Radioactive substances regulation

Document Identification: Operations Notice 4
Publication Date: 28 August 2017
Revision History: 06 January 2023
Review Due: 06 January 2028
Target Audience: All Stakeholders
Internal Reference: CM9: 2023/9958
Document Owner: EDU5 - IH

1. Introduction

1.1 The purpose of this notice is to bring to your attention the environmental regulatory framework governing radioactive substances in the UK, namely:

And also to highlight;

(NB In Northern Ireland the Northern Ireland Environment Agency enforces RSA93 and in Wales National Resources Wales enforces EPR16).

1.2  This notice also differentiates the environmental regulatory requirements from those under the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR17) enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

2. Background

2.1 In the course of exploration, exploitation, construction and production specialist contractors use a variety of sealed and unsealed radioactive sources. Sources may be used during grouting, cementing, reservoir and vessel tracing studies, NDT and downhole operations. Installed fixed measurement equipment known more commonly as 'nucleonic instruments' are used in a number of applications including level measurement, density measurement and phase measurement. Production of Oil and Gas may give rise to the accumulation of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) in process equipment, the presence and concentration of NORM varies between areas and installations.

2.2  Such work is subject to IRR17 which HSE enforces and which imposes comprehensive duties on employers and the self-employed to protect people at work against exposure to ionising radiations (IR).

2.3   It should be borne in mind that duties under IRR17 include requirements for HSE to grant permissions (notification, registration and consents) in advance of work with IR; for a system of accounting for radioactive substances in suitable receptacles and stores; for notification to HSE of certain releases; and losses of radioactive substances. The requirements of EASR18/EPR16 are in addition to and separate from IRR17.

3. EASR18 / EPR16

3.1  When there are any radioactive substances on board an offshore installation, an activity connected with offshore installations, pipeline work and activities in connection with pipelines they are also subject to EASR18/EPR16 (depending on the geographical location). EPR16 consolidates earlier amendments to EPR10, any permits issued under EPR10 continue in force as do certificates made under RSA93 prior to EPR2010. 

3.2   Similarly, EPR16 requires that the keeping and use of radioactive material and the disposal and accumulation of radioactive waste is authorised by an environmental permit. Environmental permits are specific to the premises and the nature of radioactive material/waste i.e. fixed/mobile sources and liquid/solid waste. Conditions and limitations may be attached to permits.

3.3   Before commencing work with radioactive substances, firms in Scotland should ensure that an application for registration and/or authorisation is made to SEPA:

In England an application for a permit must be made to EA:

3.4   Applications should be made as early as possible, once an application has been accepted a certificate or permit will be issued. Valid certificates/permits must be in place for all work, for example if a specialist contractor brings radioactive source onto your premises then they must have the appropriate permissions.

3.5  Guidance on exemptions from the full auspices of EASR18/EPR16 can be found in the document 'Guidance on the scope of and exemptions from the radioactive substances legislation in the UK'

3.6  Sources that cannot be recovered from downhole must be notified to EA/SEPA as appropriate.

4.0 HASS

4.1  High Activity Sealed Sources (HASS) are above certain threshold activities defined in the regulations. Additional security requirements apply to the keeping and use of HASS sources. In England, Wales and Scotland the HASS regulations have been consolidated into the environmental permitting regulations.  Conditions are specified in the certificate of registration or environmental permit.

5.0     Transport of radioactive sources

5.1  Radioactive material is Dangerous Goods Class 7 for transport; consideration must be given to the controls needed and requirements of the mode(s) of transport when consigning radioactive substances.

This guidance is issued by the Offshore Major Accident Regulator (OMAR). Following the guidance is not compulsory and you are free to take other action. But if you do follow the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. Inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law and may refer to this guidance as illustrating good practice.

Updated 2023-01-18