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Waste characterization

Waste characterization (WC) is:

    "The determination of the physical, chemical and radiological properties of the waste to establish the need for further adjustment, treatment, conditioning, or its suitability for further handling, processing, storage or disposal."
Radiological waste characterization involves detecting the presence of individual radionuclides and quantifying their inventories in the waste. This can be done by a variety of techniques, depending on the waste form, radionuclides involved and level of detail/accuracy required. For example, a simple radiation dose rate measurement will give an indication of the total quantity of gamma emitting radionuclides in a waste package, but will not identify individual radionuclides or their concentrations. Gamma spectroscopy will identify the individual radionuclides and, when properly calibrated, their quantities as well. Other techniques, such as active/passive neutron interrogation, alpha spectroscopy, and liquid scintillation counting are used for other classes of radionuclides. The preferred methods are often referred to as "non-destructive" or "non-invasive", since they do not involve opening a waste package to take samples. The terms most frequently used are NDA (non-destructive assay), NDE (non-destructive examination) and NDT (non-destructive testing).

Chemical waste characterization involves the determination of the chemical components and properties of the waste. This is most often done by chemical analysis of a waste sample.

Radiological and chemical waste characterization can also be inferred from process knowledge. For example, if you are a medical researcher who only uses a few particular radionuclides under controlled experimental conditions, or a manufacturer who uses a particular chemical, then you can determine from your "knowledge of the process" which radionuclide(s) and/or chemicals are present in your waste.

Physical characterization involves inspection of the waste to determine its physical form, strength, etc. Inspection of closed waste packages can be done using a variety of techniques, such as radiography (X-ray) and sonar.

Waste acceptance criteria (WAC) are the conditions imposed on a waste producer by the regulator and/or operator of a waste handling, transportation, storage, processing and/or disposal service. The WAC usually specify such things as the required physical form of the waste, maximum levels of radioactivity, packaging requirements, etc. as well as what wastes are excluded from their service.

Note: Links identified with are in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You may need a special plugin to access these pages. Some web sites may not be in English. See index here for language codes, such as    JP / EN .


  • Challenges of Non-Destructive Assay Waste Measurement (US)   EN 
  • Classifications of Nuclear Waste (US)   EN 
  • Determination of Disposal Critical Nuclides (Belgium)   EN 
  • EEG Focus: Waste Characterization (US)   EN 
  • ESARDA Working Group for NDA Nuclear Techniques (Italy)   EN 
  • LANL NDA Training Program (US)   EN 
  • LLW Projection Program Guide (US)   EN 
  • Measurement Good Practice Guide on Radiometric Non-Destructive Assay (UK)   EN 
  • Mixed Waste Landfill Characterization Technologies (US)   EN 
  • Nondestructive Measurements of Waste Packages (Belgium)   EN 
  • Radioactive Waste Management Profiles - Number 6 (IAEA)   EN 
  • The State of Development of Waste Forms for Mixed Wastes (US)   EN 
  • Strategy & Methodology for Radioactive Waste Characterization (IAEA)   EN 
  • TWRS project waste characterization resource dictionary (US)   EN 
  • WRAP sampling strategy & waste characterization alternatives study (US)   EN 

    Record keeping

  • Management of data quality of high level waste characterization (US)   EN 
  • Methods for Maintaining a Record of Waste Packages during Waste Processing & Storage (IAEA)   EN 
  • Retrieval, Restoration & Maintenance of Old Radioactive Waste Inventory Records (IAEA)   EN 

    Characterization programs

  • ENTRAP - European Network of Testing Facilities for the Quality Cheking of Radioactive Wastes Packages (International)   EN 
  • LANL Waste Characterization Program (US)   EN 
  • LBL Radwaste Characterization (US)   EN 
  • ORNL Tank Waste Characterization Program (US)   EN 

