Life-Cycle Analysis and Product Stewardship
Radiation Source Reduction & Management
- Main Page
- About Source Reduction & Management
- Life-Cycle Analysis & Product Stewardship
- Sealed Radioactive Sources
- Common Industrial Uses
- Commonly-Used Radionuclides
- Alternative Technologies
- Alternatives: Development & Acceptance
- Alternative Technology Projects
- Stakeholders and Partners
As EPA seeks to reduce the impact of radioactive materials in the U.S. The Agency uses Life-Cycle Analysis to identify where sources can fall out of regulatory control and where non-radiation technologies can be substituted. The Agency also embraces the principle of Product Stewardship by which manufacturers and industry accept responsibility for the health and environmental impacts of products during manufacture, use, and end-of-life management.
On this page:
- Life-Cycle of Radionuclides Typically Used in Gauges and Devices
- Product Stewardship
Life-Cycle of Radionuclides Typically Used in Gauges and Devices
Since 2003, EPA has been applying life-cycle analysis and materials flow to the radionuclides Cobalt-60 and Cesium 137, which are commonly used in industrial gauges and other devices. We have tracked the flow of these radionuclides through the various processes by which they enter and leave the economy:
- buying and selling of related stocks
- final deposition
EPA also intends to analyze the life-cycle of products, such as tritium exit signs, that use radionuclides. A cost/benefit analysis is planned for gauges and radiography cameras.
The life-cycle analysis/materials flow approach offers a number of benefits:
- Provides a foundation for evaluating environmental policy decisions at the strategic and operational levels.
- Helps identify trends in materials use across the commercial life-cycle.
- Provides basis for addressing multiple environmental problems.
- Identifies emerging trends and potential problems.
- Provides a metric for measuring success of the program activities, such as the promotion of alternative technologies.
EPA obtained data for the life-cycle analyses from a variety of government and industry sources:
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) records on the issuance of general and specific licenses for the use of nuclear materials
- waste management facility information on low-level radioactive waste disposal
- U.S. Department of Energy data
- sales data from manufacturers of radioactive sources
- NRC license applications
- recycling information from manufacturers, and waste generated from power plants.
In 2006, NRC launched the National Source Tracking System (NTS), which provides data for the most hazardous radionuclide sources (Category 1 and Category 2). However, the availability of data on sources in Categories 3-5 depends on economic drivers. EPA used estimates and statistical information to complete life-cycle analyses where data was unavailable.
Working with Yale University, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, World Resources Institute, and the Center for Responsible Environmental Strategies, EPA has been constructing Life-Cycle Analysis/Materials Flow Accounts for four commonly used radionuclides. Studies have been completed for two, Cesium-137 (Cs-137) and Cobalt-60 (Co-60) and are underway for Americium-241 (Am-241) and Irridium-192 (Ir-192).
In conducting these initial life-cycle analyses, EPA identified important next steps that will help meet the goals of the alternative technologies project:
Developing a protocol for the annual collection and reporting of data that would aid in understanding the life-cycle of certain radioisotopes throughout the economy
Using materials flow/life-cycle analysis to help measure the success of the alternative technologies program
Extending the life-cycle analysis approach from tracking radionuclides used in industrial devices to tracking the devices themselves, including the economics of their use over their entire life-cycle. Such an approach could help EPA prioritize devices for which to seek alternative technologies, and guide public and private sector research. Focusing on specific devices would also help clarify the materials-flow/life-cycle analysis for individual radionuclides.
Product Stewardship is a principle by which all participants involved in the life-cycle of a product take shared responsibility for the impacts to human health and the natural environment that result from the production, use, and end-of-life management of the product.(PSI)
All projects in EPA's Alternative Technologies Initiative emphasize a product stewardship approach to identifying and overcoming market place barriers by bringing together manufacturers and researchers, state and local governments, and end users and other stakeholders. This is particularly important since the transition from devices using sealed radioactive sources to non-nuclear alternatives is very application-specific and requires communications among all involved.
- PSI: Radioactive Devices Home
This site contains additional information on the Product Stewardship Institute's work with EPA and other organizations on replacing radioactive source technology with alternatives.