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Radioactive Substances Act 1993

  • Operations notice: 4
  • Issue date: Jan 2002


1. The purpose of this notice is to bring to your attention the details of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA 1993) which is enforced by the Environment Agency (EA) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) (see paragraph 8). This notice also differentiates these requirements from those under the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 (IRR 1999) enforced by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).


2. In the course of exploration, exploitation and construction programmes, specialist contractors use a variety of sealed and unsealed radioactive sources. Unsealed sources may be used during grouting or cementing operations or for reservoir or installation equipment tracing studies. Sealed radioactive sources may be used for radiography, well logging or in liquid level and density gauges.

3. Such work is subject to IRR 1999 which HSE enforces and which impose comprehensive duties on employers and the self-employed to protect people at work against exposure to ionising radiations.

4. While the purpose of this notice is to consider RSA 1993, it should be borne in mind that duties under IRR 1999 include requirements for notifying HSE in advance of work with ionising radiations; for a system of accounting for radioactive substances in suitable receptacles and stores; for notification to HSE of certain radioactive releases; and of losses of radioactive substances. The requirements of RSA 1993 are in addition to, and separate from, IRR 1999.


5. When there are any radioactive substances on board an offshore installation they are also subject to RSA 1993. RSA 1993 consolidates earlier enactments relating to radioactive substances, including RSA 1960 (now repealed) and makes certain changes. Any Order or Regulations made, and any certificates granted under RSA 1960, continue in force as if made or granted under RSA 1993.

6. RSA 1993 regulates the keeping and use of radioactive material and makes provision for the disposal and accumulation of radioactive waste. The provisions of section 7 require the storage and use of radioactive materials in specified premises to be registered. Section 10 imposes a similar requirement in respect of mobile radioactive apparatus. In both cases, conditions and limitations may be attached to the registration.

7. Other requirements of RSA 1993 prohibit disposal or accumulation of radioactive waste except as authorised by the Environment Agency (EA) and the Regional Director (SEPA) in Scotland. The Act also enables the Secretary of State to provide facilities for the disposal and accumulation of radioactive waste. Under the Environment Act 1995, the EA and SEPA appoint persons as inspectors to execute the provisions of RSA 1993 with power to enter premises, require information etc.


8. Before commencing work with radioactive substances, firms should ensure that an application for registration under RSA 1993 is made to the appropriate address given below:

Environment Agency
Appleton House
430 Birchwood Boulevard
Tel: 01925 840000
Fax: 01925 852260

Scottish Environment Protection Agency
Clearwater House
Heriot-Watt Research Park
Avenue North
EH14 4AP
Tel: 0131 4497296
Fax: 0131 4497277

9. Applications should be made as early as possible for the necessary registration forms, which should be returned by the specialist contractor, unless the radioactive source is to be permanently located on the installation. In such cases, application should be made by the installation owner or operator.

10. Once an application has been accepted, a certificate will be issued. If an application has been refused, if limitations or conditions have been attached with which the owner does not agree, or if a certificate has been revoked or cancelled, the applicant has the right of appeal to the Secretary of State under RSA 1993 section 26.

11. RSA 1993 applies to offshore installations and activities in connection with offshore installations, and to pipeline works and activities in connection with pipelines.


12. Radioactive substances in transit are conditionally exempted from such registration by the provision of the Radioactive Substances (Storage in Transit) Exemption (Scotland) Order 1962 and the equivalent in England and Wales. Instruments that incorporate sealed sources of limited radioactivity and which are used for testing the characteristics of material are also conditionally exempted from the requirements of the Act. The Radioactive Substances (Testing Instruments) Exemption Orders of 1962 refer.

Lost sources

13. It is a condition of registration that sources that cannot be recovered from downhole are notified to EA or SEPA as appropriate.

This guidance is issued by the Health and Safety Executive. 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. Health and safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law and may refer to this guidance as illustrating good practice

Updated 2021-02-16