The Science of Radiation

Radiation is energy. Radiation comes in many different forms: light, radio and microwaves are all types of radiation. Sunlight is one of the most familiar forms of radiation. It delivers light, heat, and suntans. We depend on sunshine for our survival and often enjoy it, but we also control our exposure to it. Types of radiation can be divided into two categories: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation has higher energy and can cause damage to living tissue at high levels. We all get this kind of radiation in low doses from space, from the air, from the earth and rocks, and from certain medical procedures. All life on Earth evolved in an environment with significant levels of ionizing radiation. In fact, many people owe their lives to the power of ionizing radiation from x-rays, CT scans, nuclear medicine scans and radiation therapy. While we cannot feel this type of radiation, it is readily detected and measured, so exposure to it can be easily monitored.

We are all exposed to natural radiation in our daily lives from a number of different sources, including cosmic rays from outer space, radioactive materials in the ground, and small amounts of radioactive substances in our bodies. Some of our radiation exposure also comes from man-made sources of radiation, like x-rays, living in a stone, brick or concrete building, or watching TV. People who fly a lot (like pilots and flight attendants) are exposed to more radiation because they spend more time at higher altitude, where the protective atmosphere is thinner. The same is true of people who live in places that are at higher altitudes, like Denver, Colorado. The largest source of natural radiation exposure comes from varying amounts of naturally-occurring radioactive elements in the air and soil, such as radon, uranium, and thorium.

You can calculate your own personal annual average radiation dose here:


Yes. In fact, radiation is what makes our products useful. We create radioactive materials that are injected into the body in very small quantities. These particles act as tiny light sources to give doctors information about processes within the body. This type of medical imaging has unique advantages over other procedures because it allows doctors to see physiological processes in the body. While an x-ray or CT scan only lets the doctor see the structure of your body, nuclear medicine scans allow them to evaluate over 30 different bodily functions, like how the blood is flowing through the heart, how much air the lungs are able to take up, or metabolic processes in the bones. It’s important to understand that radiation is easy to detect. We can easily detect the radiation from the decay of a single radioactive atom. Just because we can detect radiation, doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. Public radiation exposure from the SHINE facility emissions is limited by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). That limit is less than 10 mRem per year to someone living 24 hours/day, 7 days/week at the SHINE fence-line. To put what that means in perspective, let’s look at a few other ways you might get 10 mRem of radiation dose:


Yes. Safety is SHINE’s number one priority, and the safety of our process is one of its greatest advantages. The SHINE process is safer than reactor-based medical isotope production in two ways:

  1. SHINE process produces hundreds of times less overall radiation than conventional, reactor-based medical isotope production.
  2. Unlike a reactor, the SHINE production process is driven by external electrical power. This means that if power to the production unit is lost, the process stops. In a reactor, isotopes are produced through a process that is, by definition, self-sustaining, and must be intentionally stopped by outside mechanisms.

Actually, you don’t have to take our word for it! The process SHINE uses and the materials SHINE makes are all carefully regulated by the experts at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). SHINE invested four years of work and over 4,000 pages of detailed analysis to demonstrate to the NRC that the facility was safe to build. In 2016, that investment paid off, and SHINE was granted the first NRC construction permit in the US since the 1980s

You can view SHINE’s application and related documents on the NRC website: