Articles about geological topics, like rocks and crystals or earth science

Can You Mail Radioactive Materials?

You can mail radioactive material if it’s done by the book and, of course, safely. Here we will concentrate on how to mail radioactive materials that require no special license that one need apply for nor be individually granted such as a raw, unprocessed uranium or thorium ore-containing geological specimen. Note that we are not an official source of information on this topic and things change, so the most foolproof way is to wade through Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Uranium Ore

Mailing Radioactive Materials: Raw Geologic Specimens

The scope of this article includes the mailing of a limited amount of raw, unprocessed, geologic ore. Procedures or labeling may differ for other items, even if they are similarly excepted quantities or types of radioactive materials. This may include the UN number displayed or CFR section cited, or other verbiage required by USPS (more on all this below).

NRC Requirements for Mailing Radioactive Materials

The NRC calls radioactive materials “Class 7” materials. In general there are all manner of restrictions, requirements, licenses, papers, containment, and labels involved with this sort of thing. Fortunately, exceptions exist for the lesser extreme materials in limited quantity such as “49 CFR § 173.421 – Excepted packages for limited quantities of Class 7 (radioactive) materials”. This is the one of the keys to legally mailing hobby or educational quantities of radioactive ore.

The NRC requires two main things:

1) The surface activity anywhere on the parcel’s exterior must not exceed .5mrem/hour (0.005 mSv/hour). Since even perfectly calibrated but differently designed Geiger counters and other devices can display vastly different readings due to probe surface area and many other sensitivity factors, we sought what the standard was for measurement. We didn’t want it to be a “pancake” probe but then go using a lesser sensitive tube, ourselves, thereby underestimating what an authority would read. It turned out there was no standard in the CRF. A memorandum buried in Division 8, “Occupational Health,” of the NRC’s Regulatory Guide series and NUREG/CR-5569, “Health Physics Positions Data Base” answered this as a sort of FAQ stating that essentially any reasonable, reliable means is sufficient to determine compliance with surface activity limits (presumably calibrated and certified or certifiable by the NRC). So this indicates a standard beta/gamma “hot dog” probe on a Geiger counter should be sufficient, versus more sensitive probe or device. Just to be safe the author uses an end-window probe with a sensitivity somewhere between the two.

2) “RADIOACTIVE LSA” must be printed visibly somewhere reasonable in relation to the address etc when mailing radioactive materials . Note that carriers may require additional labeling, such as displaying the appropriate UN number (in this case UN2910), but the NRC, itself, requires just this, for packages excepted under 49 CFR 173.41. They are exempt from needing those DOT diamond-shaped transport labels and other things normally required for mailing other radioactive materials.

3) Here’s where things get just a little tricky if you want to go airmail. When mailing radioactive materials, even under these exceptions, air transport is actually prohibited – under one condition – the nature of the package in which it’s contained. 49 CFR § 173.427 (a) (6) (vii) states “Transportation by aircraft is prohibited except when transported in an industrial package in accordance with Table 6 of this section, or in an authorized Type A or Type B package.”

After a couple of tables referring to one another this leads to it needing to be a “Type IP-1” (Industrial Package – Type 1) package. While this, at first, sounded intimidating like something Bruce Willis would be trying to open and disarm, it simply seems to define something reliable not to fall apart (but you be the judge of the code copy/pasted below). After all, if air mail was simply prohibited, a very common air mail label would not exist (available from
mail radioactive materials label

IP-1 is defined in below :
49 CFR § 173.410 – General design requirements – skip to section (i)  :
(i) For transport by air
(1) The temperature of the accessible surfaces of the package will not exceed 50 °C (122 °F) at an ambient temperature of 38 °C (100 °F) with no account taken for insulation;
(2) The integrity of containment will not be impaired if the package is exposed to ambient temperatures ranging from −40 °C (−40 °F) to + 55 °C (131 °F); and
(3) A package containing liquid contents must be capable of withstanding, without leakage, an internal pressure that produces a pressure differential of not less than the maximum normal operating pressure plus 95 kPa (13.8 psi).

If you feel your package is compliant with IP-1 definitions (with your item in them) and it gets returned with an “Airmail of Class 7 Materials is Prohibited – Return to Sender” admonishment, try sending it again with additional labeling stating that it is compliant with 49 CFR § 173.427 (a) (6) (vii) by way of being an IP-1 container thereby allowing its contents to travel by air.

