Information Notice No. 90-62: Requirements for Import and Distribution of Neutron-Irradiated Gems

                                UNITED STATES
                           WASHINGTON, D.C.  20555

                             September 25, 1990

                                   OF NEUTRON-IRRADIATED GEMS


All irradiated gemstone importers and distributors, and all non-power 
reactor licensees. 


To remind gemstone importers and distributors of long-standing Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission (NRC) requirements contained in 10 CFR Parts 30 and 
110, governing the import and distribution of neutron-irradiated gems, and 
to provide information on NRC's planned actions on unauthorized importation 
or distribution.  It is expected that licensees, importers, and distributors 
will review this information and assure that they comply with applicable 
requirements.  This notice does not in itself establish any new 
requirements, and no written response is required. 


Since 1986, numerous inquiries to NRC indicated that large quantities of 
reactor neutron-irradiated gems, particularly blue topaz, were being 
distributed in the United States without NRC authorization.  
Neutron-irradiated gems contain small quantities of radioactive byproduct 
material.  A special NRC license is required for distribution of such gems 
to unlicensed persons (such as gem dealers, wholesalers, and consumers).  In 
early 1988, NRC informed all gem industry representatives and non-power 
reactor licensees that NRC would accept applications for such licenses to 
distribute neutron-irradiated gems (see Attachments 1 and 2).  The license 
requirements are contained in 10 CFR Parts 30 and 32. 

Licensed distributors must have radiation measurement and quality control 
procedures for ensuring that all gems released to the public are below the 
radioactivity limits specified in 10 CFR 30.70.  The distributors must 
disclose to their customers that gems are neutron-irradiated.  The licenses 
authorize distribution of cut, finished gems only, because radiation 
exposures associated with cutting and grinding gems are potentially much 
higher than those incurred through normal consumer use. 

As of September 1, 1990, three organizations (University of Missouri; 
General Atomics, San Diego, CA; and Alnor Instrument Co., Skokie, IL) have 
obtained appropriate distribution licenses for neutron-irradiated blue 
topaz.  One import license application is pending.  In the meantime, the NRC 
staff continues to receive reports of unauthorized imports of 
neutron-irradiated gems, particularly blue topaz.  NRC does not have any 
information to indicate that the radiation levels in such gems are a public 
health hazard, and has not yet taken any enforcement action.  Nevertheless, 
the possibility exists that 


                                                       IN 90-62 
                                                       September 25, 1990 
                                                       Page 2 of 3 

hazardous radioactive gems, which have not been properly checked for 
excessive radiation levels, could be imported by an unauthorized source.  
Therefore, the NRC staff is taking the following actions: 

1.   NRC will take enforcement action against unauthorized importers or 
     distributors of neutron-irradiated gems.  Enforcement action may 
     include imposition of monetary penalties or referral to the Department 
     of Justice for potential criminal prosecution or to obtain an injuction 
     by a Federal District Court. 

2.   NRC will arrange, in cooperation with the U.S. Customs Service, to 
     check imported shipments of blue topaz to verify that they are 
     authorized.  Customs agents will look for written certification as to 
     whether gems are unirradiated, accelerator-irradiated, or 
     neutron-irradiated, and whether NRC has licensed the importers.  
     Unauthorized imports of neutron-irradiated gems will be subject to 
     seizure by U.S. Customs, and investigation by the NRC Office of 
     Investigations for possible criminal prosecution.

Neutron-irradiated gems may be imported under one of the following 

a.   The importer possesses a valid NRC or state license to possess the 

b.   The gems were previously distributed in the U.S. under the terms of 
     a valid NRC license authorizing distribution to unlicensed (exempt) 
     persons, and later exported.  (Gems that may have been irradiated 
     and exported without going through a licensed distributor may not be 
     imported by unlicensed persons.) 

Undocumented gems and gems with incomplete documentation may be subject to 
import delays, pending verification as to whether they contain radioactive 
material.  All imported blue topaz or other suspect gems will be subject to 
random checks by NRC or U.S. Customs, to determine the presence and 
quantities of radioactive byproduct material. 

Importers and distributors of blue topaz gems or other commonly irradiated 
gems should take the following actions: 

1.   Do not import neutron-irradiated gems unless you have a valid NRC 
     distribution license.  (If the gems were previously distributed by an 
     NRC licensee under the terms of a license authorizing distribution to 
     unlicensed persons, and were exported for mounting, they may be 
     imported without a distribution license if there is sufficient 
     documentation to verify compliance with NRC requirements, including 
     identification of the NRC distributor and license number.)

2.   Require your gem supplier to identify and label the gem shipments as 
     neutron-irradiated, accelerator-produced, or unirradiated.  If the gems 
     are neutron-irradiated, the shipment should clearly state the name and 
     license number of the licensed distributor/importer.  Only the initial 
     distributor/ importer in the U.S. needs to be licensed.  Secondary 
     distributors and 

                                                       IN 90-62 
                                                       September 25, 1990 
                                                       Page 3 of 3 

     retailers in the U.S. do not need to be licensed.  Attachment 3 
     provides additional guidance on acceptable documentation for imported 

3.   If you wish to obtain an NRC license, contact NRC.  Call the Medical, 
     Academic, and Commercial Use Safety Branch at (301) 492-0639.

This information notice does not require a written response to NRC.  Any 
questions on NRC distribution licenses may be directed to Michael Lamastra 
(301-492-0639).  Questions on non-power reactor operating licenses may be 
directed to Seymour Weiss (301-492-0170). 

                                   Richard E. Cunningham, Director 
                                   Division of Industrial and 
                                     Medical Nuclear Safety 

Technical Contacts:  Cheryl A. Trottier, NMSS
                     (301) 492-3422

                     John Hickey, NMSS
                     (301) 492-3332

1.   Letter to American Gem Trade Assoc.,
       dtd. Jan. 29, 1986
2.   Generic Letter 88-04, dtd. Feb. 23, 1988
3.   NRC Guidance on Import Documentation for
       Commonly Irradiated Gemstones, including
         Blue Topaz
4.   List of Recently Issued NMSS Information Notices
5.   List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices


                                                       Attachment 3 
                                                       IN 90-62 
                                                       September 25, 1990 
                                                       Page 1 of 1 


     1.   All imported gems should contain clear documentation as to whether 
          they are neutron-irradiated, accelerator-irradiated, or not 
          irradiated at all. 

     2.   Neutron-irradiated gems from foreign reactors must be imported by 
          an NRC or State licensee.  The documentation should state the name 
          of the licensee and license number.

     3.   Neutron-irradiated gems from U.S. reactors, which may have been 
          exported, may be imported by non-licensees if they were previously 
          distributed in the U.S. under the terms of an NRC distribution 
          license.  The documentation must state the name of the licensee 
          and NRC distribution license number.  A reactor operating license 
          number is not sufficient. 

     4.   Accelerator-irradiated gems and unirradiated gems may be imported 
          by non-licensees.  Such gems will be subject to checks by the U.S. 
          Customs Service or NRC, to verify that the gems are not 

     5.   Undocumented gems may be subject to import delays, pending 
          verification as to whether they contain radioactive material. 


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