Radioactive Waste Disposal

The need for protection of individuals form radiation exposure can be traced back to the turn of the 20th century, soon after the discovery of the x-ray and radioactivity. Prior to World War II, radiation protection guidance was provided through communications among the radiation users and their professional organizations. In the later 1940’s a few States and local governments established limited radiation protection programs.

In 1959, Congress amended the Atomic Energy Act authorizing States to assume regulatory control for certain types of man-made radioactive materials, provided the State desiring to assume such authority had an adequate program to protect the public health and safety. As of September 2008, 35 State programs have assumed this authority. Such States are called “Agreement States” as they have a written agreement with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

At the time when early State and local radiation control programs were developing, similar activities were developing at the Federal Level. As a result of these many and varied State, local, and Federal programs and activities in radiation control, most of which were being developed independent of each other, it became clear that unless some effort was made for uniformity there would be inconsistencies and conflicts of rules and regulations through the country regulating radiation users.

As a result of these identified needs, the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors (CRCPD) was originally established in 1968 for two primary purposes:

  • To serve as a common forum for the many governmental radiation protection agencies to communicate with each other, and
  • To promote uniform radiation protection regulations and activities.

“Low-level radioactive waste” or “LLRW”, also “low-level waste,” or “LLRW” means radioactive waste which is not high-level radioactive waste, spent nuclear fuel, NARM, or byproduct material as defined in section 11 E (2) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, but is radioactive material that the US nuclear regulatory commission classifies as low-level waste.

CLASS A waste, generally consisting of short-lived radionuclides. (Less than 30 years) but also including low concentration of some long-lived radionuclides. Disposed Class A waste must be isolated for 100 years.

CLASS B waste, including waste with higher concentrations of short-lived radionuclides than Class A waste and concentrations of long-lived radionuclides similar to Class A waste. Class B waste must be in structurally stable physical form for disposal or in a structurally stable container that will last for 300 years.

CLASS C waste, including waste with the highest concentrations of short-lived and long-lived radionuclides that states are responsible for managing. Disposal units for Class C LLRW must have barriers capable of preventing people in future years from accidentally encountering the waste for at least 500 years.

Federal law makes each state responsible for providing disposal capacity for the LLRW generated in that state. If any radioactive material is discovered in a waste stream or elsewhere in the public sector, call the Bureau at (614) 644-2727 to report the incident. Supervisors and staff will evaluate the situation and provide advice on the proper course of action. In some cases, enough information obtained on the phone will suffice to make an adequate assessment. In other cases, a staff member will make an on-site assessment and/or a licensed commercial service will be called in. Licensed decontamination services or waste brokers in Ohio, must have either an Ohio 3219 license or an Ohio reciprocity agreement.

The major work of the CRCPD is accomplished through committees and task forces. These working groups address the specific components of radiation protection issues facing State and local radiation protection programs.

Examples of issues that are addressed are diagnostics x-ray quality assurance and equipment standards, quality mammography, the use of radioactive materials in medicine and industry, radon in homes and other building, environmental monitoring, nuclear reactor emergency planning and response, the use of lasers and microwave equipment, electric and magnetic fields form high voltage transmission lines, concentrated naturally materials. Recent critical emerging issues include homeland security and computer tomography scanning.

CRCPD works in partnership with experts from numerous Federal agencies. Some of these include: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and many more.

Additional resources can be obtained through the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors (CRCPD), a partnership dedicated to Radiation Protection.