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Executive Summary Low-activity radioactive wastes include a broad spectrum of materials for which a regulatory patchwork has evolved over almost 60 years. These wastes present less of a radiation hazard than either spent nuclear ~e] or high-level radioactive waste. ~ Low- activity wastes, however, may produce potential radiation exposure at well above back- ground levels and if not properly controllecl may represent a significant chronic (and, in some cases, an acute) hazard.2 For some low-activity wastes the present system of con- trols may be overly restrictive, but it may result in the neglect of others that pose an equal or higher risk. The purpose of this interim report is to provide an overview of current low- activity waste regulations and management practices (see Sidebar ES-11. ~ developing this overview, the committees has sought to identify gaps and inconsistencies that suggest areas for improvements. This initial fact-f~nding phase of the project lee! the committee to the findings that conclucle this interim report. The committee will assess options for improving the current practices and provide recommendations in its final report. ~ initiating this study, the Board on Radioactive Waste Management used the term "Iow-activity waste" to denote a spectrum of radioactive materials declared as wastes Tom a variety of activitiesnational (lefense, nuclear power, industry, medicine, research, and mineral recovery.4 Given this broac! charter, the committee sought to de- velop a concise list of categories that would! include Tow-activity wastes from essentially all sources,s yet by focusing on their inherent radiological properties rather than their ori- ~ See Disposition of High-Level Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel: The Continuing Societal and Technical Challenges (NRC, 2001a) and One Step at a Time: The Staged Development of Geo- logic Repositories for High-Level Radioactive Waste (NRC, 2003~. 2 See Health Effects of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR V (NRC, 19904. 3 The Committee on Improving Practices for Regulating and Managing Low-Activity Radio- active Waste is referred to as "the committee" throughout this report. Short biographies of the committee members are given in Appendix F. 4 The Board intended the term "low-activity waste" to be more inclusive than "low-level waste," which has a specific definition under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (see Chapter 2~. The term "low-activity waste" has sometimes been applied to the lower activity fractions of Depart- ment of Energy (DOE) tank waste. The committee does not use the term in this sense. s The committee did not include waste containing only short-lived radioactivity (on the order of a year or less), which simply decays away during storage. These wastes do not present lona- term management or disposal challenges.

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gins, emphasize gaps and inconsistencies between their current regulation and manage- ment and their actual racliological hazards. The committee agreed that the following is an instructive and inclusive categorization of the wastes to be addressed: Wastes containing types ant} quantities of radioactive materials that fall well within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) classification system for Tow-leve! waste, e.g., Class A, B. and C (see Chapters 2, 3 ant! Appendix B). These include wastes from nuclear utilities, other industries, medicine, and research, which are clisposec3 in USNRC-licensed, commercially operated facilities ("commercial low-level waste"), and similar wastes produced and disposed at Denartment of EnerQv (LEAF) rites ("Len Tow-level wasted. 0 ~ ~ , ~ ~ Slightly radioactive solid materials~ebris, rubble, ant! contaminated soils from nuclear facility decommissioning and site cleanup. They arise in very large volumes but produce very low or practically undetectable levels of radiation. They fall at the very bottom of USNR(~ (31 ads A (the 1owe.~t of the ~1~ . ~ ~ J Discrete sourcesout-of-service radiation sources and associates! materials from inclustrial, medical, and research applications. Although defined by statute as low-level waste, they may emit high enough levels of radiation to cause acute effects in humans or serious contamination incidents. Larger sources may exceed USNRC Class C (the high- est of the classes). Uranium ant! thorium ore processing wastes. These wastes have been producer! in large volumes from the recovery of uranium and thorium for nuclear applications. Their radiological hazards arise not only from radioactive uranium and thorium isotopes, but also from their radioactive decay products, especially radium, which can migrate into drinking water, and radon, which is a gas. Naturally occurring and technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM and TENORM) wastes. These wastes arise coincidentally from the recovery of natural resources (extraction of rare earth minerals and other mining opera- tions, oil, and gas) and water treatment. Like uranium and thorium wastes, they arise in large volumes and their radiological hazards result from uranium, thorium, and their ra- dioactive decay products, radium and raclon. Throughout this report the committee will use these categories to illustrate gaps and inconsistencies in the current regulations for wastes with very different levels of ra- dioactivity, volumes, and radioactive half-lives; anal inconsistencies in reline at that are racliolo~icallv similar to each other - 7 ~ ^~ v 444 ~4~~ YY Ail At least 12 federal statutes apply to low-activity wastes. The broadest of these Is the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), which defines wastes in the first four categories listen! above as "byproduct" materials and provides fecleral authority for their regulation. Wastes in the first three categories meet the definition of low-level waste (LLW) given in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) of 1982, as amended. The NWPA provides no statutory upper or lower limit on the radioactivity in Tow-leve] wastes. Uranium- and tho- rium-contaminated wastes produced after the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Contro! Act (UMTRCA) was passed in 1978 must be clisnosed in licen.ser1 rn~lin~r.tiv`~ W~tP fn ~:1; `: ~~ 6 ~~ _ _ _ 1 1 . ~ c~. l flare are more disposal options for uranium- and thorium-contaminated wastes 6 Strictly speaking, UMTRCA also applies to wastes at facilities licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before 1978 (see Chapter 2~. 2 Interim Report

