Answer to Question #11510 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Environmental and Background Radiation — Water

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:


Our university's Freshwater Research Station has received a request to conduct net primary productivity studies using carbon-14 (14C) on a lake that straddles the United States/Canadian border. As the institution's radiation safety officer, I am reaching out for advice on what I need to do, or who I need to contact, to ensure this research can be conducted.


The best response to your question is to direct you to some resources to help get you started on addressing what must be done to gain approval for the use of 14C in the environment.

Each state in the United States has one or more programs designed to ensure its citizens benefit from appropriate use of radiation, radioactive material, and environmental radioactive material. States have been regulating radiation-producing machines and their use for more than 40 years. Under the Atomic Energy Act and its revisions, 37 states have agreements with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to regulate many radionuclides produced in the nuclear fuel cycle and some of the source material that is used in the nuclear fuel cycle. For the state of Montana the contact is:

Roy Kemp, Interim Administrator
MT Department of Public Health and Human Services
Quality Assurance Division
2401 Colonial Drive
PO Box 202953
Helena, MT 59620-2953

Phone: 406-444-2868
Fax: 406-444-3456

Further information is available at the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors (CRCPD) website ( Since Montana is not an agreement state, the NRC is the federal agency with jurisdiction for regulating radioactive materials. A contact at NRC is our topic editor Margaret Cervera. Her email address is

Additionally the Montana Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) is charged with protecting the state's environment as guaranteed under the state constitution. The DEQ should be familiar with all environmental regulations applicable to the use of 14C in the environment. Contact information can be found on the DEQ website (

Since the proposed project crosses the Canadian border, the Canadian regulatory authorities will need to be approached as well. Other than for seeking general information, any official approach is likely to best be handled by state or federal agencies. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is comparable to the NRC in the United States. Any organization in Canada must possess a CNSC license if it is to conduct work with nuclear substances, as in nuclear medicine and industrial imaging devices. CNSC licenses stipulate what activities the organization can carry out, and specifies the CNSC regulations that apply to those activities, to ensure the proper use of materials and technologies.

You might want to consider hiring a consulting specialist to assist you. In the radiation safety field, you can find a directory of certified health physicists at the American Academy of Health Physics website. Those who consult are marked with an asterisk (

Answer posted on 21 February 2016. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.