Safety Policies and Procedures Manual
Chapter 9: Radiation Safety

Acronyms and Definitions

SPPM 9.95

For more information contact:
   Radiation Safety Office


The following definitions apply to this chapter, SPPM Chapter 9.


ALARA (acronym for “as low as is reasonably achievable”) means making every reasonable effort to maintain exposures to radiation as far below the dose limits as possible (see SPPM 9.06).

Agreement State

By agreement, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) delegates regulatory authority to states to license and regulate the following:

  • Byproduct materials (radioisotopes)
  • Source materials (uranium and thorium)
  • Certain quantities of special nuclear materials

The mechanism for the transfer of NRC’s authority to a state is an agreement signed by the governor of the state and the Chairman of the NRC (see SPPM 9.40).

Approved Use

Approved use means a use of a source of ionizing radiation that has been reviewed and preapproved by the Radiation Safety Committee and for which the authorized user has a current and active authorization (see SPPM 9.10).

Authorized User

An authorized user is an individual who has been authorized (sublicensed) by the Radiation Safety Committee to possess and use one or more sources of ionizing radiation in his or her research, teaching, and/or service work at the University (see SPPM 9.10). This includes any individual authorized to possess the following:

  • Dispersible radioactive materials
  • Sealed sources
  • Radiation-producing machines and devices

Broad Scope License

A “Type A specific license of broad scope” is a license authorizing receipt, acquisition, ownership, possession, use, and transfer of any chemical or physical form of the byproduct material in the quantities specified in the license, for the specific purposes authorized (see SPPM 9.10 and 9.40.


Dosimeter means a device designed to be worn by an individual for the assessment of dose equivalent exposure (e.g., a thermoluminescent dosimeter or an electronic personal monitoring device). See SPPM 9.50.


Emergency in this SPPM chapter (Chapter 9) refers to situations that threaten University personnel and/or property (see also SPPM 9.80).

Radiological Emergency

A radiological emergency, as applicable at the University, is an incident or situation that involves:

  • Actual or suspected exposure to uncontrolled sources of radioactivity that cause or threaten to cause an external dose to an individual in excess of five rem to the whole body.
  • Gross radioactive contamination of an individual leading to comparable risk from radioactive material through any of the following ways:
    • Ingestion
    • Inhalation
    • Injection
    • Skin absorption

Emergency Response Plan

An emergency response plan defines emergency situations and the specific preventive and response procedures to cope with unsafe situations in an orderly and efficient manner to protect personnel and facilities.

Ionizing Radiation

Ionizing radiation is defined as radiation sufficiently energetic to dislodge electrons from an atom. Ionizing radiation is capable of producing ionization in substances through which it passes. (See SPPM 9.10, 9.40, and 9.60.) It includes:

  • Nonparticulate radiation, e.g., x-rays and gamma rays.
  • Radiation produced by energetic charged particles, e.g., alpha and beta emissions.
  • Radiation produced by neutrons.

Radiation, as used in this SPPM chapter, does not include nonionizing radiation, such as radio- or microwaves, or visible, infrared, or ultraviolet light.


A radionuclide is an atom with an unstable nucleus characterized by excess energy which is available to be imparted either to a newly-created radiation particle within the nucleus or to an atomic electron (internal conversion). During the decay process, the radionuclide emits an x- or gamma-ray(s) and/or subatomic particles. Such rays or particles constitute ionizing radiation (see SPPM 9.50).

Radionuclides may occur naturally, but can also be artificially produced. Radionuclides are often referred to as radioactive isotopes or radioisotopes.


X-rays are penetrating, short-wavelength electromagnetic radiation. X-rays are similar to gamma rays, but are usually less energetic, and originate from the orbital electron cloud surrounding the nucleus of an atom. See SPPM 9.10, 9.30, 9.40, and 9.60.

Member of the General Public

A member of the general public is defined as any individual, except when that individual is approved and aware of his or her potential to receive an occupational dose as a radiation worker. In this context, nonradiation workers who frequent approved radiation use areas, e.g., custodians and repair and maintenance personnel, are considered to be members of the general public, as are University guests and visitors. See SPPM 9.10, 9.30, and 9.40.

Occupational Dose

Occupational dose means the dose an individual receives when his or her assigned employment duties involve exposure to radiation or to radioactive material. Such material includes licensed and unlicensed sources of radiation, whether in the possession of the licensee or another person (see SPPM 9.30).

Occupational dose does not include doses received as follows:

  • From background radiation.
  • From any medical administration the individual has received.
  • From voluntary participation in medical research programs.
  • As a member of the public.

