An Intro to Rad Waste for New York State Hospitals

By Courtney Drayer, Technical Services Representative

Radioactive waste is divided into 3 categories; high level, mill tailings, and low level. High level radioactive waste is spent nuclear reactor fuel. Mill tailings are contaminated soils and debris remaining after an area has been mined for Uranium Ores. Commercial waste that is neither high level nor mill tailings is low level radioactive waste. Low level radioactive waste (LLRW) can consist of any material that has become contaminated with radioactive material or has become radioactive via exposure to neutron radiation.


LLRW are generated at commercial facilities such as hospitals, universities, and some industrial facilities. Some common examples of LLRW include PPE used in areas where radioactive material is present, animal carcasses containing radioactive pharmaceuticals, scintillation fluids, and equipment used to process radioactive materials. Low level radioactive waste is then further divided into 4 subcategories in 10 CFR 61.55-56 (http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/cfr/part061/part061-0055.html). These subdivisions are, in order of increasing radioactivity; Class A, Class B, Class C, and Greater than Class C. Class A-C is regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission while the "Greater than Class C" group is generally regulated by the Department of Energy. Most radioactive materials used in Hospitals can be stored on site until the material has decayed to a point where the radiation level of the waste matches that of the background level. At that point, the waste can either be disposed of as regulated medical waste or hazardous waste, as appropriate. When decay does not occur within a reasonable time frame (half lives > 90 days), this waste must be sent to a low level radioactive waste disposal facility for proper disposal.


In order to obtain any radioactive material or engage in research or clinical activities with radioactive materials in NYS a license must be obtained. The licenses for radioactive waste generators in New York State fall under the jurisdictions of the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH), the New York City Department of Health (NYC DOH), or the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Most sites will fall under the NYS DOH jurisdiction. Institutions in NYC will fall under NYC DOH while Nuclear power plants will fall under NRC. All licensees that generate or plan to generate LLRW within the next 5 years, regardless of jurisdiction, are required by 21 NYCRR Part 502 (http://www.nyserda.org/about/nyserda.regulations.pdf) to file an annual low-level radioactive waste report with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. If any of the waste disposed of is mixed radioactive and hazardous waste, that waste will also need to be included on the annual report for hazardous waste for NYS and included in waste weights for the NYS TP550 quarterly hazardous waste tax.