Radioactive Waste

This content will help you properly identify, store, and dispose of all radioactive waste streams that may be generated from your research, clinical, or general operations.

Radioactive Waste Identification

A. Radioactive waste includes:

  1. Discarded radioisotope stock vials
  2. Any material contaminated with or containing radioactive materials, including, but not limited to gloves, glass, paper, plastic, absorbent material, film, gels, containers, sharps, et cetera…
  3. Animal Waste containing or contaminated with radioactive materials
  4. Biological waste, liquid or solid, containing radioactive materials
  5. Chemical waste, liquid or solid, containing radioactive materials
  6. Aqueous, non-hazardous liquids containing radioactive materials
  7. “Fixed” radioactively contaminated material (e.g. flooring, benches, walls, equipment) removed during renovation or demolition
  8. Specifically or Generally Licensed Sealed sources that have exceeded their useful lifespan, even if they are completely decayed
  9. Liquid Scintillation Counter Standards
  10. Various radium, uranium, and thorium compounds
  11. Any other material known or determined to contain or be contaminated with radioactive materials

Radioactive Waste Storage

Dry Solid Radioactive Waste

A. Dry solid radioactive waste bins should be made of an appropriate material to provide some shielding of the radioactive waste.

  1. Lined with lead for gamma ray emitters (not necessary for low energy gamma emitters like I-125)
  2. Plexiglas or sturdy plastic, at least 0.25” thick, for beta particle emitters
  3. Use clear or black plastic bags for collection. Bags displaying the radiation trefoil or biohazard symbol are prohibited. This includes smaller bags used for bench top waste
  4. Waste must be mostly dry with no standing liquids inside the bags.
  5. All radiation trefoils and biohazard symbols must be destroyed or defaced before being placed in the radioactive waste bin
  6. Radioisotopes must be collected separately. Each isotope should have its own container. There are two exceptions to this requirement: H-3 (tritium) and C-14 may be collected in the same container
Aqueous, Non-Hazardous, Liquid Radioactive Waste

B. Aqueous, non-hazardous, liquid radioactive waste may be collected in a bulk liquid container. Bulk liquid containers should be made of sturdy plastic. Bulk liquid containers should be stored within a secondary container. When full or ready for disposal, lids to all containers must be sealed completely to prevent leakage during transport. The exterior of the container should be surveyed by lab personnel for contamination. If your lab does not have an appropriate container please call EHS at (512) 471-3511 and one will be provided. Please do not use glass containers.

  1. If bulk liquid waste is water soluble and non-hazardous, all isotopes may be placed in the same container. Please label the container stating that the liquid is water soluble and non-hazardous, and which radioisotopes are in it
  2. Aqueous, non-hazardous liquid radioactive waste may also be disposed via sanitary sewer in a designated sink within the lab. Follow guidelines for doing so in Section III Radioactive Waste Disposal
Liquid Waste (Not Water-soluble)

C. Liquid waste that is not water-soluble shall be stored in a separate container and all radioactive and non-radioactive contents be identified on a waste tag. Non-aqueous liquid waste must be separated by isotope.

Mixed Waste

D. Mixed waste wastes are produced by mixing radioactive materials with other hazardous substances. Producing mixed waste is prohibited without prior approval in writing by the Radiation Safety Officer

Liquid Scintillation Vials and Cocktail Waste

E. Liquid Scintillation Vials and Cocktail Waste can poured into a bulk container following section B above if it is non-hazardous and aqueous

Liquid Scintillation Vials and Cocktail Waste (Non-aqeous or mixed)

F. Liquid Scintillation Vials and Cocktail Waste that is non-aqueous or contains mixed waste may be prepared as follows, as long as you have received written approval from the Radiation Safety Officer:

  1. Separate and pack scintillation vials according to isotope
  2. Ensure that all vials are securely closed
  3. Place all radioactive liquid scintillation vials in the original trays in the upright position.
  4. Return trays, in the upright position, to the original shipping boxes.
  5. Tape the box closed and clearly mark the “up” direction on the outside of the box.
  6. If the original container is not available or vials were bought in bulk:
    1. Choose a sturdy cardboard box or metal can of a size that will hold no more than 500 standard (20 ml) vials or 1,000 sub-mini vials (6 – 7 ml).
    2. Line the container with a plastic bag and place a layer of absorbent material sufficient to absorb all liquid in the bag.
    3. Place another plastic bag on top of the absorbent paper. This is where the vials will be placed.
    4. Seal both plastic bags when full.
Animal Materials

G. Animal Materials – No radioactive animal waste will be picked up for disposal prior to suitable deactivation of infectious agents. Radioactive animal waste shall not be autoclaved. Chemical disinfection is the only approved method. Guidelines for this process can be found in the Biological Waste section. Four types of radioactive waste are generated from animal experiments; bedding, dry, blood/urine and carcasses. Each type is to be stored separately and prepared for disposal.

  1. Bedding
    1. This consists of bedding material only. Bedding is to be double bagged in plastic bags.
    2. Separate the bedding material by the radioisotope that was used on the animal (See Waste Processing Procedure, step 3)
  2. Dry & Solid Waste
    1. Dry or solid waste that has been disinfected should be collected following the same procedure for other dry or solid radioactive waste as described above.
  3. Blood & Urine
    1. Collect blood/urine separately in plastic container.
    2. Follow the bulk liquid waste procedures.
  4. Carcasses
    1. Carcasses containing radioisotopes with half-lives less than 120 days can be decayed in your lab. Separate carcasses by radioisotope used and place them in thick plastic bags. These bags should then be placed in another thick plastic bag. These can be stored in the lab for ten half-lives of the radioisotope (e.g. P-32 has a half-life of 14.3 days, so carcasses containing P-32 must be held for a minimum of 143 days before disposal), then surveyed, and disposed as you would a regular carcass.
    2. Carcasses containing radioisotopes with a half-life greater than 120 days shall be stored separately by isotope. These carcasses should be double-bagged in thick plastic bags with as much of the air removed as possible.
    3. All carcasses should be kept frozen until Radiation Safety picks them up.

Radioactive Waste Disposal

A. When ready for disposal, no more radioactive waste shall be added to a container once the radiation safety office has been notified that it is ready for pick-up.

B. Submit a radioactive waste pick-up (PDF) request to the Radiation Safety office at

C. Dispose of aqueous radioactive liquid waste in sinks that have been marked as radioactive sinks. Disposal via sink must be logged in your records. These sink disposals shall be reported to the Radiation Safety Office at a minimum frequency of each quarter using the Sewer Disposal Form.

D. Radioactive waste is normally picked up on the last Tuesday of each month. Labs will be notified of any deviations from that schedule.

E. Other Radioactive Waste

  1. From time to time the disposal of radioactive material other than that mentioned in the above procedures may be necessary. This may include, but is not limited to the disposal of sources, LSC standards, and uranium and thorium compounds.
  2. Call Radiation Safety at (512) 471-3511 for disposal information.