Information Notice No. 90-62: Requirements for Import and Distribution of Neutron-Irradiated Gems
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
OFFICE OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL SAFETY AND SAFEGUARDS
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555
September 25, 1990
Information Notice No. 90-62: REQUIREMENTS FOR IMPORT AND DISTRIBUTION
OF NEUTRON-IRRADIATED GEMS
All irradiated gemstone importers and distributors, and all non-power
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
September 25, 1990
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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
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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
John Hickey, NMSS
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
4. List of Recently Issued NMSS Information Notices
5. List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices
September 25, 1990
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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION (NRC)
GUIDANCE ON IMPORT DOCUMENTATION FOR
COMMONLY IRRADIATED GEMSTONES, INCLUDING BLUE topAZ
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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