Become an authorized material user

Radioactive material (RAM) is any material containing unstable atoms that emit ionizing radiation as it decays. Before working with RAM, you must:

  1. Complete the Application for Use of Radioactive Materials (PDF)  with the information detailed in the Radioactive Materials Safety Manual.
  2. Forward the application through Campus Mail to EH&S, 2408 Wanda Daley Drive / 3602, and wait for notification of its status.
  3. Have each laboratory member who is to be listed on the RAM authorization complete the following online radiation safety courses in Workday Learning:
    • Radiation Safety for Material Users-Part 1
    • Radiation Safety for Material Users-Part 2
    • Radiation Safety for Material Users-Part 3
  4. Have each laboratory member who is to be listed on the RAM authorization register for Radiation Safety for Material Users-Part 4, Performance Based classroom training through Workday Learning.
  5. Have each laboratory member who is to be listed on the RAM authorization complete the Radioactive Material Worker Application and bring the application to the Radiation Safety for Material Users-Part 4 class. You will not be admitted to the class without this application.
  6. The Radiation Safety Committee will review the application. Upon approval, you will receive a copy of your Radioactive Materials Use Authorization.
  7. Review carefully the Radioactive Materials Use Authorization from the Radiation Safety Committee concerning your application's approval (note conditions for use and possession limits).
  8. Review the Responsibilities of the Principal Investigator section of the Radioactive Materials Safety Manual.
  9. Contact EH&S to arrange for the set-up of your laboratory for radionuclide use.
  10. Review waste handling procedures, laboratory rules, and other operational information within the Radioactive Materials Safety Manual.
  11. Meet with EH&S staff personnel during the laboratory set-up to discuss any questions you may have regarding operational matters.
  12. Review the procedure for ordering radioactive material and follow it carefully during ordering.

Resources for authorized material users

To ensure control of radioactive materials on Iowa State University's campus, all purchases of radioactive materials must be approved and processed by EH&S. A copy of Iowa State University’s current radioactive materials license should be on file with the vendor or licensee before ordering. A copy of the license can be forwarded to the vendor or licensee by contacting EH&S at 515-294-5359 or

Where to start:

Visit Obtaining Radioactive Materials (RAM) for details about the procedures.

RAM security must be maintained at all times. Security violations are frequently cited at institutions utilizing RAM. This violation may jeopardize the university's license to use such materials. The Iowa Administrative Code (IAC) specifically addresses the security and control of licensed or registered radiation sources.

Iowa Administrative Code (IAC) 641-40.55(136C) states:

  • The licensee or registrant shall secure licensed or registered radioactive material in an unrestricted area from unauthorized removal or access.
  • The licensee or registrant shall maintain constant surveillance and use devices or administrative procedures to prevent unauthorized use of licensed or registered radioactive material in an unrestricted area and not in storage.
  • The registrant shall secure registered radiation machines from unauthorized removal.
  • The registrant shall use devices or administrative procedures to prevent unauthorized use of registered RPDs.

This means that the trained user must constantly attend to all RAM (i.e., source material, sealed sources, devices containing sources, labeled materials, and even waste) or otherwise locked or secured to prevent unauthorized removal or tampering.

Storage of radioactive material, sources, labeled materials, and waste

RAM storage shall be in secured or locked boxes, cabinets, refrigerators, freezers, waste areas, or rooms unless the licensee is present. RAM shall be stored in sealed containers in such a way as to prevent accidental release and contamination and to prevent release into the air. If the nuclide requires shielding, it shall be stored in shielded containers to reduce exposure to personnel accessing the storage areas. If the radioactive material has been stored in a freezer, the material shall be thawed, opened, and handled in a fume hood, glove box, or biological safety cabinet. All containers and contaminated equipment must be marked "radioactive" and indicate the isotope to communicate the presence of the material.

Visit our SOP page for more information about creating SOPs for your materials.

Sealed sources

Sealed sources are solid materials, usually metal or plastic, that encapsulate a core of radioactive material. While sealed sources emit radiation, they are designed so that the radioactive material stays within, minimizing the chance of contamination.  However, sealed and plated sources may present an external exposure hazard, depending on the properties of the radioisotope and the activity present. Sealed source activities require a Sealed Source Use Authorization. Most sealed sources are stand-alone sources used to calibrate or check instrumentation, irradiate materials, or for experiments in student science labs. Laboratory equipment may contain sealed sources, such as gas chromatographs, liquid scintillation counters, analytical balances, and static eliminators. The persons responsible for such equipment should be aware of the presence of sealed sources. 

Generally licensed devices

Generally, licensed devices are instruments that require a radioactive component to function correctly. Examples include static eliminators, exit signs, gas chromatographs, and liquid scintillation detectors. In addition to requiring a Sealed Source Use Authorization, these devices must be licensed with the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services.