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US Regulations for Irradiated Gems Simplified
The USNRC has control over reactor-irradiated radioactive gems imported into USA. Import of any such gemstone requires a license from USNRC...
By: Nirmal Kumar Bardiya
Jan 10 2008 12:00AM
Reference: 2213  


In recent times, there has been much debate regarding use of radiation to enhance the color of gemstones, specially Topaz.

In U.S.A, all irradiation facilities and the import-export of radioactive material is regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC).

The USNRC has control over reactor-irradiated radioactive gems imported into USA. Import of any such gemstone requires a license from USNRC.

In the last few months, the NRC has stepped up enforcement of regulations regarding irradiated gemstones. This is because there were no jewellery industry laboratories with equipment or a license to test according to NRC requirements, nor were there licensed importers of Blue Topaz. This had caused a lot of confusion in the US market and the import of Swiss and London blue Topaz into USA had virtually stopped.

Only 1 Licence Needed:
Various representations were sent to NRC by trade bodies including AGTA for clarification. The NRC is now working with the gemstones industry to re-establish the necessary regulatory framework and at the same time allow business to continue.

NRC requires that the initial import/distribution of reactor treated gemstones can be done by a distributor licensed by the NRC. After initial distribution, the gemstones will no longer be regulated i.e. subsequent distributors, jewellers and retailers do not need to be licensed.

NRC has also issued two distribution licenses for neutron treated Topaz (London & Swiss Blue) and is reviewing other applications.

Harm Fears Discontinued:
Recently USNRC has issued a fact sheet wherein they have mentioned the following:

“The NRC has no reason to believe irradiated gemstones currently on the market are unsafe. The NRC has not requested the jewellers to take these gemstones off the market.’’

The NRC website (FAQs) clearly indicates that there is no indication that wearing irradiated gemstones can be harmful and it further states that there is no reason to stop wearing Blue Topaz. A study done by NRC estimated that a person wearing a Blue Topaz would receive an annual dose of 0.03millirem while of a chest X-ray is about 60 millirem ( thus a person receives 2000 times more radiation dose than wearing a Topaz for one year!).

Presently NRC does not have jurisdiction over gemstones that are treated in a Linear Accelerator (LINAC) or by Gamma radiation. However, in the next few months new rules will regulate LINAC treated gems. These will require NRC license for the import of Blue Topaz, Red Tourmaline, many varieties of Beryls (treated blue, yellow, and pink colors, except emerald), Kunzite and irradiated Diamonds. Cobalt-60 (gamma ray) irradiated gems such as Quartz of various colors, Yellow Sapphire and Pearls are not affected by the upcoming regulations

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