11. Use of radiation sources in teaching: special requirements


This section applies in those instances where students in the university (usually undergraduate) may have occasion to handle radioactive materials as part of classroom or laboratory exercises connected with the courses in which they are enrolled. Such activities must be undertaken with the utmost concern for the safety of the students involved and the following conditions must be observed:

  1. An Internal Permit must cover all radioisotopes used for teaching purposes. It is necessary that a unique permit be obtained specifically for teaching purposes, and that the Permit Holder be the instructor or the chief technician for the exercises in question. The Permit Holder must be fully conversant with the work done and assume responsibilities for the use of the isotopes and the safety precautions to be taken.
  2. The instructor must be qualified in the safety aspects of procedures to be performed so as to provide adequate supervision and advice to students. Further, instructors must know proper procedures to follow in the event of spills, accidents, and emergencies and to be prepared to give competent leadership to students as required.
  3. Special care must be taken in the design of exercises for students that the possibility of the exposure of participants and observers to external radiation or contamination be kept as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA).
  4. Before undertaking any project requiring the handling of radioisotopes, students must be given clear and complete instruction in the radiation safety aspects of the procedures.
  5. Adequate protective clothing for the procedures at hand must be available and worn by all students participating.
  6. Environmental Health & Safety must be notified immediately of any incident involving loss of radioactive material, or injury or personal contamination of students, however minor.
  7. Undergraduate students are not permitted to work alone with radiation or irradiators.



  • Radioactive sources used for demonstration purposes should be of minimum activity and preferably of low toxicity (see Appendix C).
  • Unshielded sources should be exposed for the minimum time needed to carry out the demonstration.
  • Volatile radioactive liquids, especially iodine radioisotopes, should be used only in a well-ventilated room.
  • Notwithstanding the fact that only low activity sources are used, the instructor should handle the sources as if they were of much higher activity, in order to demonstrate the principles of safe handling.
  • Particular care should be taken when radiation-emitting devices such as X-ray machines are used in classroom demonstrations, to ensure that the direct beam does not inadvertently point towards any student.