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Office of Homeland Security (OHS)
Radiation Safety Division (RSD)
United States Department of Agriculture



The Radiation Safety Division issues Permits, directly, to USDA employees, in any USDA agency. The Permit authorizes a USDA employee to possess and use radioactive materials or x-ray producing equipment. USDA employees located at universities may fall under the licensing procedures of the University and should contact the Radiation Safety Division for guidance.

The term “Permit” means “Radiation Source” Use Permit. It is also sometimes called the radioactive material Permit, x-ray equipment Permit, nuclear gauge Permit, etc., according to the scope of a particular Permit. The Permit enables the Radiation Safety Division to keep track of radioactive material and x-ray equipment, including acquisition, transfer, and disposal activities. The control of all radioactive materials (even some radioactive materials exempt from licensing) is required.

The Permit is maintained in a computer data-base, accessible to the Permit Holder. A Permit operates for 5 years, until it reaches its expiration date. Before that date is reached, the Permit should be renewed for another 5 years, or terminated. However, a Permit does not lapse when the expiration date has passed. The Radiation Safety Division will provide assistance with renewal or termination of the Permit.

Starting a Permit

USDA employees who want to use radioactive material or x-ray producing equipment must have or request access to the Radiation Safety Division database, and must then submit a Permit request to the Radiation Safety Division through the database. The Radiation Safety Division reviews the request. If it is complete, the Permit request is approved. If it is not complete, the RSD works with the applicant until the Permit can be approved.

The RSD Permit is separated into “radiation-types” or rad-types, listed below. A Permit can include any combination of these rad-types, as well as any other kind of radiation source.

Unsealed isotopesElectron Capture Detector (ECD)
IrradiatorPortable X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzer (XFA)
Nuclear gaugeX-Ray Producing Equipment

Terminating a Permit

Terminating a Permit requires the proper disposition of unsealed radioactive material, radioactive sealed sources, x-ray producing equipment, isotope rooms, and dosimetry. The Radiation Safety Division works with individual Permit Holders to assure all of these conditions for Permit termination are met.

If a Permit Holder leaves USDA suddenly, without terminating the Permit, the Permit will remain active and operational in that person’s name, until all of the termination conditions have been met. If that is the case, it is important for local management and safety personnel to expedite the termination of the Permit to avoid being out of compliance with the USDA Radiation Safety Program.

For unsealed radioactive material, inventory must be

  • transferred to another Permit holder, or
  • transferred to another NRC or Agreement State licensee, or
  • disposed of as waste, and …

… close-out surveys must be submitted for all rooms associated with the Permit, or the rooms must be transferred to another Permit.

For sealed sources, the equipment or source must be transferred to:

  • another Permit Holder, or
  • another NRC or Agreement State licensee, or
  • the manufacturer, or
  • a radioactive material waste broker, and …

… copies of the disposal or receipt documentation must be maintained.

X-Ray producing equipment must be

  • non-functional, or
  • disposed of, or
  • listed on anther Permit, or
  • transferred outside of USDA.

Permit Changes

After the Radiation Safety Division has approved a Permit request, any part of the Permit may be changed at any time. A change to isotope possession limits may often require a modification of the protocol to specify the requested change. A Permit Holder may request a change to the Permit in a letter or by email, or make change requests in the data-base, by accessing it directly. The Radiation Safety Division may also generate Permit changes. All changes to the Permit are reviewed by the Radiation Division before approval.