Key messages

  • If a licence permits disposal of radioactive material, certain requirements must be met.
  • Different types of radioactive material require different disposal methods.
  • Disposal includes selling or giving away radioactive material.
  • If returning X-ray equipment to its manufacturer or supplier is not possible, there are several components to be aware of before disposal.
  • Your management licence requires that you notify the department when you dispose of an X-ray unit.

All management licences issued by the department include a condition that requires a management licence holder whose licence permits disposal of radioactive material to meet the requirements described here.

Disposal in this context includes:

  • selling or giving away radioactive material to another person
  • taking a sealed source to a service provider for the purpose of disposal
  • relocating or moving of radioactive material outside Victoria, whether temporarily or permanently.

These restrictions do not apply to the disposal of bodily wastes to sewer by a person who, as part of a diagnostic or therapeutic medical procedure, has previously had an administration or implantation of radioactive material.

Disposal methods for radioactive material

The available methods of disposal are:

  • for short-lived unsealed radionuclides, the ‘delay and decay’ method
  • for long-lived sealed sources, disposal via export
  • for short-lived unsealed radionuclides, disposal to sewer
  • for short-lived radionuclides, disposal by release to air
  • for any radioactive material, via transfer of ownership
  • for any radioactive material, via relocation outside Victoria.

Disposal – delay and decay method

The delay and decay disposal method is the careful storage of the radioactive waste until such time as it no longer meets the definition of ‘radioactive material’ under the Radiation Act 2005. In practice, this only works for short-lived radioisotopes and any material that may have contact with the radioactive material – for example, syringes and medical dressings.

There are a number of steps that you must take to ensure that you are holding the material for sufficient time for the decay to have resulted in the material no longer meeting the definition of radioactive material. These include:

  • Ensure that isotopes cannot be mixed. One box = one isotope. You need to calculate the date when the waste will be below the prescribed activity or activity concentration that defines radioactive material under the Radiation Act. As a guide, for most short-lived radionuclides in small quantities, you will need to retain the material for a time equal to at least 10 half-lives.
  • Clearly label your waste containers.
  • Do not mix solid waste and liquid waste together. Different guidelines apply based on the physical property of the waste.

Once you are satisfied that the waste material is no longer radioactive under the Radiation Act’s definition of radioactive material, you can commence the disposal process. The following advice is provided to assist you in this process:

  • Remove radioactive and hazardous material markings and labels on regular waste. All waste that can be disposed as regular waste because it no longer meets the definition of radioactive material under Victorian law may be sent to landfill. You must ensure that radioactive markings from tape, labels, vials and other material have been removed before placing materials inside a container. You will also need to ensure that you comply with the Environment Protection Act 1970 in regard to whether the other characteristics of the waste meet the Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA’s) definition of prescribed waste. Contact the EPA to discuss the Victorian requirements for prescribed waste.
  • Consider removing lead pigs and isotope protective casings. The presence of the pigs could interfere with any tests of activity of the waste material.

Disposal – sealed sources via export

Disposal via a Victorian service provider

The department has licensed a small number of Victorian-based companies to dispose of sealed sources and of sealed source apparatus by export to facilities located in other countries. In some cases, the sealed sources, once exported, are actually reprocessed or recycled by the international facility so that they can be used again by another party.

Responsibilities of a management licence holder authorised to possess a sealed source

If you wish to dispose of a sealed source or of a sealed source apparatus by export by using a service provider, then you must:

  • contact one of the companies ('service providers') who are licensed in Victoria to provide this service. A list of a number of the service providers licensed in Victoria is available at service providers authorised to facilitate the disposal of radioactive material
  • apply to the department for the approval to dispose of a sealed source or a sealed source apparatus using the relevant application form
  • provide the sealed source to the service provider only when you have received approval in writing from the department for the disposal of the sealed source.

Disposal application form - Management Licence holder who is authorised to possess a sealed source or a sealed source apparatus can be downloaded.

In the event that the export process has not occurred within 3 months of the sealed source being transported to the service provider’s premises, the service provider is required to surrender the sealed source to you. You must take possession of the sealed source as soon as practicable after being advised by the service provider that the disposal cannot occur.

The management licence holder must ensure that the department is notified of the disposal in accordance with the requirements specified under ‘Disposal notification’.

