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Radioactive Material in School

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This page describes how radioactive materials are being used in classrooms across United States to spark interest among all age groups.

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Radioactive materials are brought into the classroom to spark the interest of future nuclear engineers, health physicists, geologists, doctors, and emergency responders. Chemistry, physics and earth science labs are just a few examples of where radioactive sources may be found in schools.

When radioactive materials are used in education, the schools are responsible for protecting the health and well being of their students. In grade schools the materials that are brought in are usually naturally-occurring and in such small quantity that they are not regulated. The colleges and universities that handle high quantities of regulated materials are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) or an NRC Agreement State, which is a state that has been granted authority by NRC to regulate the radioactive material in their state. If handled properly, the educational benefits of learning with radioactive material outweigh any risk.

In grade schools, the problems with radioactive sources come when school staff and administration are unaware that the sources are in their schools.
There are two main issues:

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Who is protecting you

The States

Many states have signed formal agreements with NRC, delegating to the states regulatory authority over the licensing of colleges and universities to use radioactive materials for research. States with this agreement with NRC are called Agreement States.

Several states have started programs to work with grade schools to locate and remove unwanted radioactive material. These programs are normally located in the state’s emergency management agency or radiation control program.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC)

Some states have not signed formal agreements with NRC. Within these states, NRC retains regulatory authority over the licensing of colleges and universities to use radioactive materials for research.

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What you can do to protect yourself

If you are going to use radioactive materials in your schools, always put the safety of your students first. Use cleanliness is of utmost importance when having students handle radioactive material.

To locate and dispose of radioactive materials in schools:

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Nuclear Materials
March 30, 2012. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
On this page, you can find links to information on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s role in regulating radioactive material.
Safe Science Series: Ionizing Radiation in the Lab - A Glowing Prospect exit EPA
March 30, 2012. National Science Education Leadership Association
This site provides basic information about safely working with radioactive materials in middle and high schools.
Radioactive Materials
March 30, 2012. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 7
On this site, you can read the results of a study of radioactive material discovered in a Massachusetts public high school science classroom.
Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as Amended in NUREG-0980
March 30, 2012. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Our Governing Legislation
On this page you can read about he Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and its role in the licensing and regulation of civilian use of radioactive material.

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