Radioactive Waste Management
EH&S’s Radioactive Waste Management Program oversees radioactive material use and disposal under the requirements set by federal and state rules and regulations, and the UW Radioactive Materials License issued by the State of Washington Department of Health.
EH&S’s Radioactive Waste Management Program provides training, consultation and resources to ensure safe and compliant storage, packaging, labeling, collection, sampling and disposal of radioactive waste.
Radioactive waste generators are required to:
- Segregate waste streams by radioisotope and physical form.
- Minimize the volume and activity of radioactive waste.
- Properly package and label waste.
- Provide funding for the cost of disposal of radioactive waste. This includes the disposal of radioactive material on a Radiation Use Authorization (RUA) inventory that is no longer being used (legacy radioactive waste).
- Submit a Radioactive Waste Collection Request online.
These efforts help provide a safe working environment, reduce the volume of waste generated and decrease disposal costs. Current disposal rates can be found here.
Radioactive waste streams
All radioactive waste streams are classified as either short lived (half-life <120 days) or long lived (half-life >120 days).
Items contaminated with radioactive material and biohazardous agent as defined in the UW Biosafety Manual
- Radioactive material with biological components
- Animals, animal parts and waste
- Biological cultures that may putrefy
- Paper towels
- Pipette tips
- Empty stock vials
- Other lab waste contaminated with radioactive materials
Liquid scintillation counting fluid in bulk containers or individual liquid scintillation vial
- Aqueous liquid containing radioactive material
- Within pH range of 6-9
- May not contain chemical constituents specifically listed in 40 CFR 261.31, 261.32, 61.33, 261.34
- May not exhibit characteristics of flammability, corrosiveness, reactivity, or toxicity
- Tritium (H-3) exit signs
- Smoke detectors
- Other unwanted radioactive items
- Radioactive waste combined with chemical waste
- Mixed waste is expensive and difficult to dispose
- Mixed waste generation is strongly discouraged
Radioactive material encased in a capsule designed to prevent leakage or escape of material as defined in WAC 246-220-010
- Solids and liquids contaminated with uranium (and thorium)
- Compounds such as uranyl acetate, uranyl nitrate, uranyl formate and thorium nitrate
Radioactive waste handling precaution
- Maintain lab-specific procedures for waste accumulation and disposal, and train lab personnel.
- Properly package and label all radioactive waste. Specific packaging instructions are available on Focus Sheets for each waste stream. Use thicker plastic bags and don’t fill the waste bag to its capacity. This will reduce the possibility of spills or other incidents.
- Keep a log of activity and the date when the waste is deposited into the container.
- Use smaller bench top waste receptacles to reduce the amount of waste per disposal.
- Minimize radiation exposure during storage in the lab by using a Lucite shielded container for high-energy beta emitting waste and a lead shielded container for photon (x and gamma ray) emitting waste.
- Minimize exposure to lab personnel by placing waste containers as far away from personnel as practical.
EH&S provides the following services:
Consultation - EH&S’s Radiation Safety team is happy to talk with you before you generate radioactive waste. We can evaluate the work you will be performing to determine which waste streams you will be producing. We can also provide an estimate of the cost for disposal of those waste streams, and if given enough time we may be able to find different disposal options that can save you money.
Submit a Radioactive Waste Collection Request online through the online Radiation Waste Collection Request form.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Please see the Focus Sheets in the Reference Files section of this page that describe each waste stream and how to properly segregate, store, package and label waste containers.
Lucite, Plexiglas or plastic shielding should be used for beta emitters and lead shielding should be used for photon (x and gamma ray) emitters.
Contact EH&S’s Radiation Safety team via email to request a surplus equipment survey.
Contact EH&S’s Radiation Safety team and request assistance via email.
Radioactive waste disposal costs vary and are dependent on the waste stream. Simple experimental changes can minimize waste generated and reduce disposal costs. Please Contact EH&S’s Radiation Safety team to schedule an estimation of disposal costs and consultation on methods you can use to minimize the radioactive waste you generate.
Radioactive Material License issued by Washington State Department of Health:
Washington Administrative Code WAC 246-221-170 – Waste disposal, general requirement
Washington Administrative Code WAC 246-221-220 – Disposal of specific wastes