Responsibilities of a management licence holder authorised as a disposal facilitator

If you are a service provider that is authorised to facilitate the disposal of a sealed source or a sealed source apparatus by export, then before facilitating the disposal of a sealed source or a sealed source apparatus you must:

  • apply to the department for the approval to dispose of the sealed source using the relevant application form
  • dispose of the sealed source only when you have received approval in writing from the department for the disposal of the sealed source
  • if the disposal involves taking possession of the sealed source, then take possession of the sealed source only when you have received approval in writing from the department for the disposal of the sealed source.

Disposal application form - Management Licence holder who is authorised as a source disposal facilitator can be downloaded.

Before the sealed source is delivered to you, you may also need to vary your licence to authorise the possession of the sealed source.

In the event that the export process has not occurred within 3 months of your taking possession of the sealed source, you must notify the management licence holder who sought your services to dispose of the source. You must provide reasonable assistance to ensure that the management licence holder takes possession of the sealed source as soon as practicable.

If the disposal involves taking possession of the sealed source, then you must notify the department regarding the possession in accordance with a general condition on your management licence.

When you have disposed of the sealed source, you must notify the department of the disposal in accordance with the requirements specified under ‘Disposal notification’.

Disposal by the management licence holder authorised to possess a sealed source

Responsibilities of a management licence holder authorised to possess a sealed source

If you hold a management licence authorising the possession of a sealed source that you wish to dispose of by export or via an interstate service provider, then you must:

  • apply to the department for the approval to dispose of a sealed source or a sealed source apparatus using the relevant application form
  • dispose of the sealed source only when you have received approval in writing from the department for the disposal of the sealed source.

Disposal application form - Management Licence holder who is authorised to possess a sealed source or a sealed source apparatus can be downloaded.

The management licence holder must ensure that the department is notified of the disposal in accordance with the requirements specified under ‘Disposal notification’.

Disposal of radioactive material via transfer of ownership

Radioactive material may be disposed of by transferring ownership of the radioactive material. This transfer may occur either by selling the material or by giving the material away, subject to the following requirements:

  • apply to the department for the approval to dispose of a sealed source or a sealed source apparatus using the relevant application form
  • dispose of the sealed source only when you have received approval in writing from the department for the disposal of the sealed source.

Disposal application form - Management Licence holder who is transferring ownership of a sealed source or sealed source apparatus can be downloaded.

The management licence holder must ensure that the department is notified of the disposal in accordance with the requirements specified under ‘Disposal notification’.

Disposal by relocation outside Victoria

Radioactive material may also be disposed of by relocation of the material outside Victoria without changing ownership.

For example, a sealed source apparatus may be moved out of Victoria, either temporarily or permanently, for use by the licence holder outside Victoria.

In the case of high consequence sealed sources (category 1, 2 or 3 sealed sources), as defined in Radiation Act 2005 you must:

  • apply to the department for the approval to dispose of a sealed source or a sealed source apparatus using the relevant application form
  • dispose of the sealed source only when you have received approval in writing from the department for the disposal of the sealed source.

Disposal application form - Management Licence holder who is relocating a Security Category 1, 2 or 3 sealed source or a Security Category 1, 2 or 3 sealed source apparatus interstate can be downloaded.

 Disposal of a source which is not a high consequence sealed source, by relocation outside Victoria, does not require prior approval. The management licence holder must ensure that the department is notified of the disposal in accordance with the requirements specified under 'Disposal Notification'.

For temporarily relocated radiation sources, note that the licence holder must also notify the department when it regains possession of the source in Victoria.

Disposal of unsealed radionuclides, such as radiopharmaceuticals, to sewer

Disposal of unsealed radionuclides to sewer must not occur unless:

  • in any 24-hour period, the average concentration at the point of discharge from the premises into the sewerage system does not exceed the concentrations listed in column 2 of Table 1 when diluted by the average daily concentration of sewage discharged from the premises
  • records are kept of the nature and amounts of radioactive material discharged from the premises, or the disposal has been specifically approved in writing by the department.

Approvals may also be required by the relevant water authority for the discharge of material into the sewerage system.

Disposal to air

Disposal of radioactive material to air must not occur unless the average concentration in any 24-hour period at the point of discharge from the premises does not exceed the limits specified in column 3 of Table 1.

No radioactive material that exceeds the limits specified in column 3 of Table 1 can be disposed of by air unless you have notified the department in writing of the details of the proposed disposal and the department has approved the proposed disposal in writing.

