Disposal

Radioactive Waste

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is required under federal and state law to store all radioactive waste in approved containers using approved handling techniques and to maintain written records regarding the storage and disposal of radioactive waste.  It is a violation of federal, state, and university regulations to dispose of radioactive waste as normal trash.   The Radiation Safety Office should be contacted immediately (x3372) if it is found that radioactive waste is or has been disposed of improperly or if laboratory personnel are unsure of proper (approved) waste handling/disposal techniques.

Call 978-934-3373 for radioactive waste pick-up or fill out the form Request for Rad Waste Pick-up.

General Radioactive Waste Handling Rules Applicable to All Radioactive Waste   

1.     Radioactive waste is required to be segregated by isotope (NOTE: The laboratory may combine 3H and 14C into a single container or may combine short half-life (T1/2 £ 120 day) materials together.  In all cases, materials added to a waste container shall be chemically non-reactive with both the container and its contents).

2.      All radioactive waste shall be separated and stored into the following :

  • solid waste, 
  • liquid waste, 
  • sharps waste, 
  • animal carcasses, 
  • Lead (Pb) shipping containers

(Detailed instructions on proper radioactive waste storage and handling for each physical waste form [also referred to as a “waste stream”] are described below). 

3.      The Radiation Safety Office is available to assist in finding vendors of approved radioactive waste containers.

4.      Regardless of the type of radioactive waste generated, all radioactive waste shall be assembled in designated restricted areas and stored in waste containers clearly labeled with the following: “RADIOACTIVE WASTE.”  The Radiation Safety Office will not accept radioactive waste stored in improper waste containers.

5.      Radioactive chemicals or powders, contaminated sharps, and radioactive animal carcasses are examples of a “mixed waste stream.”  All such waste shall meet the requirements for radioactive material waste handling as documented in this procedure and the requirements for chemical/hazardous material waste handling as documented by the Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) department.

6.      Laboratories shall maintain a list containing the isotope and total activity present within each waste container generated or used by that laboratory.  It is the responsibility of the Authorized User to assure that this list is promptly and accurately maintained.

7.      When in use, a radioactive waste container shall be labeled with the following information:

  • “RADIOACTIVE WASTE” warning sign
  • Listing of the radioisotope(s) present within the container
  • Chemical form(s) of the radioisotope(s) present (if liquid)

8.      When full, a radioactive waste container shall be labeled with the following information:

  • “RADIOACTIVE WASTE” warning sign
  • Listing of the radioisotope(s) present within the container
  • Estimate of the Activity present of each radioisotope (preferably in mCi)
  • Chemical form(s) of the radioisotope(s) present
  • Authorized User’s name
  • Laboratory room number
  • Name of person labeling the waste
  • Date that the waste was labeled

9.      All radioactive waste receptacles shall be kept in an approved area within the laboratory - not in the hall or other unsecured area.  It is the responsibility of the Authorized User to verify that the location of the waste receptacle within the laboratory does not present a health hazard.  

10.        When a radioactive waste container is full, call the Assistant Radiation Safety Officer (x3373) to arrange a waste pick-up.  NOTE: the Radiation Safety Office will not accept possession of any waste containing contaminated glass unless it is stored in a plastic lined rigid container (plastic, cardboard).

11.        It is the responsibility of the Authorized User to verify that the waste is properly contained and identified.  The Radiation Safety Office has the right to refuse waste pickup for improperly stored waste.  The Authorized User also is responsible for ensuring that any improperly stored waste (especially waste refused for pickup) is properly repackaged as soon as possible.

12.        Short-lived waste may be stored on site for decay until the activity of the waste is indistinguishable from background (the waste measures less than 2x the average background value in a low background area using an appropriate radiation detector).  

  • When the radioactive waste is indistinguishable from background, the Authorized User (or laboratory representative) shall contact the Radiation Safety Office.  The Radiation Safety Office shall analyze the waste to certify that the waste is no longer radioactive.  
  • If the waste is no longer radioactive, it shall be disposed of as per the rules and regulations of the UMass Environmental Health and Safety Office (x2618) and all radioactive material labels on the container must be defaced or removed.