Radioactive and Mixed Waste Management

Three pictures of various radioactive waste processes

Columbia University is committed to protecting human health and environment through a proactive Radioactive Waste Management Program.  Proper management of Radioactive Waste is essential to our program’s success.  Understanding the basic types of radioactive wastes and how to manage them is important to this success. 

EH&S recognizes that the Radioactive Waste Management regulations and the corresponding container management requirements can be extremely complex to navigate, interpret and apply to each individual situation.  To assist University personnel in understanding and meeting these requirements, EH&S provides monthly radiation safety training, as well as department-specific training (available upon request), and has prepared and distributed guidance documents, such as the radioactive material disposal guide.

Our training programs, coupled with the guidance documents and the University’s No Drain Disposal Policy provide the essentials tools that anyone using radioactive materials at the University need to properly manage their Radioactive Waste.

Radioactive Waste Guidelines

Mixed waste container picture

Some laboratories may generate wastes containing a radioisotope(s) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hazardous waste.  This unique waste is known as mixed waste. Columbia University’s Mixed Waste Management Program is focused on deciphering the myriad of regulations governing the management and disposal of mixed waste. 

In regulatory terms, a hazardous waste is a chemical waste that exhibits at least one of four characteristics—ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity—or is specifically listed on one of four hazardous wastes lists developed EPA and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).   Anytime a radioisotope is combined with a hazardous waste, a mixed waste has been generated.

Mixed waste is regulated by EPA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the Department of Energy (DOE). At Columbia University, EH&S manages the hazardous waste portion in accordance with EPA and NYSDEC regulations, while Radiation Safety manages the radioactive portion, while adhering to NRC regulations. 

Please consult the Mixed Waste Management Policy- for specific information regarding management of mixed waste.