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Radiation Safety in Use of Nuclear Gauges: IAEA Issues Recommendations

A regulator inspects a nuclear gauge used on pavement to assess quality and density

A regulator inspects a nuclear gauge used to assess quality and density on pavement. (Photo: Walter Truppa/ARN)

Nuclear gauges are devices with a radioactive source or radiation generator, which are used to measure parameters such as thickness, density and moisture in materials like pavements, petroleum and plastic. Several hundred thousand nuclear gauges are in operation globally, and the IAEA has released its latest guide in its Safety Standards Series: Radiation Safety in the Use of Nuclear Gauges (No. SSG-58).

“Nuclear gauges contain small amounts of radioactive material, so it’s essential that operators conduct their work using carefully controlled methods, to protect themselves, the public and the environment against exposure to radiation,” said Haridasan Pappinisseri, an IAEA Radiation Protection Specialist in charge of the preparation of this publication.

Industries such as construction, oil and gas, engineering, architecture, and food and beverage rely on nuclear gauges to measure variation in, and density of, materials and to detect moisture levels below ground. This high-performance, non-intrusive and non-contact technology saves time, energy and materials.

Regulatory and operational challenges in managing nuclear gauges include the design and operation of various interrelated components, safe use of equipment, proper safety assessment, optimization of radiation exposure, adequate marking and labelling, safe storage and movement of gauges as well as routine maintenance.

The new guide addresses these issues and also provides clear, practical instructions on how to design radiation safety training and qualification programmes for nuclear gauge workers; monitor workers and the workplace for radiation exposure; prepare for, use and dispose of portable nuclear gauges, including the safe transport, use and disposal of radioactive sources and waste, and prepare for radiological emergencies.

It also contains examples of incidents involving nuclear gauges and lessons learnt that cover emergency procedures to be incorporated into national legislation, widening awareness on the safe use of nuclear gauges and their implementation by following the specific procedures.

Aayda Al Shehhi, Director of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation in the United Arab Emirates and member of the IAEA Radiation Safety Standards Committee, said: “In my country, nuclear gauges are used in various sectors ranging from analytical applications in laboratory-type environments to industrial applications. They are also used in education and training. This specific safety guide will assist us in communicating radiation safety goals and ways to meet regulatory requirements when using nuclear gauges to a diverse group of stakeholders, who quite often are accustomed to different regulatory approaches.”

A nuclear gauge is used to take material density measurements. (Photo: Walter Truppa/ARN)

Radiation Safety in the Use of Nuclear Gauges is part of the IAEA Safety Standard Series (No. SSG-58), which serve as a global reference for nuclear regulators in many specialist industries. It aims to help IAEA member countries to meet the requirements specified in the IAEA’s Safety Standards Series No. GSR Part 3, Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources: International Basic Safety Standards. These safety standards are widely recognised as international norms and benchmarks for safety practices involving radioactive material.

The Guide is available in PDF and EPUB format. Download a copy here and find other guides in the IAEA Safety Standards Series here.

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