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What is Radiation

Radiation is a form of energy.  The types of radiation are grouped and labelled according to the amount of energy they have, the more energy they carry, the greater harm they can do to the human body.  Radiation sources with sufficient energy to remove the electron from the atom are called ionising radiation.  Sources with insufficient energy to ionise are called non-ionising radiation.  Radioactive material can enter the body through inhalation, ingestion, absorption or via a puncture wound.

Non-ionising Radiation

Is used in lighting, heating, lasers, sterilisation, sunbeds, radar, television, radio and electric power lines.  Low frequency electromagnetic radiations are also emitted by a variety of home / workplace products eg photocopiers, microwave ovens, mobile phones.

Ionising Radiation

Ionising radiation is produced by unstable atoms which have an excess of energy or mass or both.  In order to reach stability, these atoms give off, or emit the excess energy or mass.  These emissions are called radiation.  Ionising radiation occurs as either electromagnetic rays or particles and can occur naturally or be artificially produced. Natural sources include:

  • Cosmic - penetrating radiations from outer space.  Partly filtered out by the earth's atmosphere
  • Terrestrial - gamma rays emitted from uranium and thorium in rocks and soil
  • Radon Gas - about half our background exposure comes from this naturally occurring gas which diffuses from rocks and soils
  • Food - small quantities of Carbon14 and Potassium40 can be found in some foods eg:-

The average annual radiation dose in the UK is 2.6 millisieverts (mSv) and depends on location and altitude. Of this dose approximately 85% comes from the natural sources mentioned above,14% from medical exposure during x-rays for example and less than 1% from man made sources including occupational exposures, fallout from nuclear weapons testing and the nuclear industry.

The sources of ionising radiation used at Bangor University are certainly potentially hazardous but pose negligible risk to radiation workers, the public or the environment if handled properly.

Legislation and the University

There are two principle pieces of legislation affecting the day to day radiochemical research work carried out at the University:

  • The Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016
  • Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017

The use of X-ray radiation for medical purposes is governed by the:

  • The Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations 2018

In accordance with these Regulations, the University has appointed Dr John Latchford as the University's Radiation Protection Officer (RPO) who sets appropriate health, safety and environmental standards for work involving ionising radiations. In addition, the University contracts a Radiation Protection Advisor (RPA) to provide independent advice on complying with relevant legislation.

College / Departmental Responsibilities

Each College and Department is responsible for introducing and monitoring systems to ensure that radiation health, safety and environmental standards are met.  Specifically, Colleges and Departments must: 

  • Comply with relevant University Policy Standards (see below).

  • Ensure that all persons using ionising radiation sources are registered to do so (with the RPO) and are properly trained, supervised and authorised

  • Ensure that suitable and sufficient risk assessments are carried out and approved by the RPO before work with ionising radiation sources takes place

  • Appoint suitably qualified and experienced Radiation Protection Supervisors (RPS) to supervise all work involving ionising radiations

  • Ensure that all sources of ionising radiation are held securely in a registered laboratory or store, kept separate from corrosive, explosive or flammable materials and clearly marked with the word ‘radioactive’

  • Maintain up-to-date records for each registered radiation material showing
    • The radionuclide present

    • Date on which the radionuclide was received and it’s activity on that date

    • The location of the radionuclide on the premises

    • Date of removal of any radionuclide from the premises, the activity on that date and the name and address of the person to whom it was transferred.

    • The activity present on the premises at the end of each calendar month

    • Location, form and activity of any radioactive wastes. 

Policy Standards & Information Sheets

The following Policy Standards were approved by the University Health and Safety Committee in February 2010.

The following Policy Standard was approved by the University Health and Safety Committee on 21st May 2010.  The Policy Standard should also be read in conjunction with the Information Sheet that contains specific guidance on ethics approval for various types of projects.


All people working with open-source radiation must be registered.  The following links provide information on how to do this.


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