Public Release: 

New accreditation program for radiation detector labs

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has established a new voluntary accreditation program for the laboratories that test radiation detection equipment used by first responders. The new program will help ensure that laboratories testing a wide variety of new radiation detection instruments produce comparable results, allowing homeland security personnel to better assess the best products for each application.

From personal radiation detectors the size of pagers to units large enough to scan trucks and trains, emergency responders can choose from a wide variety of radiation detection equipment for homeland security applications. To make informed decisions when buying equipment, they must have confidence that instrument test results from different laboratories are comparable. The new NIST program, developed with support from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), offers laboratories the opportunity to be accredited for their ability to test radiation detection equipment in conformance with recognized industry standards. The new service is part of NIST's National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP).

Laboratories seeking accreditation under the new program will have to demonstrate their conformity with ISO/IEC 17025, General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories; NIST Handbook 150, NVLAP Procedures and General Requirements; and NIST Handbook 150-23, Homeland Security Applications--Radiation Detection Instruments.

Testing of radiation detectors at accredited laboratories will be based on a series of standards developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) facilitated by NIST radiation measurement experts with input from the user, manufacturer and regulatory communities. DHS provided financial support for the standards development. Currently, five standards have been published, covering a variety of radiation detectors, and several more are under development. This series of standards also includes standards for operator training programs and data format to enhance the confidence that this equipment will be effective, rugged, useable and interoperable. Coupled with the NVLAP laboratory accreditation program, these standards will enhance users' ability to determine the radiation detector that best suits their purpose.

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Testing laboratories interested in the new NVLAP program for radiation detection instruments should contact Betty Ann Sandoval at betty.sandoval@nist.gov or (301) 975-8446.

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