USPS Requirements for Mailing Radioactive Materials

USPS aligns with the NRC’s requirements, but they require a specific statement, below. Other carriers have their own rules but similar or identical. USPS requires:
“RADIOACTIVE” in which case the NRC’s required “RADIOACTIVE – LSA” will suffice

…in addition to (and this can go just underneath RADIOACTIVE – LSA)
This package conforms to the conditions and limitations
specified in 49 CFR 173.421 for radioactive material,
excepted package—limited quantity of material, UN2910,
and is within Postal Service. activity limits for mailing.

Package Size per USPS is stated as:
“No single dimension of the external mailpiece can be less than 2.5 centimeters (1 inch), and the length and girth (combined) can be no less than 30 centimeters (12 inches)”.

It should be noted that it costs about the same to mail a 6x4x4” or 5x5x5” box as it does a compliance-iffy envelope. If you’re doing the wonderfully inexpensive First Class for something under a pound, and it’s likely to go airborne, it may be worth it to go with the box esp. if you’re going to claim it’s package type IP-1 compliant when bearing its particular contents. At least if it’s not going to kill your profit on some low priced nugget, in which case you might want to look more into IP-1 definitions.

Summary for Mailing Radioactive Materials via USPS

1) Parcel surface reads no more than .5mrem/hr.
2) It bears the following:
This package conforms to the conditions and limitations
specified in 49 CFR 173.421 for radioactive material,
excepted package—limited quantity of material, UN2910,
and is within Postal Service. activity limits for mailing.
3) If it goes airborne it’s supposed to be a Type IP-1 package to be excepted from being prohibited from air transport
4) It’s good practice to include the airmail label pictured above with the red airmail hashmarks (that’s what those mean – it’s an air mail notice). Some carriers or airlines may require this label for air. It was included in an instruction set a private business had in an employee manual the NRC showed as a good example for shipping FedEx.

Uranium Ore Sale

Uranium Ore for Sale?

Yes, uranium ore is for sale online (see the best sources below). You can buy and own raw, unprocessed uranium and thorium ores in the USA as geological specimens for the purposes of education and even science hobbies involving Geiger counters, cloud chambers, and more. Some rock specimens may contain trace elements of interest while others can be as high as over 47% elemental uranium!

Uranium Ore

Where is Uranium Ore for Sale?

If you want to buy geologic uranium ore specimens that emit the highest highest levels of measurable radiation of any ore available, and even fluoresce (glow) brightly green in UV light (even regular “black light” i.e. no special prospecting light required) then you want to buy autunite (calcium uranyl phosphate) from:
Rocks Unlocked ( 
or try
Geiger Check (
You’ll also find other items like Jurassic Canyon uranium ore rocks and more to add to or even protect your collection from casual pilfering or small kids. The link above are the most affordable and reliable sources of this hard to find mineral no longer available on numerous other sources. We know because each of us own one of the other business and we each forged direct relationships with the miners. It’s no secret we all have the same IP address – we’re friends and/or owners that started out trying to find nice specimens as Geiger counter checks, and uranium glass left something to be desired (esp. if you have a lesser-sensitive device like a side-window probe).

Autunite Uranium Ore for Sale

When it comes to uranium that is for sale, legally, autunite (calcium uranyl phosphate) really hits it out of the park for radioactivity and fluorescent mineral hobbies. The glow really gives it that cinematic, radioactive appeal (although a little UV light is actually required) and the uranium is truly what gives it that classic day-glow green hue.

Vial of Uranium Ore

Autunite is composed of over 47% elemental uranium and even shows noticeable higher radiation levels than even refined, smelted U-238 metal called Depleted Uranium (DU)! How? It’s because unrefined uranium ore in the form of Autunite still contains small amounts of the more scarce and highly potent isotope U-235, as well as trace radium etc. These sister isotopes and elements naturally occur in the nuclear decay chain and, while low in amount compared to the abundant U-238, can make ore that’s only close to half uranium emit more radioactivity than industrial DU metal.

Uranium Ore Sale: Safety

Many, common things in our lives like products used for maintenance or even art can be highly dangerous if misused, but are also completely safe when handled and stored properly. It’s important to educate oneself about proper storage and handling of uranium ore before buying it.

In general, it’s kept in metal containers to shield much of the radiation and stored some feet from living things. The Inverse Square Law of radiation means it dissipates more per inch with each additional inch, so even just a few feet away any normal Geiger counter cannot even detect its presence and risk is abated.

The biggest consideration is getting particles inside of you, that’s why cleanup of oneself and any surfaces is important as not to ingest or even inhale small, solid particles that break loose, as was a common hazard of old school thorium lantern mantles, since they made fine ash.

With a little reading, care, and common sense, uranium ore is safe to buy and own. This is why it has always been legal and collecting it in the field was a even very common (at times viral!) family pastime in the mid 21st century!