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wastes: produced prior to UMTRCA, which are manages! under the Formerly Utilized Sites Re- medial Action Program (FUSRAP). Thus the disposal options for FUSRAP and UMTRCA wastes differ even though the materials are the same (or similar). Low-level wastes generated or disposed in the commercial sector are regulated by the USNRC under its authority to license nuclear facilities and the possession of nu- clear materials. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authority to regulate environmental radiation exposure as well as hazardous chemical wastes. Wastes that contain both radionuclides and hazardous chemicals are referred to as "mixed wastes" and may be subject to regulation by both the USNRC and EPA. The DOE is self- regulating for defense wastes on its own sites. The Department of Transportation regu- lates the shipment of radioactive materials while the USNRC has the authority to regulate certain packages for transportation of nuclear materials. The states have three important responsibilities with regard to low-activity 1. The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of ~ 980, as amencled, makes each state responsible for disposing of its own LLW and encourages the formation of state compacts (congressionally ratified agreements among groups of states) for providing dis- posal facilities.7 2. States may assume portions of the USNRC's regulatory authority by becoming a USNRC Agreement State. Thirty-three states are Agreement States, including the three that currently host LLW disposal facilities (South Carolina, Utah, and Washington). 3. The states regulate non-AEA wastes because these wastes are not covered by federal statutes. An especially important role for the states is the regulation of NORM and TENORM wastes from a number of activities, including mining, oil and gas produc- tion, and water treatment. Of the wastes clescribecl in this interim report, LLW from DOE and commercial nuclear facilities have received the most attention from regulators and the public. LLW in the form of clebris, rubble, and contaminated soils from facility decommissioning and site cleanup constitutes much larger volumes than I~LW from operational facilities, but it generally contains very little radioactive material. Conversely, discrete radioactive sources that are no longer useful also meet the definition of LLW although they may con- tain highly concentrates] radioactive materials. ~ ~ 11 r 1 , ~ . A . .. . lVlllllOnS OI CUD1C meters of tailings and other wastes from mining and processing uranium and thorium ores are stored or disposed in piles near their origin. Like LLW uranium and thorium wastes are subject to the AEA, but concern about them comes mainly from citizens living near these wastes. NORM and TENORM wastes contain the same long-lived radioactive constituents as uranium ant! thorium wastes ant] arise in equally large or larger volumes. NORM and TENORM wastes are not subject to the AEA, and there is less consistency in their regulation ant! little public concern about them. intended. ' As discussed in Chapter 3, the Act did not lead to establishment of new disposal sites as Interim Report 3

