Skip to main content
NIH Logo NIH Logo

Office of Research Services

Serving the NIH Community


Radioactive Material Source Vial Policy

The Radiation Safety Committee requires that laboratory researchers place source vials of radioactive materials, when not in use, in locked storage in order to comply with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements in 10 CFR 20.180 and 10 CFR 20.1802​ for radioactive materials security. By complying with NIH radiological security policies, researchers will have increased awareness of radioactive materials in the lab that could present an exposure risk to an individual.​​

Source Vial Definition

​A source vial is defined as the original manufacturer's container of unsealed (liquid or frozen form) radioactive chemicals used in biomedical research. ​​​


If the source vials are locked within research laboratory refrigerators, freezers or storage cabinets, the laboratories may be left unattended and unlocked.  

This provision is only allowed when:  

  • no other radioactive materials are present; or  
  • when other radioactive materials, such as radioactive waste containers, are simultaneously locked within the laboratory


A refrigerator or freezer is deemed locked* if it is equipped with a:  

  • keyed lock; or 
  • hasp and keyed padlock; or
  • combination padlock; or 
  • lockbox with restraining cable​

​​Note: A refrigerator or freezer is not considered to be secure if the key to a security lock has been left in the lock or placed visibly next to the lock. ​

Policy Background 

During their inspections, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission​ has not cited violations of the security regulations at NIH when radioactive materials are secured within the lab. Violations are cited when radioactive materials are not secured within an unoccupied and accessible lab.