Radioactive Waste

Waste Compaction

Labeling Radioactive Waste Material

Once the waste is packaged, it needs proper labeling so that there is no uncertainty about what the waste parcel contains. Each item must be labeled with:

  • Authorized Investigator's name.
  • each radionuclide.
  • the activity of each radionuclide (in millicuries).
  • room number.
  • phone number.
  • mailbox number.
  • budget number.
  • a Radioactive Materials Label, consisting of the radiation symbol (propeller) and the words "Caution, Radioactive Materials". The specifics of this requirement are detailed in Chapter 14 of the UW Radiation Safety Manual.

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Lead Waste

Lead is a hazardous material and must not be placed in radioactive waste. It is recyclable, though. Lead that is not contaminated with radioactive material, and which has had all radioactive labels on it removed or defaced, can be removed from your lab by Radiation Safety free of charge. Simply place the lead items in a small box and contact Radiation Safety for a waste collection. Be sure to mention that you have lead for recycling. It will be picked up on the regular radioactive waste collection days (Wednesday - Thursday each week).

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Packaging Your Waste

Packaging waste is a topic that is addressed both in the Radiation Safety Training Class and the Radiation Safety Manual, Chapter 14. If you are not sure how to package your radioactive waste please call Radiation Safety at 206.543.6328 to:

  • Ask for advice or for the answers to related questions
  • Request that a copy of the Radiation Safety Manual, Chapter 14 be sent to you.
    or consult: Radiation Safety Manual, Chapter 14.

Properly packaging radioactive waste is very important for safety, regulatory reasons, and to maintain a healthy, worry-free working environment for everyone at the UW. Radiation Safety exists primarily to address these kinds of issues, so please call if you need help or advice.

See Notes on RAM Waste for a printable list of radioactive waste packaging tips.

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Long-Lived Waste

Long-Lived Radioactive Waste at the University of Washington is all radioactive waste that has a half-life of greater than 120 days. Waste with a half-life of 120 days or more shall not be stored for decay in your spaces. When a container of waste is full it must be picked up by Radiation Safety.

If you put different radioactive isotopes in the same waste container, the isotope with the longest half-life is used to determine the amount of time material is stored. If you mix isotopes with half-lives greater than 120 days (e.g., H-3, C-14) with short-lived isotopes, the waste will be considered as Long-Lived Radioactive Waste and will be charged accordingly. The costs for long-lived waste disposal is significantly more than short-lived waste

Use Radioactive Waste Collection Record (RSO Form 150) - (pdf) to document materials stored in containers for pick up by Radiation Safety. For questions contact Radiation Safety at 206.543.6328.


Sanitary Sewer Disposal of Radioactive Material

The University of Washington is allowed to dispose of radioactive material which is soluble or readily dispersible in water into the sanitary sewer, as long as quantities are restricted.

There are only a few approved sanitary sewer disposable Liquid Scintillation Cocktails. Organic Solvents and other hazardous materials generally cannot be disposed of into the sanitary sewer. See the current list of chemicals approved for sanitary sewer disposal and the Chemical Waste Management Guide in Section 3 of the UW Lab Safety Manual for more information on sanitary sewer disposal of chemical wastes.

The single laboratory radioactive material allowance for each calendar quarter is as follows:

H-3 1000 uCi/3 month period
C-14 200 uCi/3 month period
I-125 100 uCi/3 month period
All other radionuclides combined 200 uCi/3 month period

When multiple laboratories are assigned to one Authorized Investigator the sanitary sewer disposal allowance for the group is the sum of the allowances for each lab (e.g. if there are 6 labs assigned to an Authorized Investigator the sanitary sewer disposal limits are 6 times the limits listed above).

Records of all sanitary sewer disposal must be maintained by each Authorized Investigator to show compliance within the limits. RSO Form 170 , "Quarterly Sink Disposal Record for Radioactive Material" (pdf) is available from this website, or if you prefer, one can be mailed to you. Please call Radiation Safety at 206.543.0463 from 8 AM to 5 PM to request one.


Scintillation Fluid

Several Liquid Scintillation Cocktail (LSC) manufacturers now produce non-hazardous fluids, some marketed as being sanitary sewer disposable. There are currently only a few sanitary sewer disposable LSCs approved for sanitary sewer disposal by the State of Washington. Please be sure you are using one of the approved fluids before disposing of any LSC to the sanitary sewer system.

LSC is used to detect minute quantities of weak beta or alpha emitting radionuclides. In order for it to work at maximum efficiency, the fluid must typically be mixed with the radionuclide itself, contaminating the fluid.

When the LSC is composed of hazardous materials, the waste produced is by definition mixed waste (hazardous material with a radioactive component). Special exemptions are in place for LSC, however, when the radioactive material concentration is below certain regulatory limits. This allows the disposal of LSC as Hazardous Material, but does not necessarily mean sanitary sewer disposal is allowed. Hazardous Material can not generally be disposed of in the sanitary sewer (See the current list of chemicals approved for sanitary sewer disposal for more information).

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Short-Lived Waste

Short-Lived Radioactive Waste at the University of Washington is all radioactive waste that has a half-life of 120 days or less. Waste with a half-life of 120 days or less may be stored for decay in your authorized lab spaces or can be picked up by Radiation Safety for storage in our Radioactive Waste Storage Facility.

If you put different radioactive isotopes in the same waste container, the isotope with the longest half-life is used to determine the amount of time material is stored. If you mix isotopes with half-lives greater than 120 days (e.g., H-3, C-14) with short-lived isotopes, the waste will be considered as Long-Lived Radioactive Waste and will be charged accordingly. The costs for long-lived waste disposal is significantly more than short-lived waste

Use Declaration of Decay in Storage in Laboratory (RSO Form 176) to document decay in storage in your authorized lab or for pick up by Radiation Safety. For questions contact Radiation Safety at 206.543.6328.


Waste Collection & Disposal - Arrange

  1. Package and label your waste properly;
  2. For Long-Lived radioactive waste (Half-life greater than 120 days) use Radioactive Waste Collection Record (RSO Form 150) - (pdf) to document materials stored in containers for pick up by Radiation Safety.
  3. For Short-Lived radioactive waste (Half-life 120 days or less) use Declaration of Decay in Storage in Laboratory (RSO Form 176) - (pdf) for pick up by Radiation Safety.
  4. Call Radiation Safety (206.543.6328 or 206.543.0463) for a collection.
    (Or
    Submit an e-mail collection request)

When you call, simply inform Radiation Safety of the location of the waste and any details you feel are important for them to know. The information will be put on the week's collection list.

Be sure to call for pickup by Tuesday night if you would like a collection that week. The list of collection locations is compiled every Wednesday morning and each location visited by the close of business that Thursday.

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