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Beryllium is valued for its strength, formability, thermal and electrical conductivity, magnetic transparency, and corrosion resistance. Its low neutron absorption, high neutron scattering characteristics, and ability to multiply neutrons has led to its use in experimental nuclear reactors and accelerators. The alloying property of beryllium confers improved resistance to corrosion, vibration, shock, and improves alloy hardness and ductility.

The inhalation of beryllium dust or particles can cause chronic beryllium disease (CBD) and beryllium sensitization. The Department of Energy has established regulation (10 CFR Part 850) that requires a chronic beryllium disease prevention program (CBDPP) for certain work conditions. The goal of the CBDPP is to reduce the number of workers currently exposed to beryllium, minimize the levels of exposure to beryllium, and establish medical surveillance requirements to ensure early detection and treatment of disease.

In 1997 and 1999 BNL conducted reviews of the use of beryllium on-site. These evaluations determined the applicability of BNL current operations to DOE regulations and led to the establishment of BNL policy on the use and handling of beryllium.