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Radioactive Minerals

Submitted by sat on 25 October 2018

All known sources of radioactive materials for use in school science should be stored in a manner that protects staff, students and visitors from harmful effects. 

Unsealed sources of radiation such as in rocks, minerals and ores, present more hazards than sealed radioactive sources. There is a much higher risk to human health due to possible exposure through the skin, ingestion or inhalation. If you do have uranium ores, be aware that uranium compounds emit alpha particles and so the generation of dust must be avoided1. Uraninite is  not suitable for use in the classroom,2 so you may need to seek professional help in identification and disposal.

We recommend that all schools check their geological samples using a Geiger counter to see if they unknowningly have any radioactive rocks. It is not uncommon for schools to receive donations that contain radioactive rocks.(If you are checking your rocks, if you haven't already done so, we strongly recommend that you ensure that there are not any samples of asbestos in your rock collections.)

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) is the Australian Government's primary authority on radiation protection and nuclear safety. ARPANSA works with state and territory regulators to promote national uniformity of radiation protection. 

The ARPANSA document states that radioactive rocks may be used in schools and that “Such rocks are best kept in a box with a clear lid so that their radioactive properties may be demonstrated without the need to handle them.3 You should seek advice from your school jurisdiction or governing body to see if radioactive rocks are permitted and you should also seek advice from your state regulator, regarding any state requirements or restrictions concerning the level of radiation emitted and for guidance for suitable disposal.

We have provided some information on our website that may be helpful. See

If your school is permitted to and chooses to keep radioactive rocks, control measures should be implemented to minimise exposure:

Regarding the production of radon gas, the ARPANSA website has information on this, see https://www.arpansa.gov.au/understanding-radiation/radiation-sources/more-radiation-sources/radon. We draw your attention to a couple of points on this page:

CLEAPSS has some information that they have made freely available. Note these documents refer to UK and not Australian legislation. see

References and further reading

1 CLEAPSS. 2016. Hazcards. 105 Risk Assessment guidance - Uranium compounds

2 'Uraninite'. Geology.com website.  https://geology.com/minerals/uraninite.shtml (Accessed October 2018)

3 ARPANSA. 2012. Safety Guide for the Use of Radiation in Schools (2012) http://www.arpansa.gov.au/pubs/rps/RPS18.pdf © Commonwealth of Australia as represented by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) [2012].

4 Science ASSIST. 2017. Radioisotopes, Science ASSIST website, https://assist.asta.edu.au/question/2779/radioisotopes

5 ‘Radon exposure and health’. 2016. ARPANSA website. https://www.arpansa.gov.au/understanding-radiation/radiation-sources/more-radiation-sources/radon © Commonwealth of Australia as represented by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) [2016].(Accessed October 2018)

CLEAPSS. 2016. Hazcards. 105 Risk Assessment guidance - Uranium compounds

ARPANSA. 2012. Safety Guide for the Use of Radiation in Schools (2012) https://www.arpansa.gov.au/sites/default/files/legacy/pubs/rps/rps18.pdf

CLEAPSS. 2018. L093-Managing Ionising Radiations and Radioactive Substances in Schools and Colleges. CLEAPSS website. http://science.cleapss.org.uk/Resource/L093-Managing-Ionising-Radiations...

CLEAPSS. 2018. Student safety sheets 11 Radioactive materials. CLEAPSS website. http://science.cleapss.org.uk/Resource/SSS011-Radioactive-materials.pdf

‘Radon exposure and health’. ARPANSA website. https://www.arpansa.gov.au/understanding-radiation/radiation-sources/more-radiation-sources/radon

Science ASSIST. 2017. Radioisotopes, Science ASSIST website, https://assist.asta.edu.au/question/2779/radioisotopes

Science ASSIST. 2015. Standard Operating Procedures for Handling sealed radioactive sources. Science ASSIST website, https://assist.asta.edu.au/resource/2490/sop-handling-sealed-radioactive-sources

Science ASSIST. 2015. ASSIST Information Sheet: Asbestos minerals in schools. Science ASSIST website. https://assist.asta.edu.au/resource/3354/ais-asbestos-minerals-schools