Radioactive Waste Management

     Radioactive wastes are wastes that contain radioactive materials.  On campus radioactive wastes are generally a by-product of research and teaching.  Radioactive waste is dangerous and must be properly managed to protect human health and the environment.  The management of these wastes are regulated by the NRC and the State of Alabama.


    All radioactive wastes which are regulated on campus are picked up at the site of generation by EHS.  Information required is amount of radioactive material in the waste and the corresponding RSO approval number.  Wastes include source material and lab wastes such as paper, containers, towels, pipets, etc.  Wastes may be in solid or liquid form.  Sublicensees are not authorized to manage waste but rather to collect waste and prepare it for pickup by EHS.  Wastes are collected by EHS, processed and then stored until pickup by a waste disposal vendor.

    Most wastes generated on campus are low level isotopes used in research and teaching.  The four most used isotopes for research are C14, H3, P32, and S35.  Small scaled sources are generally used in teaching applications.  A number of instruments on campus utilize an internal source.  Liquid Scintillation Counters are examples of these.  Sources are removed from instruments prior to disposal as well as tubes from x-ray machines.     

    Radioactive material may be stored for some time prior to disposal.  Different isotopes have different decay half-lives.  For example the half-life for P32 is 14.3 days while C14 is 5770 years.  P323 may be stored for ten half-lives and considered as having no activity prior to disposal.  This is not applicable to a long half-life isotope like C14.  Radioactive waste regulations account for this management technique and generators are not limited to a 90 day storage cycle like with chemical waste. 

For information regarding disposal of radioactive waste contact EHS at 348-5905.