Guidelines for Disposal of Radioactive Waste

Scintillation Vials

Scintillation Vials containing radioactive scintillation media should be collected in 4-6 mil plastic bags in volumes not to exceed 0.5 cubic feet per bag. Scintillation vials containing H-3, C-14, and I-125 may be combined in the same bag. Scintillation vials containing S-35 or P-32 should be segregated and presented separately. All "Radioactive" warning tape must be removed prior to disposal. All bags must be securely sealed.

Researchers are strongly encouraged to use aqueous-based "biosafe" scintillation fluids to reduce the levels of harmful vapors emitted by the older, organic cocktails in the laboratory environment.

Radioactive Waste Containing Biologicals

Carcasses should be double-bagged in 4-6 mil plastic bags and, when possible, frozen prior to disposal through Radiation Safety. Tissue, blood and blood products, and associated bedding are considered as “carcass”. All bags must be securely sealed. All “Radioactive” warning tape must be removed prior to disposal.

Radioactive Sharps including needles, scalpel blades, etc., must be placed in approved rigid sharps containers.

Radioactive Solid Waste

Long-Lived Solids with H-3, C-14, Co-57, or any isotope with a half-life of grater than 90 days should be sealed in 4-6 mil plastic bags. Long-lived solid waste can contain no liquids including scintillation fluids, carcasses, tissue, blood or blood products. Source vials of long-lived isotopes if not empty and dry should be segregated from the rest of the solid waste and presented separately at disposal time. *

Short-Lived Solids with P-32, P-33, I-125, I-131, Cr-51, S-35, or any isotope with a half-life of less than 90 days should be sealed in 4-6 mil plastic bags. All “Radioactive” warning tape must be removed prior to disposal. I-125, I-131, P-33, and Cr-51 solid waste may be combined. P-32 and S-35 solid waste should be packaged separately. Source vials, whether dry or containing small volumes of liquid, may be placed in bags with short-lived solid waste provided all “Radioactive” warning labels/logos are removed or defaced. All bags must be securely sealed. *

Radioactive Liquid Waste

Aqueous Liquids should be collected in tightly sealed break-resistant plastic containers having volumes of 1 to 2 liters (IV solution bottles are fine. A limited number of small containers for this purpose are kept in the waste holding area and are made available to the laboratories on a “first-come, first-serve” basis. If an Principal Investigator is going to be routinely generating large volumes of aqueous liquids, it is recommended that he/she purchase 2 or 3 five-gallon plastic carboys for storing and transporting their aqueous radioactive liquids). In some cases, multiple isotopes may be combined in the same container with prior permission of the Radiation Safety Office. All “Radioactive” warning tape must be removed from aqueous liquid containers prior to disposal with the exception of any carboys purchased by the Principal Investigator.

*All lead shipping containers must be segregated and presented separately from other waste. All “Radioactive” logos/labels must be removed or defaced prior to disposal.

Bulk Organic Liquids (other than scintillation fluids in vials) contaminated with radioactive material constitute a “mixed” waste and must be considered on a case-by-case basis with regard to disposal before being generated by the Principal Investigator. Historically, this type of waste material is prohibitively expensive to dispose of and researchers are strongly urged to avoid generating this type of material.

Waste Minimization Techniques

  • Use smaller (3 ml) scintillation vials instead of the larger (10 ml) vials.
  • Use radioisotopes with half lives less than 90 days. Dry waste contaminated with short-lived radioisotopes is incorporated into the EH&S decay-in-storage program. This reduces the amount of waste at radioactive waste disposal sites. Separate short-lived radioisotopes (half-life less than 90 days) from long-lived radioisotopes in dry waste.

NOTE: Do not put dry radioactive waste containers near regular trash containers. This will reduce the possibility that non-radioactive waste will be inadvertently put into the radioactive waste container.

Last Updated: 03-14-2014
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Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.