Radioactive Waste


To schedule a pickup of radioactive waste on either campus or the Boston Medical Center, use this form.

Management Guide

There are four commonly used methods of waste disposal: release to the environment through the sanitary sewer or by evaporative release; decay-in-storage (DIS); transfer to a burial site or back to the manufacturer; and release to in-house waste. With the exception of patient excreta, records of the disposal of all licensed material will be maintained.

General Guidance
  1. All radioactivity labels must be defaced or removed from containers and packages prior to disposal in in-house waste. If waste is compacted, all labels that are visible in the compacted mass must be defaced or removed.
  2. Employees will be reminded that non-radioactive waste such as leftover reagents, boxes, and packing material should not be mixed with radioactive waste.
  3. Occasionally, we will monitor all procedures to ensure that radioactive waste is not created unnecessarily. We will review all new procedures to ensure that waste is handled in a manner consistent with established procedures.
  4. In all cases, we will consider the entire impact of various available disposal routes. We will consider occupational and public exposure to radiation, other hazards associated with the material and routes of disposal (e.g., toxicity, carcinogenicity, pathogenicity, flammability), and expense.
Procedure for the disposal of liquids and gases
  • Liquids may be disposed of by release to the sanitary sewer or evaporative release to the atmosphere provided that such releases comply with other regulations regarding toxic or hazardous properties of these materials.
  • Regulations for disposal in the sanitary sewer appear in 105 CMR 120.253. Material must be readily soluble or dispersible in the water. We establish daily and monthly limits based on the total sanitary sewerage released from our facility. (Excreta from patients undergoing medical diagnosis or therapy is exempt from all the above limitations.)  We make a record of the date, radionuclide, estimated activity that was released (in millicuries or microcuries), and of the sink at which the material was released.
  • Liquid scintillation-counting media containing 0.05 microcurie per gram of H-3 or C-14 will be disposed of without regard to its radioactivity (105 CMR120.255). We will make a record of the date, radionuclide, estimated activity (in millicuries or microcuries), calculated concentration in microcuries per gram, and how the material was disposed of.
  • Limits on permissible concentrations in effluents to unrestricted areas are enumerated in Table II of Appendix B to 105 CMR 120.296. These limits apply at the boundary of the restricted area. We will make a record of the date, radionuclide, estimated activity that was released (in millicuries or microcuries) and estimated concentration, and of the vent site at which the material was released.
Procedure for Disposal by Decay-In-Storage (DIS)
  • Short-lived material (physical half-life less than 65 days) may be disposed of by DIS. We separate radioactive material according to half-life.
  • We use one container for all DIS waste. Because the waste will be surveyed with all shielding removed, the containers in which waste will be disposed of must not provide any radiation shielding for the material.
  • When the container is full, seal it with string or tape and attach an identification tag that includes the date sealed, the longest-lived radioisotope in the container, and the initials of the person sealing the container. The container may then be transferred to the DIS area.
  • Decay the material for at least 10 half-lives.
  • Prior to disposal as in-house waste, monitor each container as follows:
    1. Check your radiation detection survey meter for proper operation
    2. Plan to monitor in a low-level (less than 0.05 millirem per hour) area
    3. Remove any shielding from around the container
    4. Monitor all surfaces of each individual container
  • Discard as in-house waste only those containers that cannot be distinguished from background. Record the date on which the container was sealed, the disposal date, and type of material (e.g., paraphernalia, unused dosages). Check to be sure no radiation labels are visible.
  • Containers that can be distinguished from background radiation levels must be returned to the storage area for further decay or transferred for burial.

If possible, Mo-99/Tc-99m generators should be held 60 days before being dismantled because of the occasional presence of a long-lived contaminant. When dismantling generators, keep a radiation detection survey meter (preferably with a speaker) at the work area. Dismantle the oldest generator first, then work forward chronologically. Hold each individual column in contact with the radiation detection survey meter in a low-background (less than 0.05 mR/hr) area. Log the generator date and disposal date for your waste disposal records. Remove or deface the radiation labels on the generator shield.

Procedure for Transfer for Burial

Except for material suitable for DIS and some animal carcasses, solids must be transferred to a burial site. We follow the packaging instructions received from the transfer agent and the burial site operator. For our record of disposal, we keep the consignment sheet that the transfer agent gives us.

Procedure for Release to In-House Waste

Waste from in vitro kits that are generally licensed is exempt from waste disposal regulations. Radioactive labels should be defaced or removed. We do not keep any record of release or make any measurement.  Radioactive waste in patient excretions is exempt from waste disposal requirements and is therefore released.

Procedure for Returning Generators to the Manufacturer
  • Used Mo-99/Tc-99m generators are returned to the manufacturer according to the requirements specified in 105CMR 120.775 and 10 CFR Part 71 and Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations.
  • Retain the records needed to demonstrate that the package qualifies as a DOT Specification 7A container (105CMR 120.256).
  • Assemble the package in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Perform the dose rate and removable contamination measurements required by paragraphs 120.785 (H), (I), and (J).
  • Label the package and complete the shipping papers in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.