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Radioactive Waste Fact Sheet


Radioactive wastes are generated in University laboratories because they are a by-product of research activities involving radioactive sources. It is extremely important to treat these wastes according to applicable permits, regulations and the Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability and Risk (ESSR) procedures to protect faculty, students and staff as well as the environment. ESSR has provided a wall calendar that is posted in each laboratory explaining how waste products must be prepared, stored, and disposed of. In addition, the Hazardous and Controlled Waste Procedures Manual is available ESSR website ( which provides detailed information related to the packaging, labeling, and handling of radioactive wastes. Security of radioactive materials, including waste products is required as directed by the UMD Radiation Safety Manual.

Applicable University Policy

University policy for radiation protection is set by the University Radiation Safety Committee and is outlined in the UMD Radiation Safety Manual. No one may use, bring to or remove from the University any radioisotopes, including radioactive waste products, except by approved methods. Every individual working with radioisotopes, must be approved by the Radiation Safety Officer and/or Radiation Safety Committee, must have appropriate radiation protection training for the material used, and must sign a declaration that these requirements are understood and will be complied with.

Applicable Regulation

COMAR Regulations for the Control of Ionizing Radiation

Summary of Requirements

COMAR regulations require the University to establish a radiation protection program to control the receipt, possession, use, transfer, and disposal of radioactive material. The program is implemented and managed by the Radiation Safety Office in accordance with policies set by the Radiation Safety Committee. The office functions include: Review and Permitting all uses of radioactive material and equipment use; Training; Surveillance and Monitoring; Shipping, Receiving, Tracking and inventory control of radioactive materials; Laboratory Inspections; Personnel Monitoring; and Emergency Response. ESSR provides radioactive waste pick-up and disposal services. The following summarizes the requirements applicable to radioactive waste generated at the University.

  1. General Radioactive Waste Requirements
    1. Complete the online Radioactive Waste Generator Training
    2. Use only radioactive waste containers provided and/or authorized by ESSR. ESSR will not complete radioactive waste pickup requests if material is packaged in unauthorized waste containers.
    3. Keep waste containers closed and properly labeled at all times.
    4. Document the date and activity on the container content sheet each time waste is added.
    5. Each container of radioactive waste is thoroughly inspected before disposal. Improperly packaged containers will be returned to the generator or PI for repackaging.


  2. Separation and Segregation by Waste Stream Category
    1. Dry Solid LLRW shall consist of paper, paper towels, absorbent paper, cardboard, gloves, and liquid-free pipettes contaminated with radioactive material.
      1. 14Carbon and Tritium 3H may be combined in the same container, but not mixed with other isotopes.
      2. All other isotopes (32P, 35S, 125I, etc.) must be packaged separately, by isotope, and not mixed together.
      3. Dry Solid LLRW contaminated by organic or other hazardous chemicals shall be considered to be Mixed LLRW (see 5., below) and shall be stored separately from other Dry Solid LLRW.
      4. Needles, syringes and other sharps, free of contained liquids, and biological materials shall not be combined with Dry Solid LLRW. Waste generators shall supply their own sharps containers. When the sharps containers are full, they should be placed in the appropriate dry solid waste container.
      5. Radioactive warning signs, symbols, tags or labels shall be obliterated, by over-writing with a magic marker, or otherwise defaced prior to disposal. Neither municipal landfills nor private waste disposal companies will accept materials with radiation warnings although the material itself is not measurably radioactive.
      6. Liquids, lead source containers, loose sharp objects, and biohazard bags/labels shall not be disposed in Dry Solid LLRW containers.
    2. Needles, syringes and other sharps contaminated with radioactive material shall be placed in properly labeled "Sharps" containers and segregated by isotope. Radioactive waste generating departments or individuals shall supply their own sharps containers. When the sharps containers are full, they should be placed in the appropriate dry solid waste container.
    3. Radioactive contaminated biological materials, including animal bedding and animal wastes, must be double bagged, sealed with duct tape or similar material, and stored in a freezer while awaiting removal. The bag must be labeled with the contents, generator's name, department, building no., room no., date, isotope, activity and a "caution radioactive material" tag.
    4. Radioactive contaminated etiological material (bacteria, viruses, etc.) must be sterilized prior to disposal or packaged by the generator in such a way that the possibility of microbiological contamination no longer exists. The labeling and packaging procedures are the same as for radioactive biological/pathological waste.
    5. Aqueous LLRW consists of mixtures of water, isotope(s), and non-hazardous chemical material:
      1. Aqueous LLRW shall not be mixed with any organic material.
      2. The pH of aqueous LLRW shall be adjusted, by the user, to between 6.0 and 10.0 pH units prior to disposal.
      3. Isotopes may be combined in the same container.
      4. To prevent spills or leaks, store liquids containers in secondary containment tubs.
      5. Do not fill liquid containers to the top. Always leave 3-4 inches of head space in the container for safe sampling and handling.
    6. Mixed LLRW consists of mixtures of organic chemicals, isotope(s), and other hazardous or non-hazardous materials. Mixed LLRW shall be stored in its own container and not mixed with other LLRW. Do not mix isotopes. Contact ESSR at extension 53990 before generating a mixed waste.
    7. Sealed and Unsealed Sources
      1. Sealed sources consist of radioactive material either encapsulated by a solid material or permanently plated on metal. Unsealed sources are usually liquids or other material not meeting the definition of a sealed source.
      2. Shielding requirements for sealed and unsealed sources are normally met with the original shipping container. If additional shielding is required, it must be commensurate with the radiation emitted.
      3. Sealed and unsealed sources shall not be mixed with any other LLRW. Keep separate and present them to ESSR personnel for disposal as required.
    8. Scintillation Solutions, Cocktails and Vials
      1. In all possible instances, use biodegradable scintillation fluid in place of organic/hazardous based material.
      2. Do not combine vials containing biodegradable scintillation fluid with vials containing organic/hazardous scintillation fluid in the same container.
      3. Segregate vials by isotope, similar to the dry solid waste procedures.
      4. Remove vials from the "egg crate" cartons and ensure the caps are on tight before placing the loose vials in the appropriate container. Dispose of the "egg crate" as domestic trash if they are not contaminated or as dry solid LLRW if contaminated.
      5. Write the brand name of the scintillation fluid on the container contents sheet.


