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Any waste material containing or contaminated by radioactive material is considered a radioactive waste and must be disposed of appropriately. Procedures for accumulating and preparing radioactive waste for disposal depend on the form of the waste (absorbed liquids, dry solids, etc) and the isotope group described below.

7.1 Group Descriptions

Radioactive wastes are segregated into four groups based on isotope half-life. When accumulating radioactive wastes, avoid combining isotopes from different groups in the same waste container.

Short-lived radioactive wastes include the following three groups:

  • Group I radionuclides have a half-life less than or equal to 15 days, such as 131I,111In,32P, and 90Y.
  • Group II radionuclides have a half-life equal to or less than 30 days but greater than 15 days, including 51Cr and 33P.
  • Group III radionuclides have a half-life less than 90 days but greater than 30 days. Isotopes include 125I and 35S.

Long-lived radioactive wastes are in Group IV:

  • Group IV radionuclides have a half-life equal to or greater than 90 days. Isotopes in this group include 3H,14C and 45Ca.

7.2 Dry, Solid Radioactive Wastes

Waste materials such as paper, plastic, gloves, wood, and metal (except lead - see Section 4.8.1, Lead under Section 4.8, Hazardous Materials Recycling and Universal Waste) are referred to as dry solid wastes (DSW) when contaminated with radioactive isotopes.

Exemptions: 3H and 14C LSC vials and animal tissue are not considered radioactive below 0.05 μCi/ml or μCi/gram.

7.2.1 Packaging Dry Solid Waste (DSW) for EH&S Collection

Potentially contaminated items should be checked with an appropriate radiation detector, except for 3H and 14C. If not contaminated, dispose of them in normal trash.

To package DSW for collection by EH&S:

  1. Segregate radioactive waste from different groups into separate LSA boxes or bags whenever possible.
  2. Use clear plastic bags provided by EH&S to accumulate waste. Large bags should be used with cardboard LSA boxes provided by EH&S and shielded as necessary during accumulation in the lab. Small amounts of DSW may be accumulated on the bench top in small bags provided by EH&S, double-bagged, and appropriately shielded as necessary. Never use autoclave bags or biohazard bags for radioactive waste.
  3. For Group I, II, and III Wastes Only:
    1. Remove or deface all radioactive material markings before placing waste into bag.
    2. Do not use radioactive label tape to close boxes or bags.
  4. When full, bags must be taped or tied closed by the lab. EH&S will not collect bags that are not properly closed.
  5. Use a yellow radioactive waste label provided by EH&S to label containers (boxes or bags) of dry solid waste, as described in Section 7.6, Labeling Radioactive Waste.

Any needles, pipettes, etc., must be excluded from dry solid waste and packaged in a sharps container.

7.2.2 Disposing of Empty Vials

All empty vials must be removed from their pigs, defaced, and disposed of in the appropriate dry solid waste container.

Vials that are not empty are collected in their pigs and held for decay. Empty pigs must be left open for collection.

7.2.3 Disposing of Lead

Lead shielding and lead pigs for radioactive materials should be disposed according to Section 4.8.1, Lead under Section 4.8, Hazardous Materials Recycling and Universal Waste.

7.3 Absorbed Aqueous Liquid (AAL) Radioactive Wastes

Wastes All aqueous (non-hazardous) liquids containing radioactive material must be considered radioactive waste. Such liquid must be completely absorbed (as described below) or sewered (see Section 7.5, Sewering Aqueous Radioactive Waste).

Hazardous chemicals containing radioactive material, including scintillation fluid, cannot be disposed of as radioactive waste. See Section 10, Mixed Waste.

7.3.1 Packaging Absorbed Aqueous Liquid (AAL) Radioactive Waste for EH&S Collection

To package AAL radioactive waste for collection by EH&S:

  1. Whenever possible, segregate radioactive wastes from different groups into separate absorbed aqueous containers.
  2. Fill a non-glass container with a sealable lid half-full with diatomaceous earth. Containers and diatomaceous earth are available in the AD corridor across from Glassware.
  3. Pour the aqueous waste into the container through a funnel.
  4. When the absorbent material is saturated, finish filling the container with diatomaceous earth and seal it. No free liquid can remain.
  5. Label the bottle according to Section 7.6, Labeling Radioactive Waste.

7.4 Biological Radioactive Waste (Animal Carcasses)

Radioactive animal waste and bedding may be disposed of into the sanitary sewer provided the quantity of radionuclide disposed of is within the sewer disposal limits specified in Chapter VI.Radioactive animal waste and bedding that is not sewerable, and other radioactive waste (including disposable gloves, cage liners, disposable cage bottoms, etc.), are to be placed in labeled radioactive waste containers for EH&S collection and disposal. Researchers and technicians will notify EH&S for pick-up and disposal of radioactive waste.

Animal carcasses containing only 3H or 14C with a maximum concentration of 0.05 mCi per gram of tissue averaged over the weight of the entire animal may be disposed of without regard to radioactivity by EH&S. A record of the disposal will be maintained by EH&S.

Animal carcasses that contain 3H or 14C in concentrations greater than 0.05 mCi per gram of tissue, or that contain other radionuclides and were euthanized before 10 half-lives, must be placed in double plastic bags, properly labeled, frozen, and disposed of as radioactive waste in accordance with this section. Researchers must call EH&S for disposal of radioactive carcasses.

7.4.1 Packaging for Freezing

Radioactive biological waste (animal carcasses, contaminated animal bedding, nonfixed tissues, etc.) must be placed inside two 3- to 4-mil plastic bags and secured with ties.

The outside of the bag must be labeled according to Section 7.6, Labeling Radioactive Waste.

Any needles, pipettes, etc., must be excluded from biological waste and packaged in a sharps container.

7.5 Sewering Aqueous Radioactive Waste

Alpha-emitting nuclides are prohibited from sewer disposal without specific written RSO approval via an RMUA (see Chapter IV).

Sewer disposal is permitted of a certain amount of water-soluble radioactive material per year, provided the material does not include a hazardous chemical that is restricted from sewer disposal. Check Section 5, Sewer Guidelines, and Section 10.3.3, Scintillation Fluids, to see if the chemical can be sewered, or call EH&S.

7.5.1 Disposal Procedures

By default, each lab authorized to use radioactive material can sewer:

  • 1.5 millicuries per month of 3H
  • 0.4 millicuries per month of 14C
  • 0.2 millicuries per month of all other non-alpha emitters combined

These limits can be adjusted based upon review by the RSO, authorized in writing and amended to the respective RMUA.

One sink should be singled out for disposals and labeled as radioactive. Following the discharge, flush disposal sink with water. Leave the water running for several minutes to prevent the activity from pooling in the plumbing. Avoid splashing and survey sink and surrounding area upon completion.

Keep a running tally of all disposals greater than 1 microcurie (μCi), their activities and disposal dates on a sewer discharge log posted near your sink. This log will be reviewed quarterly by EH&S.

7.6 Labeling Radioactive Waste

Radioactive waste must be labeled with the following information. Use labels provided by EH&S.

  1. Principal investigator's name;
  2. Room number of the lab where the waste was generated;
  3. All the radionuclides in the waste;
  4. Activity in millicuries or microcuries of each radionuclide on the date the container was closed;
  5. Type of waste (e.g., dry solid, absorbed liquid);
  6. Date container was sealed; and
  7. Any special instructions or warnings, such as type of scintillation fluid, if appropriate.

7.7 EH&S Collection of Radioactive Waste

Radioactive waste will be collected from labs by EH&S according to the waste collection procedure described in Section 4.4.