During the first week of October, four inspectors from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) visited the NIH for an inspection of the Broad Scope license. This license covers all benchtop, animal, and clinical use of radioactive material, impacting nearly all of the Division of Radiation Safety (DRS) Authorized User population. DRS staff and stakeholders attending the exit briefing were pleased to hear the inspectors share phrases like "excellent and strong safety culture" and "robust safety discussions" and "pro-active and preventative culture of safety".
Broad Scope license inspections are conducted every 2 years and typically take one week of on-site review. The inspection was quite thorough over the week, diving into research protocol reviews, clinical therapy procedures, program audits, radiation safety training, surveys, air sampling, waste disposal, package receipt, radiological analysis, financial assurance, decommissioning, incident response, dosimetry and bioassays – all within DRS operations. The inspectors also made multiple field visits to various Intramural Research operations: Radiation Oncology, PET Department, Nuclear Medicine, Radiopharmacy, Cyclotron Radiochemistry, NCI's Molecular Imaging Program, NIAAA Hot Cells, NIMH MicroPET Facility, NIAID's Integrated Research Facility, the Biomedical Research Facility and the Triad Technology Center in Baltimore, labs at Medical Center Drive, and multiple on-campus labs.
While closing out the NIH's two citations from previous inspections, the NRC inspectors assessed whether current operations were being conducted in accordance with federal regulations and license conditions. Happily, nearly all of their concerns were addressed and the inspectors closed their visit with very positive remarks.
There will be some minor follow-up before the NRC can issue their final report within 60 days, but for the most part the inspectors applauded the NIH radiation safety program. No significant violations were noted and any remaining follow-up relates to minor administrative issues. DRS is very pleased with the inspection's outcome. All of the research community should likewise be proud, as this was a group effort and the NRC conducted a deep inspection of the overall program. From Deputy Director for Intramural Research, Dr. Michael Gottesman: "My sincere thanks to the many people, especially Cathy Ribaudo and her staff, and all of the others at NIH who make this a safe place to do amazing research."
The final report will be shared with all stakeholders when received, but meanwhile 'THANKS' to the many researchers who demonstrate radiation safety compliance every day – you make us proud!