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Radiological Waste

Radiological materials and waste are strictly regulated at both the state and federal level:

  • The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is responsible for regulating radiological materials in the State of Alaska. NRC regulates medical, industrial, and academic uses of nuclear materials through a combination of regulatory requirements, licensing, safety oversight (including inspection and enforcement), operational experience evaluation, and regulatory support activities.
  • The State Radiological Health Program within the State Public Health Laboratories is responsible for the safe use of radiation sources within Alaska, which includes evaluating radiation hazards, conducting surveys/investigations, inspections of facilities using radiation sources (such as hospitals and dentist offices), and training.
  • The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) is responsible for surveys and disaster response to radiation in the environment.

Accident or Spill Reporting of Radiological Materials or Waste

Alaska state law requires all oil and hazardous substance releases be reported to the ADEC. During business hours call the nearest ADEC response team office:

  • Central (Anchorage) 907-269-3063
  • Northern (Fairbanks) 907-451-2121
  • Southeast (Juneau) 907-465-5340
  • Outside normal business hours call: 1-800-478-9300

For Federal reporting requirements see the National Response Center website.

Disposal of Radiological Waste

  • There are no NRC radiological waste permitted facilities in the State of Alaska and it must typically be disposed out of state.
  • Alaska is a member state of the Northwest Interstate Compact (NWIC) on Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW). Low-level radioactive waste generated in Alaska (e.g. radioactively contaminated pipes, sand blast grit, protective clothing, tools, filters, rags, medical tubes, etc.) must be disposed at the commercial radiological disposal site operated by U.S. Ecology Incorporated in Richland, Washington in accordance with the NWIC.
  • Drilling waste containing naturally-occurring radiological material (NORM) may be re-injected into an EPA permitted Class I injection well or shipped out of state for proper disposal.
  • The ADEC Contaminated Sites Program may allow for onsite disposal of NORM generated from mining activities as part of their management of a cleanup action. Note: regulation of mill tailings is covered under the Nuclear Materials Program.

Tritium-Containing exit Signs

Self-illuminating exit signs containing the radioactive gas called tritium may not be disposed of as normal trash. They must be shipped out of state for proper disposal. Tritium-containing exit signs can be identified by their required labeling as containing radioactive materials or by their characteristic glow in the dark without a power source. To dispose of a sign properly, a general licensee must transfer the sign to a specific licensee, such as a manufacturer, distributor, licensed radioactive waste broker, or licensed low-level radioactive waste disposal facility. Within 30 days of disposing of a sign, the general licensee must file a report to the NRC and the State of Alaska Liaison Officer. The regulatory requirements for tritium exit signs can be found at 10 CFR Part 31.5.

Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors containing radiological materials will be labeled as such. Homeowners may dispose of their smoke detectors along with household trash for disposal at the landfill. Businesses must ship them out of state or return them to the manufacturer for proper disposal.

Other Radiological Wastes

No landfills in Alaska are currently permitted to accept commercial radiological waste, but some household sources, which are exempted from regulation, may be disposed in the landfill:

  • Short-lived nuclear medicine radioisotopes with a half-life of less than 65 days from patients' homes. These may include paper towels, dishes, tableware, bedding and anything else touched by a patient.
  • Household items containing naturally-occurring radioactivity, such as fertilizer, gypsum, and sheet rock.
  • Household consumer products such as watches with luminescent dials, smoke detectors, pottery, gas lantern mantles (Coleman lanterns, e.g.), and optical lenses for cameras, glasses, binoculars, telescopes, etc.