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FINDINGS In general, the committee believes that there is adequate statutory and institu- tional authority to ensure safe management of low-activity wastes, but the current patch- work of regulations is complex and inconsistent which has led to instances of inefficient management practices and possibly in some cases increased risk overall. Exist- ing authorities have not been exercised consistently for some wastes. The system it likely to grow less efficient if the patchwork approach to regulation continues in the future. Finding ~ Current statutes and regulations for low-activity radioactive wastes provide ade- quate authority for protection of workers and the public. In its fact-finding meetings, site visits, and review of relevant literature, the committee found no instances where the legal and regulatory authority of federal and state agencies was inadequate to protect human health. This finding is consistent with previous studies by the National Academies and the National Council on Radiation Pro- tection and Measurements (NCRP) (NRC, 1999a, 2002a; NCRP, 2002~. Some states, however, have chosen not to exercise regulatory authority over NORM and TENORM wastes. The USNRC has determined not to regulate certain pre-1978 uranium and tho- rium wastes. The EPA has so far not exercised its authority under the Toxic Substance Control Act to regulate non-AEA radioactive wastes. In addition, some wastes have not been adequately controlled in spite of the existence of regulatory authority. Incidents in which out-of-use sealed sources were melted with scrap steel have been expensive, led to very conservative practices in the steel and nuclear industries, and fueled public distrust in the regulatory system (NRC, 2002a; HPS, 2002; Turner, 20031. Finding 2 The current system of managing and regulating low-activity waste is complex. It was developed under a patchwork system that has evolved based on the origins of the waste. In its information-gathering the committee received a clear message from agen- cies responsible for managing and regulating low-activity waste: A more consistent, sim- pler, performance-based and risk-informed approach to regulation is needed (see Chapter 4, Sidebar 4.3~. Many committee members themselves had difficulty in understanding the regulations well enough to discuss the system ant! its applications. Similarly the NCRP found that the current waste classification systems "are not tran~narent or clef`'n~i his" Act th^+ Ohm (C~1~;~d ~~ ___~L~ 1~ ~1~ "ll" Ill"` Ills ~lu~lll~rlu~1 Yarns are Decomlng Increasingly complex as additional waste steams are incorporated into the system" (NCRP, 2002, p. 65~. Findings 3 and 4 Certain categories of low-activity wastes have not received consistent regulatory oversight and management. Current regulations for low-activity wastes are not based on a systematic considera- tion of risks. Interim Report

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Regulations focused on the wastes' origins have led to inconsistencies relative to their likely radiological risks. NORM and TENORM are not regulated by federal agen- cies, and state regulation of these wastes is not consistent. Nevertheless, these wastes may have significant concentrations of radioactive materials as compared to some highly regulates! waste streams (e.g., from the nuclear industry). As described in Chapter 4, NORM wastes routinely accepted at a landfill triggered a radiation monitor intended to ensure that rubble from a decommissioned! nuclear reactor meets very strict limits on its radioactivity. Uranium mining and processing wastes, which are racliologically similar to NORM wastes, are regulate<] by their (late of origin. Federal regulations do not prohibit ore processing resicluals at facilities that were not uncler license by the USNRC before the 1978 passage of UMTRCA from being disposed in ants. However, mill tailings gen- erated after UMTRCA, must be disposed in licensed radioactive waste facilities. In addition to inconsistencies in regulating the radiological risks, current regula- tions generally overlook trade-offs between radiological and non-ractiological risks. Very large (100,000 cubic meter) volumes of slightly contaminates! soil and debris, ant! very heavy nuclear reactor components are being transported long distances for clisposal. In developing current requirements for how Tow-activity wastes are managed or disposed, worker risks in excavating, loading, and unloading large-volume wastes; risks of trans- portation accidents; and environmental risks and costs (e.g., consuming large amounts of fossil fuel) have not been analyzed and comparer] in a systematic way to radiological risks. PUBLIC CONCERNS REGARDING LOW-ACTIVITY WASTES: AN ISSUE FOR THE FINAL REPORT On beginning this study, the committee was aware that there is persistent ant! widespread public concern with all aspects of radioactive waste management and clis- posal (NRC 1996, 2001a, 2002a, 2003; GAO, 1999; DunIap et al., 19931. During the committee's open sessions, members of the attending public expressed considerable lack of trust in the Tow-activity waste regulatory system due to its complexity, inflexibility, and inconsistency. These factors have apparently raised doubts about the current sys- tem's capability for protecting public health. The task of this interim report was to clevelop an overview of current regulatory and management practices for low-activity waste, and thus set the stage for the commit- tee's final report, which will assess policy anal technical options for improving the current practices. The assessments will include risk-informec3 options, and the committee strongly believes that issues of public trust and risk perception will be important consicl- erations in the final report. Interim Report s

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SIDEBAR ES-1 PURPOSE OF THIS REPORT This study was initiated by the National Academies' Board on Radioactive Waste Management. Due to financial constraints, the study was divided into two phases. This interim report, which concludes phase one, addresses current low-activity waste regulations and practices according to the following parts of the study's task statement: ( 1 ) Using available information from public domain sources, provide a summary of the sources, forms, quantities, hazards, and other identifying characteristics of low-activity waste in the United States; and (2) review and summarize current policies and practices for regulating, treating, and disposing of low-activity waste, including the quantitative (including risk) bases for existing regulatory sys- tems, and identify waste streams that are not being regulated or managed in a safe or cost effective manner. Phase two will assess options for improving regulations and practices (see Chapter 1, Sidebar 1.1) and provide a final report. 6 Interim Report