Jump to main content.

Alternative Technology Projects

Radiation Source Reduction & Management
 Source Reduction  Source Tracking   Orphan Source Detection
  and Response
 Orphan Source Recovery

EPA has become recognized as leader in facilitating the development and acceptance of alternative technologies for industrial applications using sealed radioactive sources. The Agency participates in several intergovernmental groups which are dedicated to investigating alternative technologies and which report to Congress.

EPA has funded projects to foster development and technical acceptance of alternative technologies for several devices used in industrial applications.

On this page:

Technology and Innovation

In the area of technology and innovation, EPA's research has identified several factors that are key to the acceptance of alternative technologies in industry:

Specific projects in the area of technology and innovation address the factors described above. These projects (completed, on-going, and planned) are described below:


The availability of cost-effective and viable technologies is fundamental to the success of the alternative sources initiative. EPA provides technical funding to promote the technical development of alternatives.

Two types of tests are run on potential alternative technologies: evaluation and validation. Evaluation studies essentially look at the capabilities of a given technology (for example, how quickly it works, what types of materials it works on or with). Validation studies look at how well a given technology meets industry standards.

Portable Nuclear Gauge Alternatives-Utility Industry

In a cooperative effort, the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) and the utility industry conducted evaluation and validation studies of alternatives to portable nuclear moisture density gauges used in the utility industry. The project was carried out in two phases:

  1. Five non-nuclear alternatives to portable nuclear gauges used in construction activities were evaluated and validated. (GTI worked closely with the utilities and with municipalities to address concerns and to promote alternatives.)

  2. GTI chose one alternative device, and optimized it for use in construction activities that are unique to utilities.


Ultrasound as Alternative to Radiography Cameras

The Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) conducted a validation study of ultrasound devices as potential replacements for radiography cameras. The application is testing the structural integrity of pipes and tanks in manufacturing plants.

Status: Completed
Outcome: Market demonstration currently underway

Top of page

Pulsed X-Rays as Alternative to Radiography Cameras

SWRI conducted a market demonstration of pulsed x-rays as an alternative to radiography cameras, Southwest Research Institute. Market demonstration.

Outcome:Device being marketed and ASME standard under development

Infrared and Magnetic Measuring Device as Alternative to Nuclear Gauging Device

A pilot market demonstration showed the use of infrared and magnetic measuring devices as replacements for gamma and beta fixed gauges. The application was determining basis weight in web processing industries. (Web processes develop uniform sheets, such as paper, film, and plastics production).

Status: Completed

Technology Requiring Further Development for Fixed Gauging Devices

X-ray back-scatter to replace nuclear gauge in plastics, pulp and paper industries. There was a prototype, validation studies by end-users got comments from users, refined the prototype to meet the needs of end-users.

Status: Completed

Top of page

Materials Flow/Life-Cycle Analysis for the Isotopes Cobalt-60 and Cesium-137

The life-cycle analysis traced the flow of these materials through the economy from manufacturing to use, import and export and waste management.

Outcome: Analysis completed

Cost/Benefit Analysis

EPA will conduct a comparative cost benefit analysis of alternatives and nuclear devices.

Status: Scheduled for Winter 2009

Category I Source Alternatives

EPA is working with other agencies to investigate the possibility of seeking alternatives to larger, Category I sources.


Top of page

Well Logging Devices

EPA is planning a symposium on non-nuclear alternatives for well logging devices.


Survey of International Alternatives Projects

Investigation of what is being done by other countries because of the international nature of the radionuclide market.

Status:Potentially Scheduled for Spring 2009

Continuation of Funding for Alternatives

EPA is investigating the possibility of continuing funding for technical alternatives projects through EPA's Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) program. ETV develops testing protocols and verifies the performance of innovative technologies that have the potential to improve protection of human health and the environment. It was created to accelerate the entrance of new environmental technologies into the domestic and international marketplace.

Status: Scheduled for Fall 2008

Top of page

Industry Standards

A key barrier in to the commercialization of existing innovative technologies is the absence of technical standards that allow for, or support, the use of alternative technologies. EPA and its partners will identify needed standards and facilitate their development by recognized standards-setting bodies, such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Standards Development for Alternatives

EPA is working with its partners to facilitate the development of ASTM/ASME standards for alternatives.

Status: On-Going

Top of page

Regulatory Barriers and Issues

Another key barrier to the adoption of proven alternative technologies is regulatory uncertainty or conflicting regulatory language. EPA and its partners will evaluate state regulations (e.g., use of x-ray technology in industrial settings) and support the development of uniform regulations.

Regulatory Uniformity for Implementation of Alternatives.

The lack of uniform regulations governing the use of x-rays in industrial applications was identified as a barrier to their uses as alternatives to fixed gauges and radiography cameras. EPA has been working with the Conference Radiation Control Program Directors (CRCPD) to assess and address this issue. Exit EPA Disclaimer


Management Tools

Developing alternative products will require specialized management tools. For example, a tool that assists manufacturers and end-users to understand the product's life-cycle issues and impacts associated with a gauging device using nuclear technology versus one using an alternative, non-nuclear technology.

No projects for developing management tools are underway at this time.

Top of page

Disposition/Disposal Issues

Disposition/disposal of source material is costly and the number of facilities is limited. It is essential that business models that promote the use of alternative technologies account for the disposition of source material.

Disposition Issues

EPA is working with an expert panel and industry representatives to investigate issues associated with adopting alternatives to nuclear devices.



EPA recognizes that alternative technology development and acceptance requires the participation of industry, government, and various scientific organizations. The Agency has brought together a panel of experts from government to assist in the process. Formalized partnerships are emerging from the relationships formed during the work of the expert panel.

Top of page

Expert Panel

The successful acceptance and implementation requires involvement of all stakeholders: government, industry, and other interested parties. To assist in stakeholder facilitation activities, EPA established an expert panel of representatives from federal and state governments. The expert panel meets with representatives from industry and trade associations, as well as academia and other NGO's. They provide recommendations to strengthen technology

Representatives from the Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Homeland Security, EPA, and the Food and Drug Administration, as well as representatives from the states of Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania participate on the panel.

Status:The expert panel has been meeting since January 2006.

Outcomes:The panel has consulted with well logging, construction and utility, manufacturing and non-destructive testing industries, as well as state and local regulators.

Top of page

Informal Partnerships

EPA's Alternative Technologies Initiative and industry have built informal partnerships within specific sectors by working together on technical projects that produce results. Priority sectors include radiography cameras, fixed gauges, portable gauges, and well logging. As projects focused on specific applications are developed, EPA will convene interested stakeholders. This targeted approach will allow success around specific applications to serve as a model with other industry sectors.

Significant activities will include:

Status: Ongoing

Top of page

Out-Reach/Information Dissemination

In addition to this Web site, EPA has a number of activities and projects underway to promote the use of alternatives to nuclear devices and applications:

Top of page


Local Navigation

Jump to main content.