When people hear the word radioactive, most will automatically think of nuclear power. While they are not wrong, there are other classifications of radioactive waste out there that are regulated and also need to be properly disposed of. Getting a better understanding of what those radioactive wastes are, why they must be disposed of properly, how they are categorized and transported, and the regulations in place for disposing of them is the best way to ensure that your corporation is following the proper guidelines when it comes time for disposal. The goal of this article is to share our insight on radioactive waste disposal, along with some of the important factors that compose it. If you are looking for a radioactive waste disposal service that you can trust, look no further than our own Environmental Marketing Services. To give you a better idea of what exactly goes in to the process of radioactive waste disposal, we have outlined the basics of radioactive waste disposal (RAD) below.
What is radioactive waste and why must it be disposed of properly?
By definition, radioactive waste management includes the possession, transportation, handling, storage, and ultimate disposal of waste.
As mentioned earlier, nuclear power plants are not the only industry that creates radioactive wastes. In fact, there are many industries where radioactive waste is a common byproduct that has to be disposed of using certain methods. Some of these industries include particle research, space research, medicine, oil and gas, mining – the list continues. Not all of these radioactive materials are produced inside a nuclear reactor, but rather are naturally occuring. Whichever kind they are, all radioactive wastes have something in common.
An interesting characteristic of all radioactive wastes – one that sets them apart from the rest of the toxic industrial wastes out there – is the fact that their radioactivity actively decays and diminishes over time. Radioactive wastes are categorized based upon a scale of high, intermediate, or low radiation. This categorization helps industries determine how those particular wastes are to be treated, and where they end up for disposal. For instance, high-level radioactive wastes would require a shielding and cooling method for proper disposal, while low-level radioactive wastes can be transported and handled without any shielding.
The majority of the radioactive waste that Environmental Marketing Services deals with is low-level waste, which is typically made up of paper, plastic, gloves, cloth and filters which contain small amounts of radioactivity. Two of the most common places we manage radioactive waste for are medical facilities (hospitals, doctor offices, etc.) and school or laboratory settings.
It is important to ensure that your corporation is following all of the necessary guidelines and regulations when disposing of radioactive waste, otherwise, they may be greatly penalized and fined for incorrect disposal.
What are some examples of radioactive waste?
The list of radioactive wastes that can be produced by a variety of industries is an extensive one. At Environmental Marketing Services, we specialize in the waste management and disposal of the following radioactive materials:
- Uranium and thorium compounds (acetate, nitrate) Thorium is also used to coat tungsten filaments used in electronic devices, such as television sets.
- Smoke detectors
- Biological material (animals, specimens; such as those used in laboratory and school laboratory settings)
- Tritium exit signs (red exit signs often seen in public places)
- Sealed Sources (Calibration sources, Medical sources & devices, Nuclear Gages)
- Scintillation fluid (A scintillation counter detects and measures ionizing forms of radiation on scintillator material–in this case–scintillation fluid)
- Electronic equipment containing radioactive sources
- Solid or Liquid mixed waste
- Radiolabeled Pharmaceuticals (the act of radiolabeling pharmaceuticals allows for chemists to more easily track how drugs under development are being metabolized in the body)
- Radioactive standards and solutions
- Radioactive scintillation vials
- Water Treatment Resins (often used for water softening and water purification processes)
What are NORMs and TENORMs and where can they be typically found?
NORM stands for Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material, and TENORM stands for Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material. NORM includes the majority of radioactive elements that can be found naturally in the environment. Typically, though, NORM is used to identify natural radioactive materials where exposure to humans is more likely compared to an unaltered existence. Radioactive elements like uranium, thorium and potassium and their decay products, radium and radon, are examples of NORM. These elements have always been present in the earth or in the earth’s atmosphere, and are concentrated in some places–for instance, uranium ore bodies–which can be mined.
TENORM is used to refer to the materials where the amount of original radioactivity becomes increased or more concentrated as a result of industrial processes (i.e., mining, combustion, oil and gas production).
