How Can You Dispose of Radioactive Metals?

Like any other hazardous material, radiation-impacted materials must be appropriately disposed of. Due to the threat of radiation, these materials need to be eliminated to ensure their active components do not cause harm to plant or animal life. Even items with small amounts of radiation need to be disposed of correctly so they do not cause damage to their surrounding environment.

What are Radioactive Metals?

Before we discuss whether or not radioactive materials can be recycled, we need to understand what they are and how they work. Typically, the label “radioactive” is applied to any element or material with unstable nuclei. This instability causes the atoms to release energy when shedding high-speed charged particles. These releases are “radiation,” which can harm plants, animals, and people. As unstable elements “decay,” they change, eventually stabilizing from the energy loss. 

For most practical purposes, radioactive waste is separated into radionuclide half-lives, meaning the amount of time it takes to discharge enough energy to stabilize.

Although lead can shield against certain radiation to an extent, radiation can be found in other types of scrap metal. If a scrap metal yard or recycling facility unknowingly melts scrap metal containing radioactive material, the entire facility and the workers can be exposed to radiation. 

Disposing of Radioactive Metals 

Not surprisingly, the safe disposal of radioactive metal is highly regulated. In the United States, the EPA outlines special handling and disposal requirements for radioactive materials to keep them out of regular junkyards and away from other non-radioactive scrap metals. 

The radioactive metal can contaminate other scraps, processing equipment, and the facility if combined with regular scrap metal. The World Nuclear Association states that the safest way of managing radioactive waste is with either near-surface disposal or deep geological disposal, depending on the waste’s level of radioactivity. It is also possible to decontaminate radioactive metals, although it’s often only done for specific high-value scrap metals. This process is complex and expensive, however. 

Disposing of Other Metals 

While less challenging to handle than radioactive material, other metals must be disposed of properly. While radioactive metals pose a unique challenge, they can be safely dealt with by a qualified scrap facility. Following the relevant laws and efficiently and effectively turning scrap into useful new material requires a qualified recycler. 


When it comes to disposing of any non-ferrous metals, First America Metal Corporation (FAMCe) has you covered. We have been a world leader in electronics and metal scrap recycling and non-ferrous export for over 15 years. Our team has over 30 years of experience in reusing and recycling metal commodities, and we are known as one of the top five metal exporters in the entire Midwest.

FAMCe specializes in creating innovative, greener solutions for businesses that want transparent and environmentally-friendly methods of reusing and recycling electronic scrap, high-temperature alloys, and non-ferrous scrap. Our level of expertise, unparalleled customer service, and aggressive pricing make FAMCe the leading option for almost any recycling need.

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