United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment
Home > NRC Library > Basic References > Glossary > Category of radioactive sources

Category of radioactive sources

The International Atomic Energy Agency's Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources defines the five categories for radiation sources to help ensure that sufficient controls are being used to achieve safety and security:

  • Category 1 sources, if not safely or securely managed, would be likely to cause permanent injury to a person who handled them or was otherwise in contact with them for more than a few minutes. It would probably be fatal to be close to this amount of unshielded material for a period of a few minutes to an hour. These sources are typically used in radiothermal generators, irradiators, and radiation teletherapy.
  • Category 2 sources, if not safely or securely managed, could cause permanent injury to a person who handled them or was otherwise in contact with them for a short time (minutes to hours). It could possibly be fatal to be close to this amount of unshielded radioactive material for a period of hours to days. These sources are typically used in industrial gamma radiography, high- and medium-dose rate brachytherapy, and radiography.
  • Category 3 sources, if not safely or securely managed, could cause permanent injury to a person who handled them or was otherwise in contact with them for hours. It could possibly—although it is unlikely to—be fatal to be close to this amount of unshielded radioactive material for a period of days to weeks. These sources are typically used in fixed industrial gauges such as level gauges, dredger gauges, conveyor gauges, spinning pipe gauges, and well-logging gauges.
  • Category 4 sources, if not safely managed or securely protected, could possibly cause temporary injury to someone who handled them or was otherwise in contact with or close to them for a period of many weeks, though this is unlikely. It is very unlikely anyone would be permanently injured by this amount of radioactive material. These sources are typically used in fixed or portable gauges, static eliminators, or low-dose brachytherapy.
  • Category 5 sources cannot cause permanent injury. They are used in x-ray fluorescence devices and electron capture devices.

Only Categories 1 and 2 for radiation sources are defined by NRC requirements

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 21, 2019