Typical sources of NORM and TENORM waste include:
- Oil and Gas industry
- Geothermal energy production
- Coal combustion
- Mining of uranium and metals
- Phosphate production
- Municipal water treatment
- Abandoned mines and processing facilities
- General manufacturing
What is Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW)?
According to the World Nuclear Association, 97% of all radioactive waste produced is classified as low-level waste.
Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) loosely refers to radioactive wastes that contain very small concentrations of radionuclides. Some examples of radionuclides include Radium-226, Cesium-137, and Strontium-90.
In low-level radioactive waste situations, the concentrations of radioactivity are minimal enough that public and environmental health protections may not require in-depth methods of waste disposal that would otherwise be necessary to manage materials with higher levels of radioactivity. Radioactivity refers to the emission of ionizing radiation released from a source in a given time.
Environmental Marketing Service’s LLRW disposal services include the following:
- Class A, B, and C Low-Level Radioactive Waste
- Low-Level radioactive waste is typically divided into three classes: Class A, Class B, and Class C. Class A is considered to be the least radioactive, and Class C is considered to be the most radioactive. What this essentially means is that Class A low-level radioactive waste can be deposited and stored near the surface, while Classes B and C LLRW must be buried progressively deeper below the surface.
- Mixed LLRW treated to Non-Hazardous levels (contains both radioactive and hazardous waste components; wastes containing natural radioactivity).
- Radium/beryllium and other sealed sources
- High activity radium waste
How are Radioactive Wastes transported?
As important as proper radioactive waste disposal is to ensure the safety of the population and our environment, correctly transporting these radioactive materials is just as important. The primary way to assure that nuclear materials are transported safely is by making sure they are packaged correctly.
Each and every day, radioactive materials are used in industries such as medicine, power generation, research, and product quality testing. In order for these industries to properly meet their needs, radioactive material has to be shipped from one location to another. This is where special training, labeling, and packaging are crucial. These routine practices help to keep the regular transportation of radioactive materials safe, and also to reduce the possibility of exposure in the case of an accident.
Special regulations regarding the transport of radioactive materials across the United States were put in place by the Postal Service in 1939. Ever since then, stringent shipping, labeling, and packaging rules and regulations have been kept in place to prevent radioactive materials from spilling, even if there should be a bad accident.
Not only that, but the routes in which radioactive materials are shipped have been chosen carefully and kept under close monitoring. Any and all operators responsible for transferring radioactive shipments have to be trained in radiation emergency safety protocol, as well as have a basic knowledge of radiation science. The Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees all safety and security of radioactive materials during the shipping process. This consists of rules for all methods of shipping, including by highway, rail, air and sea. The DOT’s Office of Hazardous Materials Safety is responsible for writing these rules, and works closely with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to keep shipments safe.
In addition to nationwide regulations monitored closely by the DOT, each individual state has a radiation protection program, and are also in control of the transportation of hazardous materials within their state borders.
How can EMS help?
At Environmental Marketing Services, we offer a variety of radioactive waste management and disposal services. We have been in the industry of waste disposal for 90 years, so you could say we are experts at what we do! We make use of a wide network of radioactive waste disposal facilities across the United States; that way, you can rest assured that your corporation is in full and complete compliance with all Department of Transportation regulations in addition to any federal, state, and local regulations. All of our radioactive waste transporters are certified on all Department of Transportation training, and are in compliance with all federal, state, and local regulations. We always adhere to any and all safety protocols, while also helping to reduce customer liability.
We hope that this breakdown of the main points your corporation needs to know about properly managing and disposing of radioactive wastes was helpful! In order to avoid violating any rules, regulations, or protocols set in place for correct radioactive waste disposal, it is important that your corporation understands what exactly they need to be doing to follow regulations. If you are looking for proper radioactive waste disposal services for your corporation, you can rest assured that our team at Environmental Marketing Services has all of the information you need to know, with extensive experience to back it up. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you have more questions, or are interested in working with us.