    Characterization techniques & facilities

  • Application of Transmission Tomography to Nuclear Waste Management (France)   EN 
  • Assay of Uranium Contaminated Waste in Intermodal Containers (US)   EN 
  • Computer Tomography (Germany)   EN / DE 
  • CTEN - Combined Thermal/Epithermal Neutron Waste Assay (US)   EN 
  • DOE Methods for Evaluating Environmental & Waste Management Samples (US)   EN 
  • European Network for Harmonization of Leaching/Extraction Tests (Netherlands)   EN 
  • LANL Nondestructive Assay Instrumentation Evaluation Facility (US)   EN 
  • MDAS - Multi-Detector Analysis System (US)   EN 
  • Mobile Automated Characterization System (US)   EN 
  • Mobile RTR Services (US)   EN 
  • Nondestructive Waste Assay Using Gamma-Ray Active & Passive Computed Tomography (US)   EN 
  • Non-Invasive Inspection of Corrosion Currents in Metal Storage Drums (US)   EN 
  • Packaged LLW Verification System (US)   EN 
  • PNL Non-Destructive Analysis Lab (US)   EN 
  • Standard Waste Box Assay System (US)   EN 
  • Tomographic Gamma Scanning for NDA of Radioactive & Nuclear Materials (US)   EN 
  • WCAS - Waste Crate Assay System (US)   EN 
  • WIT - Waste Inspection Tomography Drum Scanner (US)   EN 
  • WRACS - Dounreay Waste Receipt Assay Characterisation & Supercompaction Facility (UK)   EN 
  • WRAP - Hanford Waste Receiving & Processing Facility (US)   EN 
  • X-Ray NDE Imaging (US)   EN 

    Characterization of specific wastes

  • Categorization of Radioactive Sources (IAEA)   EN 
  • Characterization of Conditioned Radioactive Waste (Belgium)   EN 
  • Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for WIPP (US)   EN 
  • Characterization of Selected Waste Tanks from the ORNL Active LLLW System (US)   EN 
  • Characterization of Solidified Products Yielded by Plasma Melting (Japan)   EN 
  • Characterization of Waste Forms (US)   EN 
  • Characterization, Treatment & Conditioning of Radioactive Graphite from Decommissioning of Nuclear Reactors (IAEA)   EN 
  • An Evaluation of RH-TRU Waste Inventories, Characteristics, Radioassay Methods & Capabilities (US)   EN 
  • Radiological Aspects of Non-fixed Contamination of Packages & Conveyances (IAEA)   EN 
  • SW-846 - Test Methods for Evaluating Solid Waste (US)   EN 

    Waste clearance

  • Application of the Concepts of Exclusion, Exemption & Clearance Safety Guide (IAEA)   EN 
  • Clearance Levels for Radionuclides in Solid Materials (IAEA)   EN 
  • Clearance of Materials Resulting from the Use of Radionuclides in Medicine, Industry & Research (IAEA)   EN 
  • The Clearance Page (South Korea)   EN / KR 
  • Derivation of Activity Concentration Values for Exclusion, Exemption & Clearance (IAEA)   EN 
  • Derivation of clearance levels for naturally occurring radioactive materials in liquid & gas or vapour forms (UK)   EN 
  • Derivation of clearance levels for solid radioactive materials (UK)   EN 
  • NUREG-1640 - Radiological Assessments for Clearance of Equipment & Materials from Nuclear Facilities (US)   EN 
  • Premises for removal of regulatory control from nuclear waste (Finland)   EN 
  • Removal of Regulatory Controls for Materials & Sites: National Regulatory Positions (NEA)   EN 

    Waste acceptance criteria (WAC)

  • Alaron Facility Waste Acceptance Criteria (US)   EN 
  • Baldone Repository Waste Acceptance Criteria (Latvia)   EN 
  • Comparison & Cross-Reference of Commercial LLW Acceptance Criteria (US)   EN 
  • Comparison of Acceptance Criteria (US)   EN 
  • Contact-Handled Transuranic Waste Acceptance Criteria for WIPP (US)   EN 
  • Development of Specifications for Radioactive Waste Packages (IAEA)   EN 
  • DSSI Facility Waste Acceptance Criteria (US)   EN 
  • Envirocare Disposal Facility Waste Acceptance Criteria (US)   EN 
  • Hanford Solid Waste Acceptance Program (US)   EN 
  • LLNL Waste Acceptance Criteria (US)   EN 
  • Nevada Test Site Waste Acceptance Criteria (US)   EN 
  • NUKEM Facility Waste Acceptance Criteria (US)   EN 
  • Ohio Waste Acceptance Criteria (US)   EN 
  • Perma Fix Facility Waste Acceptance Criteria (US)   EN 
  • WAPS - Waste Acceptance Product Specifications for Vitrified High-Level Waste Forms (US)   EN 

    Other resources

  • MIMS - Manifest Information System (US)   EN 
  • Radwaste Inventory Database (US)   EN 

      >>> See also the Nuclear instrumentation section of the Products & services page for details of equipment and suppliers, and the Waste inventories section of the General page for information on existing radwaste inventories in various countries.


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    (This page last updated 2009-02-11).