Following on from our last RSWA Talks article, What’s in a waste facility,  and with this years disposal to the Intractable Waste Disposal Facility (IWDF) in Mount Walton being put off until later in the year we thought it topical and important to discuss how you might correctly manage and store your waste until it is ultimately disposed of.

In Australia, radioactive waste is generated from a variety of practices in medicine, industry and research. The radioactive material emitting radiation may be naturally occurring (NORM) or may be artificially generated (such as Cs-137 sealed sources).

Material is considered to be radioactive (or not) based on regulatory exemption levels.  It is considered waste because no further use for the material is foreseeable.

The Australian Radioactive Waste Management Framework sets out the principles, responsibilities and goals for managing Australia’s radioactive waste throughout its life cycle, although there also are other documents also pertaining to this topic.

In basic terms radioactive waste management involves:

  • treatment, conditioning, transportation, storage and disposal
  • administrative, operational and safety-related activities

For storage and disposal purposes radioactive waste for near surface land disposal according to ARPANSA;s Code of Practice is broken down into 3 categories of waste Category A,B & C).

Category A & B cover solid waste with mainly beta or gamma emitting radionuclides, whereas Category C covers solid waste containing alpha, beta or gamma emitting radionuclides. For more information on this classification, please refer to the ARPANSA Code of Practice for the Near Surface Disposal of Radioactive Waste in Australia (1992) or the ARPANSA Safety Guide for Classification of Radioactive Waste (2010).

It is extremely important to understand the activity and radiation levels of your waste as it determines the amount of shielding, transport and management that will be required and the protocols that need to be implemented.

If you are wanting to temporarily store your material while awaiting disposal it is important to adhere to the principles outlined below:

  • Ensure the facility is licensed for the for the storage of the type of material you will be storing – third-party service providers, such as Radiation Services WA, are able to assist with this;
  • All radioactive sources (and aggregates of sources) shall be subject to a dynamic security assessment performed by the RSO to ensure that the requirements of the ARPANSA Security Code of Practice (RPS 11) are being met – in some cases, an approved Source Security Plan (and Source Transport Security Plan) is required;
  • Separate all wastes by isotope and physical form;
  • Designate a specific location for the storage of radioactive waste within the storage facility;
  • The area shall be appropriately signposted, and a dose rate assessment performed; and
  • All areas where radioactive material is stored shall display radiation warning signage.

Further information is available via ARPANSA or if you would like more clarification on how to navigate the waste management process, please visit our website or contact us to see where we can assist.