Regulations and legislation

Our main role is to protect the environment and human health by regulating activities that can cause pollution, and by monitoring the quality of Scotland’s air, land and water.

In relation to radioactivity, we regulate the storage, use and disposal of radioactive substances, carry out environmental monitoring, undertake emergency response and investigate and regulate historic areas of contamination.

What are radioactive substances?

Radioactivity is the spontaneous emission of radiation from the nucleus of unstable atoms called radionuclides.

This emission of energy means can be used in a variety of ways, including:

  • measuring the thickness and integrity of structures and materials;
  • preserving food;
  • the diagnosis of disease and injury and (in larger doses) treating diseases like cancer
  • defence;
  • power generation.

While radioactive materials serve a number of highly important functions, excessive exposure to radiation can be harmful to health and the environment. As such, the keeping, use and disposal of radioactive substances must be carefully managed.

How are radioactive substances regulated?

The level at which a substance becomes ‘radioactive’ and the level at which a permit is required for the keeping, use or disposal of radioactive substances is set out in the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 and the Radioactive Substances Exemption (Scotland) Order 2011.

It is under this legislation that we regulate the keeping and use of radioactive materials and the accumulation and disposal of radioactive waste.

To make sure that potential effects to human health and the environment are minimised, we issue permits which contain  specific limitations and conditions under which radioactive substances can be used, stored and disposed of.

Our policy and guidance page contains more information on how radioactive substances are legislated and regulated.

What about land contaminated by radioactive substances?

We regulate issues surrounding land contaminated by historic uses of radioactive substances under the Radioactive Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2007, as amended.

For more specific information on Dalgety Bay, please refer to our pages on that subject.

Contact us

For more information or advice on the legislation and regulation of radioactive substances, please contact us

You can report an incident involving radioactive material or radioactive waste by calling our 24 hour pollution hotline on 0800 80 70 60.