Buying & Acquiring Radioactive Materials

General Information

Princeton University is licensed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to possess and use radioactive materials. Our license conditions require that the University carefully control the process of obtaining radioactive materials to make sure that unauthorized labs and people don’t receive radioactive materials and to make sure that all radioactive materials are shipped to the correct Radioactive Receiving address.

The lab or staff member ordering the material must be authorized to possess and use radioactive materials. See Authorization to Use Radioactive Materials.

Ordering Licensed Radioactive Materials

Orders for radioactive material must be coded so that they are routed to the EHS worklist for approval:

  • For common vendors such as Perkin-Elmer or MP Biomedical, place an order through the PRIME Marketplace. The radioactive items you order through the Marketplace are coded by default as Radioactive, and the req will be routed to EHS for approval. The default shipping address for these items is the Radioactive Receiving address.
  • For vendors or items not listed in the Marketplace; i.e., non-catelog request, create a 'special requests' requisition.  Be sure that you choose item category code '12142200 - Radioactive Materials' and that you specify the Ship-To address as 'RADIOACTIV - Radioactive Isotope Deliveries'.

Requesting a Free Replacement for a Bad Product

If you are not happy with the quality of the product a vendor sent you, contact EHS. EHS will then notify the Purchasing Office, and Purchasing will arrange for a free replacement shipment. Do not request a replacement shipment directly from the vendor.

Receiving Samples from a Vendor or a Collaborator

  • If a vendor offers you a free sample, notify EHS. EHS will contact the Purchasing Office to make arrangements to ship the sample.
  • If a collaborator wants to ship radioactive experimental samples to you, contact EHS prior to the sample shipment. EHS will contact the radiation safety office at the collaborator’s institution to arrange for shipping the sample.

Ordering Exempt Quantity Radioactive Materials

The U.S. Nuclear Reglatory Commission has determined that exempt quantity sources, which are radioactive sources containing very small amounts of radioactivity and used under certain conditions, do not present a significant hazard.  Example of exempt quantity sources include button sources used for instructional labs and for meter calibrations. 

Vendors are permitted to sell exempt quantity sources to any purchaser.  However, EHS makes an effort to know about all radioactive sources on our campus, including exempt quantity sources.  If you plan to buy exempt quantity sources, contact the Radiation Safety Officer to discuss the purchase and delivery of your sources.   

Generally-Licensed Devices

Generally-licensed devices (GLDs) are devices that contain radioactive materials, often with substantial amounts of radioactivity, in forms that are considered safe as long as they are not damaged and as long as certain conditions are followed by the user.  Examples include self-luminous exit signs containing H-3 (tritium), gas chromatographs containing electron capture detectors (Ni-63), antistatic devices (Po-210) and the internal standards in liquid scintillation counters (usually Cs-137).  It is often necessary:

  • to perform routine leak tests on GLDs to ensure they are not leaking, 
  • to dispose of them as radioactive waste, and,
  • to follow certain transfer procedures if you need to transfer a GLD to another user or institution.

EHS will work with you to make sure the necessary requirements are met.  If you plan to purchase a generally-licensed device or have obtained a GLD, be sure to contact the Radiation Safety Officer to discuss these requirements.

Ordering Uranium or Thorium Compounds

Certain uranium and thorium compounds, such as uranyl acetate or thorium nitrate, are regulated differently than licensed radioactive materials.  By regulation, the general public is allowed to order these materials without possessing a radioactive materials license, so vendors will sell these compounds directly to any customer.  However, educational institutions are not allowed to possess more than 3.3 pounds of uranium or thorium at any one time.  This means that Princeton University must keep track of how much uranium or thorium is present on campus.

  • Before you order uranium or thorium compounds, consult with EHS about the ordering process.
  • If you do acquire uranium or thorium compounds without contacting EHS, notify EHS as soon as possible so that EHS can list your materials on the University inventory.

Delivery of Radioactive Material Packages

All radioactive material packages are delivered to the Radioactive Receiving address at Lewis Thomas Laboratory.  EHS staff will enter information about the radioactive vial into RITA, the University's Radioisotope Inventory & Tracking database.  We will also survey each level of packaging to ensure that there is no external contamination on any part of your package or on the exterior of the vial.  The package will be delivered directly to authorized personnel in your lab.


Colt Greer
Assistant Director and RSO

Chelsea McDonnell
Health and Safety Technician

Stephen Elwood
Director for Research Safety