it receives about your site to make sure you are complying with your certificate of registration or authorisation.

You can be fined, or even sent to prison, if you do not comply with the terms of your certificate of registration or authorisation.

What you must do

Comply with your certificate of registration or authorisation conditions

The conditions in your certificate of registration or authorisation will depend on what radioactive substances you keep and what activities you carry out at your site. Your certificate of registration or authorisation may contain conditions that relate to:

  • managing your site activities
  • what activities are permitted on your site
  • operating your site, such as site security and safe storage
  • high activity sealed radioactive sources (HASS)
  • transferring radioactive sources
  • receiving radioactive waste
  • accumulating radioactive waste, including accumulation limits
  • disposing of radioactive waste safely and securely, including appropriate disposal routes
  • keeping records, reporting and making notifications.

For example, if you store radioactive substances the conditions in your certificate of registration or authorisation might require you to:

  • prevent unauthorised persons from accessing the radioactive substances
  • take measures to prevent loss of, theft of or damage to the radioactive substances
  • maintain the radioactive substances and any associated containers and equipment in good repair
  • ensure the radioactive store is labelled clearly and correctly.

If your business keeps or uses HASS, disposes of HASS or holds sealed sources with a similar level of potential hazard, your certificate of registration or authorisation will contain additional conditions to protect people and the environment. For example, you must comply with additional site security arrangements. There are also special reporting requirements and additional financial requirements for HASS.

You must display a copy of your certificate of registration or authorisation on your business premises, unless it relates to sealed radioactive sources or it is otherwise subject to national security restrictions.

How compliance is enforced

The NIEA has a range of enforcement tools to ensure that businesses comply with radioactive substances legislation. They will take enforcement action that is appropriate for the severity of the non-compliance. Enforcement action includes verbal and written warnings, enforcement notices, prohibition notices and prosecution with the possibility of a fine or prison.

An enforcement notice may be issued if you breach the conditions of your certificate of registration or authorisation. A prohibition notice is issued if there is an imminent risk of serious pollution or harm to human health.

In this Guideline

What are radioactive substances?

Radioactive materials out of scope of the regulations

Regulation of radioactive substances in Northern Ireland

Regulation of radioactive substances in Scotland

Other radioactive substances regulations

Radioactive substances environmental legislation

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