Radioactive Waste Disposal Guidelines


Table of Contents

Dry Solid Radioactive Waste

  • Containers
  • Shielding of Containers
  • Waste Disposal Records
  • Prohibited Disposals
  • Liquid Radioactive Waste Liquid Scintillation Waste Animal Waste



    The Radiation Safety Section provides containers for the disposal of dry solid radioactive waste to all radionuclide projects using unsealed radioactive material.  The container consists of a 23 gallon plastic Rubbermaid base with a plastic liner and lid.  The base and lid are labeled with radiation warning signs and other important information.  Separate containers are provided for short-lived (half-lives of 90 days or less) and long-lived radioactive waste (half-lives greater than 90 days).  The plastic bags that line the containers and the labels on the container and lid are color coded green for short-lived waste and yellow for long-lived waste.

    Small bench top containers may also be used for the collection of dry solid radioactive waste provided the following precautions are taken:

    Shielding of Waste Containers

    The dry solid radioactive waste container is made of 1/8 inch thick linear low density polyethylene, which has a density of about 0.9 grams per cubic centimeter.  It is thick enough to stop beta particles below about  600 keV including those from C-14, S-35, and Ca-45.  Some of the more energetic beta particles from P-32 will penetrate the container, but will emerge with a reduced energy.  If needed, a properly sized waste container beta shield is available from Nalgene dealers.  A photograph of the shield is provided below.  Contact your favorite Nalgene dealer (e.g., Fischer Scientific) for pricing information.

        Nalgene 6745-9024 waste container shield.

    Waste Disposal Records

    Each disposal of radioactive waste must be entered on the log form provided by the Radiation Safety Section, and entries must be reasonably accurate.   Disposal information must be summarized and reported on the Monthly Radionuclide Inventory Reports.

    Prohibited Disposals

    The following items may never be placed in a dry solid radioactive waste container:


    Sink Disposals

    Low level liquid radioactive waste may be poured down approved laboratory sinks if all of the following requirements are satisfied:

    Prohibited Sink Disposals

    The following radioactive liquids may not be discharged into the sewer system:


    Liquid scintillation fluids (cocktails) can be broadly categorized by the solvents they contain.

    Traditional Fluids

    Traditional fluids contain toluene, xylene, pseudocumene, and other low flash point hydrocarbon solvents that are categorized as flammable liquids.  Most of these solvents are also recognized by the EPA as hazardous for the purpose of waste disposal.  They evaporate readily and can cause fire, explosion, and inhalation hazards.  Traditional scintillation fluids may NOT be disposed of by sewer, but must be disposed of by transferring them to the Radiation Safety Section.  While their use is not prohibited, it is discouraged.

    "Biodegradable" and "Nontoxic" Fluids

    Some of the newer scintillation fluids contain solvents such as DIN (di-isopropylnaphthalene), PXE (1-phenyl-1-xylylethane), and LAB (linear dodecyl benzene or linear alkylbenzene).  These solvents have higher flash points, which reduces the potential for causing fires and explosions.  They are also safer for laboratory personnel to handle because they have much lower toxicity.  Because most of these fluids are biodegradable and are not categorized as hazardous by the EPA, sewage disposal is allowed.  Use of these types of scintillation fluids, and subsequent sewage disposal,  is encouraged.

    Approved Disposal Method for Traditional Fluids

    Traditional fluids must be disposed of as hazardous waste.  The Radiation Safety Section will collect scintillation vials and bulk fluids after they are properly categorized and packaged.  Packaging instructions are found on the scintillation waste disposal form.

    Approved Disposal Method for Biodegradable and Nontoxic Fluids

    A large number of scintillation fluids that are marketed by the manufacturers as biodegradable or nontoxic were evaluated by the EHSO's Radiation Safety Section and the Health and Safety Section.  Fluids that meet the following criteria may be poured directly down approved laboratory sinks.

