Unsealed (Open) Radioactive Sources

An unsealed (open) radioactive source is radioactive material which is not encapsulated or otherwise contained. In the University unsealed sources are mainly a radioisotope solutions used in laboratory-based research.  The nature of these sources means that if adequate controls are not in place there is a risk of escape of radioactive material leading to environmental contamination and the potential for exposure of people to ionising radiation.

Consequently there are strict regulations governing the use and security of unsealed sources of radioactivity, this website outlines how the University complies with the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016 and Ionising Radiation Regulations 99.

The suite of Ionising Radiation policy arrangements outline outlines the University policy and procedures for working with sources of ionising radiation.

Working with Unsealed Sources

Any staff or student of the University wanting to acquire and use unsealed sources must follow the instructions below prior to acquiring the source.  The instructions represent best practice in restricting exposure to ionising radiations (as low as reasonably practicable, ALARP) and are in accordance with ‘best available technique’ (BAT) to prevent contamination of the environment with radioactivity.

Tenants occupying University premises must speak to the RPO prior to bringing any radioactive isotopes into our buildings.

  • Ensure the facilities proposed for unsealed source work are approved and meet the required standards (as laid out in IR24 Specification for unsealed (open source) radiation laboratories)
  • Carry out a activity risk assessment for the experiment and radioisotope using the form IR-U1 to identify measures necessary to restrict exposure and protect the environment.  No work can be carried out until the risk assessment has been approved by the  University Radiation Protection Officer.  The approval process will include checking that radioisotopes and amounts (i.e. activity levels) proposed are covered by our existing Environmental Permits. If they are not covered a variation to the Environmental Permit must be applied for; new radionuclides must not be acquired before a variation is granted.

All University staff and students who work with unsealed radioactive sources must register with Health & Safety Services using the  Radiation Worker Form  (a Welsh language form  is also available).  They must attend the University Radiation Safety – Work with Unsealed Sources training course (please email healthandsafety@swansea.ac.uk to request training) as well as receiving training on the Radiation laboratory local rules from the College Radiation Protection Supervisor prior to starting work. The training will include safe use, record keeping, waste disposal and monitoring.

If it becomes known or it is suspected that there has been an unwanted loss  or loss of containment of radioactive material e.g. a spillage, splash or other form of contamination, measures must be taken to prevent any further escape and limit further spread of contamination. Local Rules should be consulted which describe actions and measures to be.

The University Radiation Protection Officer must be informed as soon as possible. Out of normal working hours please inform security.    


Who can I contact about work with unsealed radioactive sources?

Dr Gretta Roberts

Health & Safety Services

Scientific H&S Advisor (Acting as University Radiation Protection Officer


01792 (60) 2680

Louise Morgan-Helliwell

Health & Safety Services

Scientific Safety Officer / Occupational Hygienist

(Acting as Deputy RPO)


01792 (60) 2516  

Dr Aled Issac

Radiation Protection Supervisor, College of Science