Management of Waste from Radioactive Facilities

The best-known use of radioactive materials is undoubtedly for generating energy in thermonuclear power stations. There are, however, other lesser-known and yet quite common everyday uses for radioactive materials, such as medical and industrial applications, and research and teaching. The large number of applications includes examples like: diagnosis and treatment of diseases and ailments; biomedical and biomolecular research; environmental measures of air quality; monitoring of all types of industrial processes, as the filling level for containers and thickness of plastics and papers; chemical reaction kinetics; and monitoring of leaks in pipes and tanks, etc. These applications, used at facilities and installations other than nuclear plants, also produce radioactive waste that must be properly managed.

The management of radioactive waste is an essential public service, whose management is entrusted by law to the State-owned company Enresa. As with all public services, its collection entails the payment of a fee, which is set out in Law 2/2011 on Sustainable Economy.

Authorised Radioactive Facilities

These facilities require an operating license issued under the provisions of Title III of the Regulation on Nuclear and Radioactive Facilities.

Not including X-ray facilities, there are about 1,300 authorised radioactive facilities in Spain.

They generate about 30 m3 of radioactive waste and 300 radioactive sources every year.

Requirements for waste management by Enresa:

Signature of the technical and administrative specifications for acceptance of radioactive waste (Article 11 of Royal Decree 103/2014 of 21 February).

Completion of the Waste Description Sheet. If the Waste Description Sheet includes reference to sealed radioactive sources, CSN Instruction IS-28 Section II-B-4 must be taken into account.

Submission of the Waste Description Sheet to Enresa.

This may also be arranged via email at:

Transfer of Radioactive Materials

The possession and use of radioactive materials requires authorisation, unless the materials are exempt under the provisions of the Regulation on Nuclear and Radioactive Facilities. Any unauthorised radioactive material in your possession can be properly managed as follows.

Requirements for management by Enresa:

Application to the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism for authorisation allowing the transfer of the radioactive materials to Enresa as radioactive waste. This must be done in accordance with Article 74 of the Regulation on Nuclear and Radioactive Facilities.

Signature of the technical and administrative specifications for acceptance of radioactive waste.

Inspection of materials by Enresa technicians prior to its removal.

Protocol for Radiological Monitoring of Metallic Materials

In the course of their activities, it is common for industrial metal recovery/recycling plants and steelworks to detect radioactive material in scrap produced by other sectors, such as industry and medical services.

In November 1999, the Protocol for Collaboration on the Radiological Monitoring of Metallic Materials was signed by various Government agencies, trade unions, professional associations representing the metal recycling and iron and steel industries, and Enresa.

When radioactive material is detected, the actions agreed in this protocol are implemented and, when necessary, the end result is the appropriate management of this material as radioactive waste by Enresa.

Requirements for management by Enresa:

The company that detects the radioactive material must be a signatory of the collaboration protocol.

Signature of the technical and administrative specifications for acceptance of radioactive waste.

Inspection of materials by Enresa technicians and subsequent removal, if necessary.

NORM Waste (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials)

There is a wide diversity of activities and facilities where naturally occurring radioactive materials are handled or may be handled, including coal-fired thermal power plants, thermal facilities and titanium dioxide pigment manufacturing industries. The radiological criteria for protection against exposure to natural radiation are set out in CSN Instruction IS-33 and in Safety Guide GS-11-02, which lays down further specifications with respect to the provisions of Title VII of the Regulation on the Protection of Health against Ionising Radiation.

These activities must be declared to the authorities and require a series of analyses which will ultimately determine if the waste materials require management as radioactive waste by Enresa, as set out in Order EIT/1946/2013.

Requirements for management by Enresa:

Radioactive Lightning Rods

The manufacture of lightning rods with radioactive elements was banned in June 1986 by means of Royal Decree 1428/86 (subsequently amended by Royal Decree 903/87). The installation of any new lightning rod with radioactive elements which had already been manufactured was also banned.

Since June 1986, any installed radioactive lightning rod must be managed as radioactive waste.

Enresa has carried out several removal campaigns for these devices, resulting in the collection of approximately 23,000 radioactive lightning rod headers.

At the present time, Enresa is equipped to respond to requests for removal of this type of device.

Capture of the dismantling of a lightning rod

Requirements for management by Enresa:

  • Send one or more photographs of the lightning rod header. Then, Enresa will inform you whether it is a radioactive or conventional model.
  • If the model is radioactive, Enresa will send you a form for requesting removal.
  • Fill in the application form and send it to Enresa.
  • Enresa will notify you the date for removal of the lightning rod.

Ionisation Smoke Detectors

Ionisation smoke detectors must be managed in accordance with the provisions of Royal Decree 208/2005, on electrical and electronic equipment and the management of its waste.

This Royal Decree sets out a series of obligations for producers and distributors of these devices to ensure that, at the end of their useful life, they are managed by means of systems compliant with the objectives of this regulation. As of 13 August 2005, these obligations include the establishment of systems enabling their collection and removal for recovery, reuse or recycling, depending on the type of device.

Processing facilities, which are regulated for this purpose under the Royal Decree above, separate the radioactive sources from the rest of the components of ionisation smoke detectors. The role of Enresa in this process as a radioactive waste management company is to remove these sources from the processing facilities.

For information on available processing facilities contact us.

In case you need more detailed information, contact the TECNIFUEGO-AESPI Manufacturers’ Association

This type of device should not be opened or handled in such a way as to expose its interior, where the small radioactive sources are fitted.

© 2020 Empresa Nacional de Residuos Radiactivos, S.A., S.M.E. (Enresa).

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