    Sink Disposal Criteria Sink Disposal Instructions
  • Be sure the scintillation fluid meets the sink disposal criteria (above).
  • Make disposals only in sinks that are approved for disposal of liquid radioactive waste (posted by the Radiation Safety Section).
  • Wear disposable laboratory gloves and a lab coat.
  • Turn on the water to a moderate flow rate.
  • Slowly pour the scintillation fluid directly down the drain hole of the sink.  It may be useful to pour the liquid into the drain using a a funnel with plastic tubing supported by a ring stand.  Make sure the tubing is inserted at least 6 inches into the sink drain.
  • Thoroughly rinse each emptied vial with water and drain any residual liquid from the vials.  More thorough decontamination is recommended if vials will be recycled.
  • If a funnel and tubing is used for disposals, rinse them thoroughly when done.
  • Let the water flow for at least 5 minutes after the disposal.  Do not leave sinks with running water unattended.
  • Make a reasonably accurate entry on the sewage disposal log form by the sink and record the disposal on the next inventory report in the sewage disposal column.
  • If the vials will be discarded as waste, vials that contained H-3 and C-14 in concentrations of less than 0.05 microcurie per milliliter have been deregulated by the IDNS and may be disposed of as ordinary trash.  Vials that contained other radionuclides or that contained H-3 or C-14 in excess of 0.05 microcurie per milliliter must be placed in a radioactive waste disposal container.  Enter a nominal value of 0.01 microcurie of the appropriate radionuclide(s) on the solid waste disposal log for every 100 vials placed in the container.

    The following fluids were evaluated and are approved for sink disposal at UIC.
    Amersham BCS NBCS104 Designed for counting a wide variety of aqueous, inorganic, and organic samples at high capacities.
    Amersham BCS NA NBCS204 Efficient counting of non-aqueous samples.
    Beckman Ready Safe 158735
    Multipurpose with high counting efficiency.
    Fisher Scientific Scintiverse BD Cocktail 60803 SX18 250
    SX18 4
    Universal cocktail for aqueous, non-aqueous, and emulsion counting systems.
    Fisher Scientific ScintiSafe Econo 1
    SX20 5


    Best at ambient temperatures for aqueous samples, dilute salt and buffer solutions, acids and bases, density gradients.
    Fisher Scientific ScintiSafe Econo 2
    SX21 5
    As for ScintiSafe Econo 1, but performs well above and below ambient temperatures.
    Fisher Scientific ScintiSafe Econo R
    SX22 5
    100% organic samples, dry filters, as an alternative to Toluene/PPO.
    Fisher Scientific ScintiSafe 30%
    SX23 5
    High efficiency for swipe tests, dilute salt and buffer solutions, tritium counting.
    Fisher Scientific ScintiSafe Gel
    SX24 5
    SX24 Sample
    Suspension particle counting, TLC scrapings, soil samples, density gradients, biological samples.
    Fisher Scientific ScintiSafe Plus 50% SX25 5
    Large volumes of aqueous sample, miniaturization, strong alkaline samples, wet filter counting for receptor binding assays
    ICN EcoLume 880020 Aqueous and organic samples such as deionized water, phosphate buffered saline, PBS with gelatin or BSA, sucrose gradients, salt solution, 0.1N HCl, 0.1 N NaOH, etc.
    ICN EcoLite(+) 882453 Exceptional water and salt holding characteristics, and for difficult to count RIA samples, basic samples, phosphate buffers, and biological fluids. High H-3 and C-14 counting efficiencies.
    ICN Universol ES 882470 Gelling cocktail with physical characteristics of "triton and toluene" type cocktails.
    ICN CytoScint ES 882475 One-step counting of filters, TLC scrapings, and samples solublized in hyamine hydroxide.
    ICN BetaMax ES 882480 Beta particle counting in non-aqueous samples, samples dried on solid supports, and organic samples extracted from aqueous mixtures
    National Diagnostics Ecoscint LS-271 Aqueous and non-aqueous samples.
    National Diagnostics Ecoscint A LS-273 High efficiency for aqueous samples, resistance to photo- and chemiluminescence, biological samples, acrylamide gel slices.
    National Diagnostics Ecoscint O LS-274 Non-aqueous samples, lower background, improved quench resistance compared with non biodegradable solutions.
    National Diagnostics Ecoscint H LS-275 High efficiency for aqueous sample volumes under 10% of total sample volume, resistance to photo- and chemiluminescence, biological samples, acrylamide gel slices.
    National Diagnostics Uniscint BD LS-276 Accommodates high salt and buffer samples, non-gelling, suitable for use in on-line HPLC flow detectors.
    National Diagnostics Monoflow 5 LS-285 Nontoxic, biodegradable scintillator for flow detectors (ratios of 3:1).
    Packard Ultima Gold 6013329
    (2 x 5 liters)
    Very high counting efficiency, high capacity, for aqueous or non-aqueous samples, high quench resistance.
    Packard Ultima Gold XR 6013119
    (2 x 5 liters)
    Extended range of sample holding capacity, high quench resistance, high counting efficiency.
    Packard Ultima Gold LLT 6013377
    (4 x 2.5 liters)
    High water capacity, high counting efficiency, very low background levels, for bioassay of urine, high heavy metal sample capacity.
    Packard Ultima Gold MV 6013329
    (2 x 5 liters)
    Fast and easy sample mixing, high counting efficiency, ideal for counting small volumes, vortexing and counting wet glass fiber filters.
    Packard Ultima Gold F 6013179
    (2 x 5 liters)
    High counting efficiencies for dried filters, filter mats and organic samples, alpha and beta LSC counting.
    Packard Ultima Gold AB 6013309
    (2 x 5 liters)
    Excellent alpha/beta discrimination, excellent for strong mineral acids, high quench resistance, high sample capacity.
    Packard Opti-Fluor 6013199
    (2 x 5 liters)
    Multi-purpose cocktail, low photo and chemiluminescence.
    Packard Opti-Fluor O 6013339
    (2 x 5 liters)
    Non-aqueous organic samples.
    Packard Poly-Fluor 6013279
    (2 x 5 liters)
    Economical sample counting.
    Packard Ultima-Flo M 6013579
    (2 x 5 liters)


