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Radioactive Waste / Spill

Radioactive Waste Management Overview

The following are general guidelines for disposal of five different classifications of radioactive materials waste:

Conditions for decaying waste at your site:

  • A log with collection dates, activities, and isotopes must be maintained.
  • Waste must decay for a minimum of ten half-lives.
  • Radiation Safety Office (RSO) will provide space for decay-in-storage on request.
  • Contact Radiation Safety for removal of materials that have decayed.
  • No lead pigs.
    • Lead pigs and lead containers used in shipping and storage of radioactive materials must be recycled.
    • Labs in BB, P&S, VC, and PH should bring surveyed lead to P&S Basement-447, Tues/Thurs from 11-12PM.
    • All other labs should fill out a waste request form to request pickup of surveyed lead by RSO.
  • No animal/biological waste may be mixed with solid dry waste.
  • No red bags.                       

Only Radiation Safety can dispose of decayed radioactive waste—DO NOT DISPOSE IMPROPERLY

Solid Dry Waste

  • Separate glass and non-glass solid waste materials.
  • Human and animal blood will be considered infectious.
  • Waste must be autoclaved and accompanied by written verification of this.
  • Waste must be sealed; contact RSO for removal.

Liquid Waste

  • Liquid waste can be contained in 10- or 20-liter carboys. Contact RSO for containers.
  • Decay-in-storage is permitted, following guidelines as above.
  • pH must be between 6 and 9.
  • Spill tray should be placed under containers as secondary spill protection.
  • No organic solvents; liquid waste must be water-soluble and inorganic.
  • Hazardous chemicals and Hazardous Waste shall not be mixed with liquid waste. (Examples: tritiated benzopyrene in ethyl acetate, P32 labeled GTP in chloroform, etc.)
    • There should be no generation of mixed waste without the prior notification of the RSO.
    • Do not mix iodine waste with acids or oxidizers.
  • Only Radiation Safety can dispose of liquid waste -- DO NOT POUR DOWN DRAIN.

Liquid Scintillation Vials (LSV)

  • LSV’s can be contained in 5 gallon or 30 gallon cans.  Contact RSO for containers.
  • Vials must be intact with tops securely in place. Separate caps or vials cannot be disposed of in any of our waste containers.
  • Only liquid scintillation vials may be placed in these cans.

Animal / Biological

  • Sacrificed animals must be frozen prior to pick-up by RSO.
  • Carcasses containing isotopes with half-lives under 90 days will be held for a minimum of 10 half-lives.  Once cleared by RSO, they can be incinerated at the animal care facility.
  • Carcasses with half-lives of over 90 days will later be shipped off-site by RSO.
  • Animal bedding and feces may be disposed of as solid dry waste (see above).

Contact the Radiation Safety waste room (305-8612) or RSO (305-0303):
To obtain waste collection containers, for waste pick-up and with any questions.

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Radioactive Spill Management Overview

A minor radioactive spill is one that laboratory personnel are capable of handling safely without the assistance of safety and emergency response teams.  All other radioactive spills are considered major.

Minor Radioactive Spill

  • Alert people in the area of the spill.
  • Notify Radiation Safety Office (RSO) at 305-0303.
  • Wear Personal Protective Equipment including: safety goggles, gloves, shoe covers, and long-sleeve lab coat.
  • Cover a liquid spill with absorbent paper towels. 
  • Carefully fold the absorbent paper with clean side out and place into a plastic bag for disposal in radioactive waste container.  Also put contaminated gloves and other disposable material into the plastic bag.
  • Monitor the area, hands, clothing and shoes for contamination with an appropriate survey meter or wipe sampling procedures.  Repeat cleanup until contamination is no longer detected.

Major Radioactive Spill

  • Attend to the injured or contaminated persons and remove them from exposure.
  • Alert people to vacate the area.
  • Have potentially contaminated personnel stay in one area until they have been checked for the presence of contamination.
  • Notify RSO at 305-0303.
  • If possible, the spill should be shielded, but only if it can be done without further contamination or significant exposure.
  • Close doors and prevent entrance into the area.
  • Contaminated clothing should be removed and stored for further evaluation by RSO.