Table 1: Radiation disposal discharge limits

Column 1, Radionuclide

Column 2, limits on discharge to sewerage system (Bq.m-3)

Column 3, limits on discharge to air (Bq.m-3)

3H

3 × 107

4 × 102

14C

2 × 106

2 × 101

18F

3 × 107

2 × 103

22Na

4 × 105

9 × 101

24Na

3 × 106

4 × 102

32P

6 × 105

3 × 101

33P

6 × 106

8 × 101

35S

2 × 106

6 × 101

36Cl

2 × 106

2 × 101

45Ca

2 × 106

3 × 101

51Cr

4 × 107

3 × 103

59Fe

8 × 105

3 × 101

57Co

7 × 106

1 × 102

60Co

4 × 105

3 × 100

63Ni

9 × 106

9 × 101

65Zn

4 × 105

6 × 101

67Ga

7 × 106

5 × 102

85Kr

N/A

1 × 105

89Sr

5 × 105

1 × 102

90Sr

5 × 104

5 × 100

90Y

5 × 105

8 × 101

99Mo

2 × 106

1 × 102

99Tc

2 × 106

3 × 101

99mTc

6 × 107

6 × 103

125I

9 × 104

8 × 101

131I

6 × 104

5 × 101

137Cs

1 × 105

3 × 101

147Pm

5 × 106

2 × 101

153Sm

2 × 106

2 × 102

192Ir

1 × 106

2 × 101

197Hg

6 × 106

4 × 101

203Hg

7 × 105

5 × 101

201Tl

1 × 107

3 × 103

204Tl

1 × 106

3 × 102

241Am

7 × 103

3 × 10-3

252Cf

2 × 104

6 × 10-3

Alpha-emitting radionuclides not listed in this table

1 × 104

1 × 10-2

Not alpha-emitting radionuclides, and not listed in this table

1 × 105

1 × 101

Radionuclides of natural origin

1 × 103

1 × 10-2

Note that where the material contains a mixture of radionuclides, the limit is determined from the sum of the weighted activities or concentrations, respectively, for each radionuclide in the mixture, which must not exceed 1.

Disposal to landfill

No radioactive material may be disposed of to landfill unless you have notified the department in writing of the details of the proposed disposal and the department has approved the proposed disposal in writing.

There is currently no available option to dispose of radioactive material to landfill.

Disposal of X-ray equipment

One option to dispose of X-ray equipment is to return it to the manufacturer or supplier. If this is not possible, there are several components of X-ray equipment to consider before you dispose of it:

  • X-ray tube oil may contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). A determination regarding the presence of PCB in the X-ray tube oil must be made prior to disposal. The disposal of oil becomes a regulated activity if the concentration of PCB is above a certain level. Some X-ray tubes made before 1979 contain PCBs in cooling oil.
  • Transformers in some X-ray equipment may contain PCB dielectric oil. A determination regarding the presence of PCB in the transformer must be made prior to disposal. The disposal of oil becomes a regulated activity if the concentration of PCB is above a certain level.
  • Housings are generally made of lead or of cast steel with a lead lining. A scrap-metal dealer may recycle the housing. A prescribed waste determination of the lead contained in the housing must be performed if disposal of the housing is the preferred option.
  • X-ray tubes with beryllium windows will require a prescribed waste determination before disposal.
  • removing the head from the unit and cutting the electric cord
  • destroying vital components in the X-ray generator.

Laboratories able to determine the presence of PCBs in oil can be found at the National Association of Testing Authorities website.

Advice regarding disposal of lead and beryllium can be found at the Environmental Protection Agency website.

Equipment capable of producing ionising radiation must be rendered inoperable before disposal. The equipment is in an inoperable condition when it would not be practicable for a person to restore the unit to a condition where it is capable of producing radiation.

Radiation signs such as trefoils must also be removed or obscured before disposal.

The X-ray tube is under vacuum, and someone could be injured if the tube is punctured or broken. Many X-ray units can be disposed of at a local or municipal landfill, but you should contact the handler at the landfill to verify they will accept the unit.

Your management licence requires that you notify the department of the disposal of an X-ray unit.

Disposal notification

The management licence holder must ensure the department is notified of the disposal using the online notification form within:

  • 24 hours for the disposal of high consequence sealed sources as defined by the Radiation Act 2005, and
  • 14 days for other types of sealed sources, sealed-source apparatus or other types of radioactive material.

Note that the department does not require notification for the disposal of unsealed radionuclides or radiopharmaceuticals, due to the short-lived nature of these forms of radioactive material.

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