    (20 liters)
    Multi-Purpose flow cocktail, high counting efficiency, low viscosity, non-gelling.
    Packard/ Ultima-Flo AF 6013589
    (2 x 5 liters)
    Specifically formulated for ammonium formate, high counting efficiency, low viscosity, non-gelling.
    Research Products
    Bio-Safe II 111195
    Aqueous solutions, salt/buffer solutions, biological materials, organic solutions, wet filters.
    Research Products
    Bio-Safe NA 111198
    Highest efficiency when counting organic miscible samples and dry filters.
    Research Products
    Econo-Safe 111175
    General purpose cocktail for aqueous and non-aqueous samples.
    Wallac OptiScint HiSafe II 1200-434 Suitable for all organic samples
    Wallac OptiPhase HiSafe 2 1200-436 General purpose cocktail with a moderate to high sample holding capacity for a wide range of aqueous and non-aqueous solutes.
    Wallac OptiPhase HiSafe 3 1200-437 Capable of handling a broad range of solutes, very high level of sample acceptance particularly for high ionic strength solutes.
    Wallac OptiPhase Hi-Load 1200-438 No description available
    Wallac OptiPhase SuperMix 1200-439 For use with microtitration plates.
    Wallac OptiPhase TriSafe 1200-440 High solute uptake and low background, ideal for extended counting times.
    Wallac Betaplate Scint 1205-440 For samples harvested or spotted onto filter membranes.

    Excluded Materials

    The following liquids may NOT be included with scintillation waste.

    Animal Waste

    Animal waste that is contaminated with radioactive material should be placed in opaque plastic bags and kept frozen until collected by the Radiation Safety Section.   Each bag should be labeled with the radionuclide, activity, and date.  Never put animal waste, tissue samples, or objects contaminated with blood, urine, or feces into dry solid waste containers.  Chapter 5, Section 5.10, of the UIC Radiation Safety Manual contains addtional information.  Projects that are authorized to use radioactive material in animals have detailed instructions for waste disposal in their project authorization documents.