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Documentary Standards: Radiation Detection Documentary Standards Program


NIST is a key player in the development of ANSI/IEEE, IEC and Technical Capability standards for the detection of illicit trafficking of radioactive materials and homeland security applications. Part of the development includes validation measurements using different types of instruments to assess the suitability of the standard requirements and test methods.


standards for the detection of illicit trafficking of radioactive materials

NIST leads and participates in the development and revision of documentary ANSI/IEEE (ANSI N42 standards currently transitioning to IEEE IMS TC 45 committee) and IEC (TC 45 WG B15 committee) standards that provide requirements and test methods for instruments used for the detection of illicit trafficking of radioactive materials and homeland security applications. These standards cover radionuclide identification devices (RIDs), backpack radiation detectors (BRDs), mobile systems, radiation portal monitors (RPMs), personal radiation detectors (PRDs), spectroscopic personal radiation detectors (SPRDs), spectroscopic portal monitors (SRPMs), hand held gamma and neutron detectors, training and data format standards for all types of radiation detection instruments.

In addition, NIST works with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office in the development and revision of technical capability standards (TCSs) for different types of instruments to comply with the mandate in the Security and Accountability For Every (SAFE) Port Act (H.R. 4954-16, Subtitle C – Port Operations, Section 121 (f) Standards). This mandate requires NIST to work with DHS in the development of the TCSs. These standard address radionuclide identification devices (RIIDs), backpack (BRDs), mobile systems, aerial systems, small vessel mounted systems, and radiation portal monitors (RPMs).

The NIST Radioactivity Group worked with the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) to create a laboratory accreditation program for testing equipment addressed by the ANSI/IEEE and IEC standards mentioned above. Additional information on the NVLAP accreditation program for Radiation Detection Instruments can be found at

As part of this work, NIST designed, developed, constructed, and calibrated different types of radioactive sources for testing of radiation detection systems. One of these source designs was transferred to a commercial source manufacturer. In addition, NIST performs measurements and calculation for validating the radiological requirements described in the standards.

Due to the extensive work that NIST performed in the development of standards, the Department of Defense (DoD) reached out to NIST to help in the development of technical operation procedures (TOPs) for radiation detection instruments, dosimeters and decontamination technologies. As part of their instrument testing and calibration program, DoD requires NIST traceability for neutron measurements. In this area a big gap was identified with respect the currently available NIST 252Cf sources available for instrument calibrations. The activities of the NIST 252Cf sources are so low that they cannot provide calibrations for high exposure rates required by the DoD program. There is an urgent need for replacing the currently available NIST 252Cf source in order to address this national need.

Created April 5, 2017, Updated March 3, 2021