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Radioactive Material Disposal: Mixed Waste

Defines "mixed waste" (in the context of rules for radioactive wastes) and summarizes requirements for its disposal in Texas.

“Mixed waste,” as used in Texas statute and rules, refers to waste which contains both hazardous waste and low-level radioactive waste. The low-level radioactive waste component, which is comprised of source material, special nuclear material, or by-product material, is subject to rules and regulations promulgated under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. The hazardous waste component of the mixed waste must be either a “listed waste” and/or exhibit hazardous characteristics described in 40 CFR Part 261, Subpart C. The term can cause confusion when it is used loosely to refer to any waste that has hazardous and radioactive components. Neither the EPA nor Texas definition of mixed waste includes hazardous wastes containing naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) or accelerator produced radioactive materials. Such waste, which has no official name or definition, would not be classified as a mixed waste, but would still be subject to regulation under the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act (TSWDA) and the Texas Radiation Control Act (TRCA). To prevent confusion, the term low-level radioactive mixed waste (LLMW) is used here.

Sources and Volumes of Mixed Waste

The federal government is the largest generator of LLMW. Commercial LLMW volumes generated are very small, approximately two percent, compared to the total volume of LLMW generated or stored by the DOE. Commercially generated LLMW is produced at industrial, hospital, and nuclear power plant facilities. Radioactive and hazardous materials are used in a number of processes such as medical diagnostic testing and research, pharmaceutical and biotechnology development, pesticide research, and in nuclear power plant operations. The hazardous waste components of LLMW include liquid scintillation cocktails, and chlorofluorohydrocarbons, corrosive organics, waste oils, toxic metals (such as discarded lead shielding), and other materials. A low-level radioactive waste that contains hazardous constituents may not necessarily be LLMW, unless the hazardous component is a "listed waste" and/or exhibits hazardous characteristics as stated above.

Jurisdiction over Mixed Waste in Texas

Once a waste is determined to be LLMW, waste managers in Texas must comply with both the TSWDA and TRCA and 30 TAC Chapters 335Exit the TCEQ and 336Exit the TCEQ. As a RCRA delegated program, the TCEQ has the authority to control hazardous waste from “cradle to grave.” The requirements of the radiation and hazardous waste programs are generally consistent and compatible. However, the radiation program takes precedence in the event provisions of the two programs are found to be inconsistent (EPA OSWER Directive 9541.00-6)Exit the TCEQ.

LLMW is regulated jointly by the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), Radiation ControlExit the TCEQ(use, possession, treatment and storage of the radioactive component) and the TCEQ (all regulation of the hazardous component and disposal only of the radioactive component).

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