  3. LLRW Disposal Paperwork
    1. Each LLRW container/bag shall be labeled/tagged with the following information: Generator Name, Department, Building, Room, Telephone, Isotope(s), Waste Percentage Composition, Activity, and Date.
    2. Requests for LLRW removal shall be submitted to ESSR; submit a pick-up request, via the University of Maryland Regulated Waste Pick-up Request System, located at:


  4. LLRW Reduction Methods
    1. LLRW shall be managed to ensure that Mixed Wastes are not accidentally produced.
    2. The introduction of an organic (hazardous) chemical, even at low concentrations, could cause a radioactive waste to be classified as a mixed waste. Mixed waste disposal options are very limited and could potentially cost $2,000-$3,000 per gallon.
    3. Principal Investigators, their staff and students, when preparing or engaged in research protocols, need to consider alternatives that will eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals.
    4. To minimize the disposal of non-radioactive waste as radioactive waste, monitor the waste material and only dispose of the contaminated parts as radioactive.
    5. Using short-lived radioactive isotopes whenever possible will drastically reduce the University's disposal costs and overall management responsibilities.


Radioactive Waste training is required for all generators who use radioactive materials. Training should include minimization techniques, LLRW packaging requirements, and specific control methods. Training is located on the ESSR website and is conducted by the ESSR Environmental Affairs Section.


The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), conducts annual compliance inspections of the University's license. The inspection includes monitoring and record checks of the laboratories, procurement, waste disposal and disposition records, qualifications of users and personnel interviews. The Radiation Safety Office conducts quarterly laboratory inspections which include sign and label requirements, waste storage requirements, appropriate protective measures, and radioactive material user requirements.


Authorized users are responsible for keeping records of all disposals so that current inventories reflect actual amounts of isotopes on hand. Authorized users are responsible for their waste material until it is disposed by the Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability and Risk.

As the University stores radioactive waste for 5-10 years, the NRC and MDE impose strict recordkeeping requirements. It is therefore very important that radioactive waste generators fill out the LLRW pickup and removal request form and waste container contents tag completely and accurately.

University Resources

Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability and Risk (301) 405-3960
ESSR Fax No. (301) 314-9294
ESSR Website:
UMD Waste Disposal Guidelines Calendar
Hazardous and Regulated Waste Procedures Manual

Written 5/98
Revised 4/05