Ionising Radiation Safety

People can be exposed to radiation from radioactive sources such as uranium or tritium, artifical sources include devices such as x-ray equipment that find application in medicine, research and industrial contexts. The use of ionising radiation is regulated to ensure the safety of those affected, the irish legislation that covers the safe use of ionising radiation is :

  1. Radiologocial Protection Act 1991 with its amendments which establishes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the regulator for ionising radiation and provides the legal basis for radiation protection in ireland
  2. Ionising Radiation Regulations S.I. 30 of 2019 (IRR19) which amend the previous laws and regulations on the use of ionising radiation.
  3. Regulations governing medical exposure S.I. 256 of 2018 which govern the exposure limits and safety requirements for medical exposures to ionising radiation.

General Principles Governing the use of Ionising Radiation (Ionising Radiation Regulations 2019)

The Ionising Radiation Regulations 2019 (IRR19) defines the regulatory system controlling the use of Ionising radiation in Ireland, in general it follows the following principles:

  • The use of Ionising Radiation that is liable to result in exposure to people must be justified.
  • There is a requirement to in all cases protect users and the public from the harmful effects of radiation, this process must aim to keep the doses recieved alow areasonably achievable (ALARA).
  • The statutory limits for doses must not be exceeded.
  • All uses of ionising radiation are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that the risks associated with ionising radiation are managed on an ongoing basis.
    • This requires the registration of all radioisotopes and ionising radiation producing devices to be registered and placed on the UCC Ionising Radiation license which is managed by the EPA.  

Guidance for users

  • It is a requirement to be registered with the Radiation Protection Office so please ensure that this has been completed before commencing work.
  • It is neccessary to complete some training in working with ionising radiation safely, please contact the Radiation Protection Officer for access to the internal training materials.
  • When working with radioactive materials and devices it is important to use the minimum amount of radioisotope or exposure consistent with performance of the work, this is to ensure the dose is as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA).
  • Records of all receipt of all radioactive isotopes (LINK).
  • All radioactive sources should be clearly labelled and work involving unsealed sources should happen in a well defined area. Any stored radioactive materials must be labelled with the name of the isotope, the quantity, the date and the activity of the materials.
  • Records must be kept of all disposals and recycling of radioactive materials and compounds. 

Working with Radioactive Materials:

All radioactive materials are either split into 1) Sealed sources and 2) Unsealed sources, both of which have their own unique considerations and protocols when considering safe work practices. In both cases the project will require

  1. A dedicated ionising radiation work space including signage indicating that there is ionising radiation in use inthe area and restricted access to ensure that members of the public are not exposed unneccesarily to ionising radiation.
  2. Approval from the Radiation Protection Officer, the local school/department and local radiation protection supervisor, details required are:
    1. The details of the isotopes being worked with, 
    2. Routes for acquisition and disposal in materials,
    3. Standard operating procedures for work (purpose of use, storage, dilution etc.),
    4. Dosimetry requirements for monitoring purposes,
    5. Suitable monitoring equipment such as geiger counters,
    6. Risk assessments for the planned work practice including details of how the radiation hazard will be managed and mitigated,
    7. Emergency/accident procedures.
  3. Training and registration of personnel using and exposed to radiation.

For more detail see the UCC Code of Practice (LINK)

Purchase of Radioactive sources

When purchasing radioactive sources it is neccessary to first inform the Radiation Protection Officer, it is required for all radioisotopes above the exemption limits provided in IRR 19 to be licensed with the EPA, in the case of sealed sources it is neccessary to ensure that you have a take-back agreement with the supplier for recycling of the source after the life cycle of the project. For ordering sources from abroad it is a requirement to fill out Annex I of Council Regulation (Euratom) No. 1493/93, please contact the RPO.

Recycling and disposal of radioactive materials

Details on recycling and disposal of radioactive materials should be contained in the initial documentation written up before the commencement of work with radioactive isotopes. For guidance and assistance in recycling and disposal of sources please contact the Radiation Protection Office. It is neccessary to keep the Radiation Protection Office informed of all plans for recycling or disposal of radioactive materials to ensure that these practices are carried out appropriately and that the EPA is informed of any changes in licensing requirements.  

Working with X-ray equipment:

By and large most x-ray equipment is used in a medical context, however it is also frequently used in the physical sciences such as in crystallography or surface analysis of materials. Given the wide range of uses of X-ray and the potential hazards associated with it, it is important to follow all of the above safety protocols when using x-ray equipment. What follows is some of the specific scenarios that come up when using X-ray equipment.

Purchasing of x-ray equipment

Research groups and schools wishing to purchase new X-ray equipment must get in contact with the Radiation Protection Office before purchase to ensure all safety and legal requirements are in place before use commences. The following information will be required for all purchases

  1. Make and model of device,
  2. Whether device is mobile or fixed,
  3. Location where the equipment will be kept and used,
  4. All relevant safety information from the supplier and manufacturer.


There must be arrangements made for maintenance of X-ray equipment and inspection to ensure that the devices are working as intended. The manufacturers advice on frequency of tests and inspection must be followed to ensure that the X-ray equipment is working appropriately and that the safety features inherent to the device are operational. Testing should be performed at least annually. Maintenance should include

  • Quality Assurance in the case of medical uses.
  • Monitoring for leakage of radiation from designated area and device.
  • Checks of shielding and interlocking devices.  

Radiation Protection Office

An Oifig um Chosaint Radaíochta

Kane Building 1.16B, University College Cork, College Road, Cork