Legality of Uranium Ore Sale

When you buy uranium ore online from our known sources you’ll always receive a package that reads below .5mRem/hr. On the parcel surface, with a label including text and numbers required by the NRC and USPS or or other carrier. This makes it perfectly legal as an “excepted package” exempt from many considerations that would apply to real hazmats.

Many, many people get confused about a piece of federal code by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission called NRC, 10 CFR, “§ 40.22 Small quantities of source material”. This is frequently misinterpreted as appearing to allow basically any US citizen to posses or even sell limited amounts of refined, radioactive products like DU and indistrial uranium or thorium compounds etc. as long as they intend to use it for constructive purposes. We have communicated directly, at length, with senior officers at the NRC and we can assure you this is not the case. To the technical letter of the law, this does not even apply to tiny samples.

First of all, section 40.22 is intended for institutions, and I quote Betsy Ullrich of the NRC, “…not private individuals”. Secondly sale or “|initial distribution” is prohibited by subsection (e) of said code without an additional, bona fide, applied-for-and-issued license that is difficult to obtain because it requires experts, considerable lab equipment, etc. Thirdly, 40.22 does not apply to 39 of the 50 US states that have become “Agreement States” meaning they have their own, state-level regulations including possession of radioactive materials.

The Answer: Stick with ore! It’s often prettier, can be just as active (or more, as show above), and is generally legal to possess as long as not misused (“generally” as in: there may be certain buildings, communities etc. where it is not permitted).

Autunite Uranium Ore Hunk

Because, like so many things, it is perfectly safe when stored and handled properly, unprocessed uranium ore has remained legal to buy, sell, and possess in the United States for many decades.

In the mid-1900’s Geiger counters and “scintillators” (amplified detectors for finding ore at distances) were popular recreational hardware with which families could go camping and prospecting, hoping to find and even sell uranium ore in a rather prolonged “uranium rush”. National parks used to issue pamphlets recommending safe practices in collecting uranium and taking it home (like washing hands and not keeping in pockets). While some precautions about nuclear materials have become more rigid since then, the more we know, most of it applies to industrial or military-related substances.

The Parks Service didn’t stop issuing such pamphlets referring to safe uranium-collecting fun because hobbyists got cancer from rocks or anything in subsequent years – they likely stopped because of negative publicity and lack of public understanding. Baseless stigma.

For example, 3 buckets of uranium-bearing rocks were noticed in a Grand Canyon National Park museum. When the story hit the press it went viral and everybody lost their marbles, reporting everywhere that thousands of people including children had been “exposed to dangerous, ionizing radiation”. Despite scientists and officials descending on the situation and determining no one was harmed or really even placed at risk because of the low amounts of uranium involved and the Inverse Square law etc., what mattered was public ignorance, not facts. The big story was the erroneous harm; the confirmation there had never been any danger was of little interest to the press (zero retractions and few follow-ups). So the Parks Service freaked out about their reputation (not safety) and bulldozed any and all uranium rocks far away from rest areas and public access (the the dismay of local hobbyists).

Legitimate Uses for Uranium Ore people have no interest in something they have little understanding (and often little tolerance) of it. One of the most common questions about uranium ore sale and purchase is, “What on Earth would anyone want it for?!”, asked with anything from curiosity to naïve, accusatory contempt suggesting inevitable villainy. To anyone bitten with the Geiger counter bug, the answer is self evident: because it’s cool. A more informative answer is that, besides demonstrating different levels of alpha, beta, and gamma radiation between different, collectible specimens (which is reason enough), other uses include source material for a cloud chamber (an easy DIY project that makes radiation leave contrails visible to the naked eye)…

a cloud chamber with uranium inside

…experiments with digital or film photography, building a spinthariscope (another device that makes effects of radiation visible, but in the form of sparkles) or other radioluminescence (glowing due to nuclear emissions) experiments with phosphors like copper-activated zinc sulfide, and much more. These demonstrations, experiments, and other activities are safely performed not only by hobbyists and parents but teachers and institutions who are among customers buying uranium for sale online.

