WASHINGTON (CN) – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission proposes to reduce the amount of radioactive material in so called “general license” devices used in the oil and gas, electrical power, construction, and food industries, and to treat millions of patients each year in diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.
Generally licensed devices typically contain radioactive material in a shielded, sealed housing with inherent radiation safety features so the device may be safely used by someone with no radiation training. Gas chromatographs used in chemical analysis, static eliminators, ice detection devices and certain in vitro kits used in clinical or laboratory testing are examples of general license devices. Owners of such devices must fulfill certain recordkeeping requirements, but because of the built-in safety features, they do not have to apply to the NRC or a state regulatory agency for a specific license to possess or use the radioactive material.
The Commission considers reducing the amount of radioactive material available in portable devices to be a national security issue given the ability of terrorists to create dirty bombs using small amounts of such material. The Commission also proposes to change the classification of some general license devices containing the largest amounts of radioactive material to specific licenses which require owners to apply for a permit to possess and use the radioactive material.
The new limit for general license devices will be 1/10 of the International Atomic Energy Association’s Category 3 ranking of radioactive content which IAEA defines as a sufficient amount of radioactive material, if not safely managed or securely protected, that could cause permanent injury to a person who was in contact with it for some hours. There would belittle or no risk of immediate health effects to persons beyond a few feet away, but contaminated areas would need to be cleaned up in accordance with international standards.