Regulations

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.

We regulate the management of radioactive substances, carry out environmental monitoring, undertake emergency response and investigate and regulate historic areas of radioactive contamination.

What are radioactive substances?

Radioactivity is the spontaneous emission of radiation from the nucleus of unstable atoms called radionuclides. Substances that emit radioactivity are called radioactive substances. Activities involving radioactive substances are called radioactive substances activities.

Radioactivity can be used in a variety of ways, including:

  • diagnosing and treating medical conditions in both humans and animals;
  • measurement and control of industrial processes;
  • materials testing, including industrial radiography;
  • scientific and medical research and teaching;
  • energy generation.

While radioactive substances have a number of useful purposes, exposure to radiation can be harmful to health and the environment so they must be carefully controlled.

How are radioactive substances regulated?

The level at which a substance becomes ‘radioactive’ and into regulation is set out in the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018 (EA(S)R) and we regulate the management of radioactive substances under this. There are four types of authorisation under EA(S)R:

  • general binding rules (GBRs);
  • notification;
  • registration;
  • permit.

We issue permits and registrations to the nuclear  and non-nuclear industry  containing conditions under which radioactive substances can be managed. We inspect authorised persons to assess compliance against their authorisation. Notification is used for low risk activities where we do not need to decide whether to grant or refuse an authorisation but need to know that the activity is being carried out. General binding rules are a set of mandatory rules that cover specific low risk activities that are described in Schedule 9 of EA(S)R. 

For more information on what activities require which type of authorisation please see the Authorisation guide.

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.

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.