Concerns and Options for Generators of Radioactive Waste
If you suspect that your property might be contaminated with radioactive material, contact a qualified consultant to get answers to these questions:
- Is it really radioactive?
- If so, how radioactive is it?
- Are buildings, equipment, or both contaminated?
- Is soil, groundwater, or both contaminated?
Continue reading to find out how answering these questions will help you determine the actions you must take.
Find a Qualified Consultant
Look on the Web or in the Yellow Pages for a radiological consultant or an environmental consulting company that specializes in performing surveys for radioactive material. Some items that you might check include:
Ask for the resumes of individuals who would be working on your project. It would be desirable that the individuals are trained in health physics and have practical experience.
Seek a company that has worked on a site similar to yours — that is, a site that has the same types and concentrations of radionuclides in the same media (e.g., air, water, soil, slag).
- Obtain references from the consultant. Call several of these references to determine the consultant’s strengths and weaknesses.
Is the Contamination Radioactive?
To find out whether radioactive contamination is present, your consultant should conduct a thorough survey of your property. In this survey, the consultant should:
- Conduct a radiation dose survey.
- Survey for "fixed" and "removable" contamination.
- Collect soil and water samples for laboratory analysis.
After completing this investigation, the consultant should advise you about the steps to take next. To an extent, those steps depend on what is contaminated.
How Radioactive Is the Contamination?
The answer to this question is crucial. In some cases, the radioactive waste could be exempted from licensing and not require special handling. But some radionuclides, such as thorium-232, can be hazardous even when present in the environment at very low levels.
The surveys and samples obtained by your consultant should provide our staff or the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Radiation Control Program with the necessary information to determine whether the site will require licensing and cleanup. The cost and extent of the cleanup will depend primarily on the types of radionuclides involved and their level of radioactivity.
Depending on the level and form of the waste, the cleanup could require continuous air monitoring, special protective clothing, and respiratory protection. Only trained radiation workers should work under these conditions, and then only while being closely monitored by experienced radiation safety personnel. But before cleanup can begin, the appropriate Texas regulatory agency must be contacted. Which agency is contacted would depend on what was contaminated.
Is Soil, Groundwater, or Both Contaminated?
If environmental samples are collected, analyzed, and found to have contamination above background radionuclide activities, you or your consultant should contact our staff. Working with a TCEQ project coordinator, your consultant will guide you through the process of categorizing and properly disposing of any radioactive waste generated during the investigation and then decommissioning or remediating the site.
Are Buildings, Equipment, or Both Contaminated?
The DSHS has the authority to inspect buildings, facilities, or equipment that might have become contaminated above “unrestricted release” limits. If the survey finds contamination in these areas, work with DSHS to clear the problem.
To properly dispose of radioactive waste generated in the cleanup of contaminated structures, you must first determine its category.
If you have any questions, contact our Radioactive Material Licensing Team.