Reducing Risks from Sources in Industrial Uses


Common industrial uses
of sealed radioactive sources

Industrial uses of sealed radioactive sources account for a significant number of accidents reported to the IAEA. Industrial sources are used in a wide variety of applications and often in mobile equipment.

One of the most common industrial uses of radioactive sources is in gamma radiography, used in non-destructive testing of welds, such as those in gas and water pipelines. In gamma radiography, the source is housed in a shielded device and will be moved through a guide tube to a collimator inside the pipe. Controlled beams of radiation are emitted from the source (usually iridium-192) through the weld and onto photographic film. The resulting radiograph will show any flaws in the weld.

Sealed radioactive sources are also used in a variety of portable gauges. Nuclear gauges can be used to measure density, thickness, or moisture, or to identify materials, all based on how the radiation emitted from the source interacts with the material under study. They all use a source in a shielded container to emit radiation that is then measured by at least one detector. Such gauges are commonly used in measuring the uniformity in road construction and in well logging. Well logging involves characterizing the properties of underground formations, such as potential oil or water wells, according to their reaction to the radiation emitted by the logging source.


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Industrial radiography source. This type was used in the USA during the 1930s and 1940s to inspect welds and metal casting.

Gamma-emitting industrial radiography sources, used to radiograph thick metal and to penetrate confined areas.
A small metal capsule at one end of a flexible cable houses
1.1–3.7 TBq (30–100 Curies) of iridium-192 or cobalt-60.

Photo Credits and Copyright 1999: Oak Ridge Associated Universities