A Primer on Fluorescent Minerals

fluorescing rock

Fluorescing Willemite from Sweden. CC Licensed image by Dr. Hannes Grobe

What Fluorescence Is

Fluorescent minerals in rocks and crystals, just as in many paints or toys, can appear to glow with stunning brightness when exposed to what, for us, is dim or invisible light from ultraviolet (UV) lamps or even other wavelengths including x-rays. They can appear to the human eye as though they are reflecting more light, and in a different color, than you are emitting them. Technically they absorb light of one wavelength or color and emit some light in a different wavelength or color. If we could see UV as well as day-glow green, for example, the effect, above, would be far less remarkable. In reality, it’s emitting less energy than it’s absorbing. Our own inability to perceive UV light gives it the illusion of radioluminescence (a glow caused by ionizing radiation interacting with matter). Different UV light-triggered fluorescent minerals respond (or not) to various wavelengths of UV. While some respond to common black light (a particularly long-waved section of UV-A band) many respond better or only to shorter wavelengths such as UV-B or even UV-C (the shorter the wavelength and higher the wattage the more protective glasses are called for).

What Fluorescence is Not

Fluorescence is not the same as phosphorescence. Phosphorescent minerals continue to emit light for a while after the responsible light source is switched off or removed, whereas fluorescent minerals stop emitting as soon as the source is removed. While these two terms and others represent different properties, some minerals may possess multiple properties at once. Some may be subsets of others, such “fluorescent” and “phosphorescent” being subsets that fall under “luminescence”. Luminescence means emitting light without being heated to the point of incandescence, and incandescence usually means something is on the verge of burning up, like the filament of a classic light bulb.

On that note, fluorescence is also not the same as other luminescent properties such as that of thermoluminescent minerals. These can emit light when heated, but often far less than enough to become incandescent. Imagine lining a campfire with rocks and finding they “come alive” from the heat and start glowing in beautiful patterns like something from science fiction! It happens:

a luminescent mineral glowing from heat

Fluorite, one more visibly thermoluminescent than the other. CC licensed image by Mauswiesel

Many fluorescent minerals are also not necessarily radioluminescent, although some of the most vibrant, fluorescent hues incidentally come from materials containing radioactive uranium, such as autunite, otherwise known as calco-uranite or calcium uranyl phosphate, and  sometimes described as uranium mica according to its lamellar or layered nature.

Autunite Uranium Ore Hunk

Autunite fluorescing under long UV-A black light

Other types of luminescence in minerals exist aside from fluorescence, such as triboluminescence, the emission of visible light as a result of mechanical action such as being struck or crushed. Triboluminescence is related to piezoelectricity, where electricity is  voltage is generated from crystals being struck or placed under pressure such as is utilized in press-button or “clicker” ignitors for lighters and gas stoves.

Identifying Fluorescent Minerals !

Below is a phenomenal photo of a collection of fluorescent minerals by Dr. Hannes Grobe using all three bands of UV light combined. Below the images is a numbered, fluorescent minerals list corresponding to the numbers in the black & white indicator chart. Special thanks to Dr. Grobe and his licensed provision of such a fun resource through Creative Commons:

fluorescent minerals in a collection
fluorescent minerals guide

1. Cerussite, Barite – Morocco
2. Scapolite – Canada
3. Hardystonite (blue), Calcite (red), Willemite (green) – New Jersey
4. Dolomite – Sweden
5. Adamite – Mexico
6. Scheelite – unknown origin
7. Agate – Utah
8. Tremolite – New York
9. Willemite – New Jersey
10. Dolomite – Sweden
11. Fluorite, Calcite – Switzerland
12. Calcite – Romania
13. Rhyolite – unknown origin
14. Dolomite – Sweden
15. Willemite (green), Calcite (red), Franklinite, Rhodonite – New Jersey
16. Eucryptite – Zimbabwe
17. Calcite – Germany
18. Calcite in a Septarian nodule – Utah
19. Fluorite – England
20. Calcite – Sweden
21. Calcite, Dolomite – Sardinia
22. Dripstones – Turkey
23. Scheelite – unknown origin
24. Aragonite – Sicily
25. Benitoite – California 26. Quartz Geode – Germany
27. Dolomite, Iron Ore – Sweden
28. Unknown
29. Synthetic Corundum
30. Powellite – India
31. Hyalite opal – Hungary
32. Vlasovite in Eudyalite – Canada
33. Spar Calcite – Mexico
34. Manganocalcite(?) – Sweden
35. Clinohydrite, Hardystonite, Willemite, Calcite – New Jersey
36. Calcite – Switzerland
37. Apatite, Diopside – USA
38. Dolostone – Sweden
39. Fluorite – England
40. Manganocalcite – Peru
41. Hemimorphite with Sphalerite in gangue – Germany
42. Unknown from Långban, Filipstad, Sweden
43. Opal – origin unknown
44. Selenite gypsum – origin unknown
45. Dolomite – Sweden
46. Chalcedony – unknown origin
47. Willemite, Calcite – New Jersey