Pacific Northwest National Laboratory - Richland, WA
A number of routine molecular-biological analyses, such as quantifying the levels of gene expression in cells, were based on the use of 32P-labeled DNA. As a consequence, a substantial amount of time was required for radiological control technicians for the performance of relatively routine experimental work. Advances in biotechnology have led to the development of fluorochrome-based DNA labeling reagents that can be substituted for radioisotopes in the majority of molecular-biological analyses.
As part of an overall effort to cut operating costs by reducing the use of radioisotopes, the Molecular Biosciences Department invested in a Molecular Dynamics FluorImager SI. The device is capable of detecting a variety of fluorescent labels in DNA samples, and its availability led to an almost complete elimination of the use of radioisotopes for a number of routine analyses. In fiscal year 1995, the time of approximately one full-time equivalent radiological control technician was required for all departmental operations.
As a consequence of the efforts to minimize the use of radioisotopes, including the purchase of the FluorImager, the projected need for radiological control technician coverage for fiscal year 1997 is 0.1 full-time equivalent, yielding about $100,000 in savings annually, as well as waste disposal savings. This waste-minimization activity will avoid using 20 mCi of 32P and avoid 100 L per year of liquid waste.