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Radioactive Waste Disposal: Materials That Are Exempt or Below Regulatory Concern

Information about materials that are radioactive but do not require special handling, care, or are subject to regulations. Links to related webpages and contacts at the appropriate agencies.

Some radioactive materials do not need special handling for one or more reasons. Types of radioactive material that fall into this category include:

TCEQ Regulatory Guide application/pdfRG-486, Radioactive Material Exemptions UPDATE(revised July 2022) has information about disposing of material that contains radioactivity that is exempt from the radioactive material regulations.

Medical and Research Wastes

Many radioisotopes used in medical treatment or for research are chosen for these uses because they decay relatively quickly. These wastes are typically stored on site until the radioisotopes have decayed sufficiently to be disposed of in a Type I municipal solid waste facility or a hazardous waste facility. For more on these radioisotopes, see Title 30, Texas Administrative Code, Section 336.365Exit the TCEQ.

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 can be found in 30 TAC 336.359Exit the TCEQ.

Soils Containing Low Concentrations of Radium

Radium has specific regulatory limits because of 1) its prevalence in the environment and 2) its ability to decay to radon gas, which might result in a significant dose to individuals if they breathe this gas. The limits for radium-226 and radium-228 in soil are found in 30 TAC 336.356Exit the TCEQ. 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
  • 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 exempt from licensing in the Texas Radiation Control rules (25 TAC Chapter 289Exit the TCEQ). The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Radiation Control ProgramExit the TCEQ administers these rules.

To find out if a particular radioactive material is exempt from these rules, see the TCEQ Regulatory Guide application/pdfRG-486, Radioactive Material Exemptions UPDATE(revised July 2022). You can also review the requirements in 25 TAC Section 289.251Exit the TCEQ

For questions about use, processing, treatment, or storage of exempt radioactive materials, call the DSHS Radiation Control Program at 512-834-6688.

In some cases, you or your business may possess soil or debris that contains small quantities of radioactive material. In these cases, you can request an exemption from the TCEQ Radioactive Materials Division to allow you to dispose of the material at a licensed hazardous waste facility.

If the material is exempt from these regulations and is not considered hazardous for other reasons, you can dispose of it as an industrial or municipal solid waste.

Contact the Radioactive Materials Division if you have any questions.