Health and Family Services Cabinet
March Marks 50th Anniversary for State’s Radiation Health Program
Kentucky Looks Back at Program Success Since Becoming First NRC Agreement State
Fifty years ago, Kentucky took a bold step in the effort to regulate the management, storage and disposal of nuclear waste in the Commonwealth, becoming the first state to sign an agreement with the Atomic Energy Commission, now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Since that time, Kentucky’s Radiation Health Branch in the Department for Public Health (DPH) has been responsible for facilitating the beneficial use of radiation; evaluating and controlling the hazards associated with the use of sources of radiation and protecting the citizens of the Commonwealth from unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation.
Program activities include the regulation of radioactive materials and radiation producing machines (e.g. X-ray machines); oversight of the transport of nuclear materials and waste throughout the state; and the environmental management of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM).
“We protect public health and safety through regulatory oversight of users of sources of radiation,” said Matthew McKinley, manager of the Radiation Health Branch. “Our program touches the life of nearly every Kentuckian – whether we are monitoring the transport of nuclear materials, maintaining preparation to respond to an emergency involving radioactive materials or inspecting a facility where sources of radiation are used. We are committed to the safe handling and use of materials and making sure that our health and safety standards are being met.”
The Radioactive Materials Program inspects and licenses more than 400 specific users of radioactive materials in the fields of medicine, industry, research and academia. The program also coordinates with the law enforcement community in the oversight of the transportation of radioactive materials and waste through the state. The Radiation Producing Machines section of the branch deals with licensing and control of machines that can emit ionizing radiation at specific times such as X-ray machines and CT scanners. The branch is also home to the Radiation Environmental Monitoring Laboratory, which collects, analyzes and reports thousands of air, soil, water and vegetation samples each year.
“We are very proud of our Radiation Health Branch not only for its place in history, but also for its daily contribution to Kentucky public health,” said Dr. Steve Davis, acting commissioner for DPH. “The work of this program is tremendous.”
The regulation of nuclear energy is a complex area of government that ultimately has resulted in a unique federal-state partnership program. The system, as it exists now, has its roots in post World War II America when the use of nuclear technology was shifting from defense to energy.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was created as an independent agency by Congress to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while protecting people and the environment. States have entered into agreements with NRC that give them the authority to license and inspect byproduct, source or special nuclear materials used or possessed within their borders
At this time, there are 37 Agreement States that work with the NRC. Kentucky became the first in March 1962.
The Agreement States issue radioactive material licenses, promulgate regulations and enforce those regulations under the authority of each individual state's laws. They exercise their licensing and enforcement actions under direction of the governors in a manner that is compatible with the licensing and enforcement programs of the NRC.
For more information on Kentucky’s program, visit the Radiation Health Branch website at http://www.chfs.ky.gov/dph/radiation.htm. More information on the Kentucky Department for Public Health can be found at http://www.chfs.ky.gov/dph/default.htm.