Acquisition, storage and disposal of radioactive materials

You must follow specific processes for acquiring, storing and disposing of radioactive material.

Ordering

You must submit a radiation project application or amendment before you purchase any new radioactive material, class 3B or 4 laser, x-ray instrument or transilluminator. Some facilities may require modifications to accommodate certain radionuclide activity levels or types of equipment. For repeat orders of radioactive materials already covered by an existing project it is only necessary for you to inform the local Radiation Safety Supervisor (RSS) to ensure activity limits for the location are not exceeded.

Importing

If you’re ordering radioactive materials from overseas, you must obtain an import permit from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). Failure to obtain a permit will result in the shipment being held by Customs. Complete the relevant form (leaving licensee name and licence number fields blank) and submit it to the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO). The RSO will provide the University licence details and submit the form to ARPANSA. Payment is to be made by the group/department ordering the radionuclide(s).

Storage and usage

Every radiation laboratory is registered with the State regulatory authority to store or use a maximum activity of radioactive material or make use of a specific laser, x-ray or transilluminator. The RSS will have a copy of the registered limits and equipment. Inform the RSO and local RSS immediately if radioisotopes in excess of the registered activity limits or new equipment is to be stored, used or moved to another University area not already approved on an existing project. In such an instance you must submit a radiation project application or amendment.

Records and receipts

You must keep and regularly update records following the movement of radioactive substances and radiation equipment. Records must detail the properties of the substances or equipment, supplier, arrival date, use details, disposal method and disposal date. You should include comments on the form of packaging and perhaps the quality of the packaging. Obtain signed receipts where possible.

Facility requirements

Laboratories containing radioactive materials, x-ray instruments or class 3B or 4 lasers must comply with legislative requirements. The requirements can be quite extensive and may depend upon the work conducted there. Contact the University Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) before you establish any new facility. You must still gain approval for each project even if the project is within an established facility.

Requirements for radioisotope facilities

All laboratories using radioactive materials must be approved for use by the WA State Government Regulator before any work is conducted. The Regulator will assess the architectural, plumbing and ventilation plans for the laboratory to decide if the laboratory is suitable for radioactive materials work. Architectural, plumbing or ventilation changes can be time consuming and costly, so contact the RSO to begin the approval process many months before work commencing in case the Regulator requires changes.

Requirements for laser facilities

Laser facility requirements are detailed in the Radiation Safety (General) Regulations 1983 and refer to Australian Standard AS/NZS 2211.1:2004 for specific items. Allow time before work commencing to ensure these requirements are met. In some cases it may take a few months to arrange for the laboratory to have the appropriate security and safety systems in place.

Requirements for x-ray facilities

Rooms containing x-ray generating instruments, whether for analysis or diagnostic purposes, may require walls and windows to have appropriate shielding. The WA State Government Regulator must approve the plans for the facility prior to work commencing. The room where the apparatus is located and the surrounding area may also be required to undergo a three month radiation survey when work begins, or at any other time as specified by the Regulator, to confirm radiation levels are below the legislated limits.

Disposal

If any radioactive material, class 3B or 4 laser, x-ray instrument or transilluminator is to be disposed of or moved to another organisation, you must inform the RSO and local RSS so they can update the registration details. The method of disposal depends on the type of material or equipment. For disposal of radioactive materials it may be necessary to store them to allow for radioactive decay. If so, Curtin has a Radiation Waste Storage facility for this purpose – contact the RSO for access. The group/department disposing of the radioactive materials or radiation equipment is responsible for the costs of disposal.

Methods of disposal

Disposal of radiation equipment

Final disposal of any irradiating apparatus or electronic product must be carried out by a licensed service person in accordance with the methods below:

  • X-ray equipment
    At minimum the x-ray tube must be disabled, by eliminating the vacuum inside the x-ray tube by physically breaking the glass envelope, and the high-tension cables must be severed, to render the equipment inoperable. It would also be preferable to remove the circuit board controlling the high voltage generator where possible.
  • Lasers
    Removing the power supply (by severing the cord) and removing the critical optical components and the amplifying medium to render the equipment inoperable.
  • Transilluminators
    Removing the power supply (by severing the cord) and removing the UV lights from the unit and destroying them will render the equipment inoperable.

Disposal of liquid radioactive waste (water soluble)

Liquid radioactive waste is best disposed of via the sewer system. Such waste must only be disposed of via flushing sinks connected to approved radioactive drains provided for this purpose.

Ensure that the activity per flush is below the legal dilution concentration limit for each radionuclide and that the waste complies with the Water Corporation’s ‘Acceptance criteria for trade waste’.

Disposal of sealed, solid or liquid (non-soluble) radioactive waste

Segregation

You must segregate waste according to the radionuclide and the type of waste. For example:

  • Sealed sources
  • Biological material (e.g. food, animal carcasses)
  • Sharps (e.g. syringes, broken glass)
  • Scintillation cocktail from counting tubes
  • General laboratory waste (e.g. gloves, paper towels)

Long-lived radionuclides must not exceed the following activity box limits:

Long-lived RadionuclideBox Limit 
MBqmCi
3 H481300
14 C3.492
36 Cl2.259

Packaging

Seal solid waste in a red plastic bag. Other liquid waste must be sealed in a screw top bottle or vial before being sealed in a red plastic bag. Any sharps, such as needles or broken glass, must be enclosed in a hard container (metal tin or plastic sharps container).

The red plastic bag or hard container must be placed in a cardboard box or multi-walled paper bag with the words ‘Radioactive material’ printed clearly on the outside.

The box or bag must then be sealed with tape that is suitable for storage (50 mm wide masking tape is commonly used).

Labelling

Label the waste box or bag with the type of waste it contains together with a contact name and location of where the waste comes from.

Write the radionuclide and provide an estimate of total activity. Only use units of activity (Bq, Ci and their derivatives). Do not use other units such as counts per second or Bq per mL.

Transportation

Confirm whether the activity of the waste is low enough to be transported as an ‘excepted package’.

Liaise with the University Radiation Safety Officer to arrange a time for delivery to the University radiation waste store and transport the waste at the designated time.

Ensure the waste is handed directly to staff at the store. Do not leave radioactive waste unattended at any time.