Radioactive Waste Disposal: Materials That Are Exempt or Below Regulatory Concern
Some radioactive materials do not need special handling or disposal for one or more reasons. Types of radioactive wastes that fall into this category include:
- Some short-lived medical and research wastes
- Small quantities of radionuclides in effluents
- Soils containing low concentrations of radium
- Items specifically exempted by Texas regulations
A regulatory guide is available at this link concerning the disposal of exempt material (material that contains radioactivity which is exempt from the radioactive material regulations).
Medical and Research Wastes
Many radioisotopes used in medical treatment or for research purposes are chosen because they decay relatively quickly. These wastes are typically stored on site until the radioisotope has decayed sufficiently to be disposed in a Type I municipal solid waste facility or a hazardous waste facility. For a list of these radioisotopes and their allowed activities, see Title 30, Texas Administrative Code (30 TAC), Section 336.365.
Small Quantities of Radionuclides in Effluents
Some processes that involve the use or treatment of radioactive material can result in small amounts of the material being discharged to the environment. Safe levels for the discharge of these radionuclides to air, water, and sanitary sewers are established in 30 TAC Section 336.359.
Soils Containing Low Concentrations of Radium
Radium is provided its own control limits because of its prevalence in the environment and its ability to decay to radon gas, which might result in a significant dose to the lungs of individuals if they breathe this gas. To protect individuals from exposure to radon, 30 TAC Section 336.356 establishes limits for radium-226 and radium-228 in soil. These limits are based on dry weight and may be averaged over any 100 square meters of area:
- 5 picocuries/gram (pCi/g), averaged over the first 15 centimeters of soil below the surface
- 15 pCi/g, averaged over each 15-centimeter-thick layer of soil below the first 15 centimeters below the surface
- for radium-226 or radium-228 in vegetation, 5 pCi/g based on dry weight.
Items Specifically Exempted by Texas Regulations
Smoke detectors, vacuum tubes, and other specific items are listed as being exempt from licensing in the Texas Radiation Control rules ( 25 TAC Chapter 289). The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Radiation Control Program is responsible for administering these rules. To help you find out whether a particular radioactive material is exempt from these rules, the TCEQ has provided a regulatory guide, "Disposal of Exempt Waste That Contains Radioactive Material." You may also review the requirements listed in 25 TAC Section 289.251. For questions dealing with use, processing, treatment, or storage of exempt radioactive materials call the DSHS Radiation Control Program at 512/834-6688.
In some cases, a business or individual may possess soil or debris that contains small quantities of radioactive material. In these cases, owners may write to the DSHS to request an exemption to allow the material to be disposed of at a licensed hazardous waste facility.
Contact us if you have any questions.