Open-Beam Configuration

Open-beam configuration is defined as a mode of operation of an X-ray system in which an individual could accidentally place some part of his or her body into the primary beam during normal operation if no further safety devices are incorporated. (WAC 246-228-010) A shielding assessment is required for all facilities where open beam systems are installed (see SPPM 9.60).

Periodic Intervals

Completion of various tasks, including audits, inspections, calibrations, and testing, at regularly-occurring periodic intervals (e.g., weekly, monthly, quarterly) is required to maintain a successful Radiation Protection Program (see SPPM 9.20).

The intervals listed below are intended to provide operational flexibility and not to reduce frequency of the required task. The listed intervals were chosen to be consistent with those authorized in licenses issued by licensing entities (e.g., NRC). Established frequencies are to be maintained over the long term. Allowable intervals may not exceed the following:

  • Annual — not to exceed 15 months
  • Semiannual — not to exceed 7.5 months
  • Quarterly — not to exceed 4 months
  • Monthly — not to exceed 6 weeks
  • Weekly — not to exceed 10 days

Radiation Protection

Radiation protection is the protection of people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation (see SPPM 9.06).

Radiation Protection Program

The Radiation Protection Program includes the provisions designed and put in place to reduce human exposure to radiation. See SPPM 9.06, SPPM 9.10, and SPPM 9.20.

Radiation Safety Committee

The Radiation Safety Committee is a WSU organization responsible for monitoring and maintaining a safe radiation environment in locations and facilities where radiation is produced and/or used. The WSU Radiation Safety Committee establishes policy and compliance procedures relating to the safe use of ionizing radiation sources (see SPPM 9.06).

Radiation Safety Officer

The Radiation Safety Officer is a suitably trained and experienced individual involved in planning, implementing, and conducting a radiation protection program. This individual must maintain general surveillance of all controlled radiation activity at all use locations listed on the license. The University’s broad scope radioactive materials use license also requires that the University delegates this individual with the authority to immediately suspend any use of radiation, as required, to maintain safety (see SPPM 9.06).

Radiation Worker

Radiation worker means a University staff member, student, volunteer, guest, visitor, or independent contractor who:

  • Has requested and applied for approval from the Radiation Safety Office to work with radiation at the University.
  • Has completed required hazard awareness and radiation safety training.
  • Is sponsored and supervised by an authorized user when in the authorized user’s approved radiation use area(s).

See SPPM 9.10 and 9.30.

Radioactive Material

For the purposes of the Radiation Protection Program, radioactive material (see SPPM 9.50) refers to all forms of materials regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), including the following:

Special Nuclear Material

Special nuclear material consists of uranium-233 or uranium-235, enriched uranium, or plutonium.

Source Material

Source material is natural uranium or thorium or depleted uranium that is not suitable for use as reactor fuel.

Byproduct Material

Byproduct material is nuclear material (other than special nuclear material) that is produced or made radioactive in a nuclear reactor.

Radioactive Materials Spill

Radioactive materials spills may be classified as either minor or major (see SPPM 9.80).

Minor Spill

A minor spill involves a readily contained, relatively small amount of material that:

  • Does not contaminate any individual.
  • Does not enter a public (unrestricted, nonposted) area.
  • May be handled and cleaned up by the radiation worker and/or authorized user without assistance from the Radiation Safety Office.
Major Spill

Major spills require the immediate notification and assistance of the Radiation Safety Office so that:

  • Response and cleanup is timely.
  • All safety and compliance concerns are addressed.
  • All required records and University administrative and regulatory agency notifications are made, as needed.

Radioactive Waste

Radioactive waste is defined as:

  • Any radioactive material which is no longer of use and that is intended for disposal or treatment for the purposes of disposal.
  • Any radioactive material that has been designated a waste and placed into a labeled radioactive waste container.

See SPPM 9.70.


Radioactive waste includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • General laboratory refuse (e.g., gloves, glassware, paper, plastic) that is known to be contaminated with radioactive materials.
  • Liquid wastes that include a radioactive material component.
  • The remains of animals that contain radioactive materials as a result of administration of such material for research or clinical veterinary treatment.
  • Normally-occurring radioactive materials, commercial products, and generally-licensed devices containing radioactive components that are owned by the University and are being discarded as waste.

Restricted Area

Restricted area means any area to which access is limited for purposes of protecting individuals against undue risks from exposure to radiation and radioactive material (see SPPM 9.30).


Shielding is defined as material placed between the source of radiation and the body to reduce external exposure. When considering the possible exposure to the general public, shielding may include the walls, floors, and ceilings of the facility (see SPPM 9.60).

Revisions:  Sept. 2014 – entire Chapter 9 revised (Rev. 102). Contact PRF about previous revision history for this chapter.