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Environmental Health and Safety

Radioactive Materials

Use of all forms of radioactive materials are governed by the State of South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).  DHEC has issued a specific radioactive materials license to the University.  The license is a Type A Broad Scope Research and Development license that authorizes the University to approve uses of all radionuclides with atomic numbers 1 through 84 inclusive.  Some radionuclides with atomic numbers > 84; including some low enriched uranium and plutonium, are also authorized.

DHEC has been granted Agreement State approval to issue specific radioactive material licenses for entities in the State of South Carolina by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  In order for DHEC to issue a Type A Broad Scope Research and Development license; the licensee must have appointed a Radiation Safety Officer and staff with years of experience to manage the day to day activities of the Radiation Safety Program.  A Radiation Safety Committee to oversee and approve all uses of radioactive material must also be established for Type A Broad Scope licensees (refer to the Radiation Safety Committee page).

All radioactive material either purchased or transferred to the University must be approved by the Radiation Safety Office.

All shipments of any type or activity of radioactive material must be sent through the Radiation Safety Office.

The Radiation Safety Office also coordinates disposal of radioactive materials to ensure compliance with disposal requirements. Please refer to the procedures below for proper accumulation of radioactive materials for disposal. It is extremely important to follow these procedures to ensure cost efficient disposal. Failure to follow these procedures can add thousands of dollars of unnecessary cost to dispose of radioactive material.

Email to request a purchase, transfer, shipment or radioactive waste pickup: You may also contact the USC Radiation Safety Office at 803-576-6818, or, 803-777-7530 should you have questions or need assistance.

Forms that will be needed to apply for use of radioactive material, and for maintaining a current authorization, can be found in the radiation safety toolbox.

Training is required for anyone working with radioactive materials or entering an area restricted for radioactive material use (areas posted with a “Caution – Radioactive Material” sign).  Training information can be found at the Bureau of Research Safety Training Page for Radiation Safety.


Disposal of Radioactive Materials

Radioactive materials for disposal are described below.  All radioactive waste must be packaged and prepared in accordance with the USC Radiation Safety Manual [pdf] section C part 7.


Disposal Containers

Radioactive materials collected for disposal must be accumulated into containers as described below.  Each type of material for disposal must have its own container.  Records of disposal that must include the radionuclide and the activity must be recorded each time material is added to a collection container for disposal.  When a container is full, a waste tag must be tied to the container that lists all nuclides and the sum of activities.  For containers of liquids, the type of liquid and volume must be recorded and included on the waste tag.

All containers must be marked with the radiation trefoil symbol and the words “Caution – Radioactive Material” during collection and at disposal.

The following types of waste are handled by the Radiation Safety Office:

  • SOLID WASTE: Waste which contains only dry solid material such as, but not limited to, lab paper, gloves, pipette tips, glassware, and uranium or thorium containing solid materials. NO WASTE WITH MOISTURE PRESENT CAN BE PICKED UP.  Containers include thick plastic bags.  During accumulation, these bags must be inside a solid frame or fibreboard waste container.
  • SCINTILLATION VIALS: Scintillation fluid contained in vials with samples or wipe tests.  Please use scintillation cocktail with a flashpoint above 140 degrees F.  Check the Safety Data Sheet of the scintillation cocktail to ensure the flashpoint of the cocktail is acceptable.   Collect scintillation vials into trays that will be provided by Radiation Safety.  Please contact radiation safety for a pickup when accumulation of 5 trays is reached.  Ensure that scintillation vial trays are stored upright.
  • LIQUID WASTE (Aqueous): Liquid aqueous waste that does not contain a hazardous waste component as defined by EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).   In order to not be defined as hazardous by the EPA, the liquid must:  
    • Have a flashpoint above 140 degrees F.
    • Have a pH greater than 2 and less than 12.5.
    • Not exhibit any reactivity that includes, but is not limited to, being stable and the liquid does not readily undergo a violent change without detonating; it does not react violently with water; it does not form a potentially explosive mixture with water; when mixed with water, it does not generate toxic gases, vapors or fumes in a quantity sufficient to present a danger to human health or the environment; the liquid is not a cyanide or sulfide which, when exposed to pH conditions between 2 and 12.5, can generate toxic gases, vapors or fumes in a quantity sufficient to present a danger to human health or the environment; the liquid is not capable of detonation or explosive reactions if it is subjected to a strong initiating source or is heated under confinement; the liquid is not readily capable of detonation or explosive decomposition or reaction at standard temperature and pressure; and the liquid is not an explosive material.
    • Aqueous non-hazardous liquids that contain radioactive material must be collected in carboys that are provided by the Radiation Safety staff.
  • LIQUID WASTE (Hazardous):  The generation of liquids that are both radioactive and meet one of the criteria above, such as but not limited to flammable solvents, aqueous liquids with a pH equal to or below 2 (acidic) or equal to and above 12.5 (basic); reactive liquids or liquids containing metals (besides uranium or thorium compounds), must be avoided at all costs.  If research needs in an area will call for the generation of these types of wastes that are mixed with radioactive material and a hazardous material as defined by the EPA; the PI must be contacted for consultation with the Radiation Safety staff.  Costs for disposal of mixed wastes are very expensive; these costs must be born by the Departments generating the mixed waste material.  The Radiation Safety Office, in conjunction with EH&S management, will work with the Departments and the PIs to determine funding for disposal of any generated mixed waste.
    • Mixed wastes must be collected in containers that will not react with the material and that can be kept completely closed to the environment.
    • A waste tag must be tied to the container upon starting accumulation.  The hazardous liquid, and volume, being added to the container must be written on the waste tag each time material is placed into the container for disposal.  Do not write a date on this waste tag as this container is considered satellite accumulation.  When picked up; EH&S and/or Radiation Safety staff will write a date onto the waste tag.
  • CARCASSES or BIOLOGICAL WASTE: Any animal or biological tissue that has been injected with a radioisotope, and animal bedding or anything used in the care of these animals must be disposed of as solid radioactive waste.  Carcasses and tissues must be stored in freezers and placed in individual closed bags labeled with the radionuclide and total activity.