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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes Appendixes
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes Appendix A: Interim Report Executive Summary Low-activity radioactive wastes include abroad 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 fuel or high-level radioactive waste.1 Low-activity wastes, however, may produce potential radiation exposure at well above background levels and if not properly controlled may represent a significant chronic (and, in some cases, an acute) hazard.2 For some low-activity wastes the present system of controls 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.1). In developing this overview, the committee3 has sought to identify gaps and inconsistencies that suggest areas for improvements. This initial fact-finding phase of the project led the committee to the findings that conclude this interim report. The committee will assess options for improving the current practices and provide recommendations in its final report. In initiating this study, the Board on Radioactive Waste Management used the term “low-activity waste” to denote a spectrum of radioactive 1 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 Geologic Repositories for High-Level Radioactive Waste (NRC, 2003). 2 See Health Effects of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR V (NRC, 1990). 3 The Committee on Improving Practices for Regulating and Managing Low-Activity Radioactive Waste is referred to as “the committee” throughout this report.
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes 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: 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 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 systems, 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. materials declared as wastes from a variety of activities—national defense, nuclear power, industry, medicine, research, and mineral recovery.4 Given this broad charter, the committee sought to develop a concise list of categories that would include low-activity wastes from essentially all sources,5 yet by focusing on their inherent radiological properties rather than their origins, emphasize gaps and inconsistencies between their current regulation and management and their actual radiological hazards. The committee agreed that the following is an instructive and inclusive categorization of the wastes to be addressed: Wastes containing types and quantities of radioactive materials that fall well within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) classi- 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 Department of Energy (DOE) tank waste. The committee does not use the term in this sense. 5 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 long-term management or disposal challenges.
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes fication system for low-level waste, e.g., Class A, B, and C (see Chapters 2 and 3 and Appendix A). These include wastes from nuclear utilities, other industries, medicine, and research, which are disposed in USNRC-licensed, commercially operated facilities (“commercial low-level waste”), and similar wastes produced and disposed at DOE sites (“defense low-level waste”). Slightly radioactive solid materials—debris, rubble, and 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 USNRC Class A (the lowest of the classes). Discrete sources—out-of-service radiation sources and associated materials from industrial, 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 highest of the classes). Uranium and thorium ore processing wastes. These wastes have been produced 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 operations, 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 radioactive decay products, radium and radon. 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 radioactivity, volumes, and radioactive half-lives; and inconsistencies in regulating wastes that are radiologically similar to each other. 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 listed above as “byproduct” materials and provides federal 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 LLW. Uranium- and thorium-
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes contaminated wastes produced after the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) was passed in 1978 must be disposed in licensed radioactive waste facilities.6 There are more disposal options for uranium-and thorium-contaminated wastes produced prior to UMTRCA, which are managed under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP). Thus the disposal options for FUSRAP and UMTRCA wastes differ even though the materials are the same (or similar). LLW generated or disposed in the commercial sector are regulated by the USNRC under its authority to license nuclear facilities and the possession of nuclear 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 regulates 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 wastes: The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980, as amended, 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 disposal facilities.7 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). 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 production, and water treatment. Of the wastes described 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 debris, rubble, and contaminated soils from facility decommissioning and site cleanup constitutes 6 Strictly speaking, UMTRCA also applies to wastes at facilities licensed by the USNRC before 1978 (see Chapter 2). 7 As discussed in Chapter 3, the Act did not lead to establishment of new disposal sites as intended.
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes much larger volumes than LLW 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 contain highly concentrated radioactive materials. Millions of cubic 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 and thorium wastes and 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 and little public concern about them. FINDINGS In general, the committee believes that there is adequate statutory and institutional authority to ensure safe management of low-activity wastes, but the current patchwork of regulations is complex and inconsistent—which has led to instances of inefficient management practices and possibly in some cases increased risk overall. Existing authorities have not been exercised consistently for some wastes. The system is likely to grow less efficient if the patchwork approach to regulation continues in the future. Finding 1 Current statutes and regulations for low-activity radioactive wastes provide adequate 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 Protection 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 thorium 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
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes industries, and fueled public distrust in the regulatory system (NRC, 2002a; HPS, 2002; Turner, 2003). 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 agencies responsible for managing and regulating low-activity waste: A more consistent, simpler, 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 and its applications. Similarly the NCRP found that the current waste classification systems “are not transparent or defensible” and that the “classification systems are becoming increasingly complex as additional waste streams 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 consideration of risks. Regulations focused on the wastes’ origins have led to inconsistencies relative to their likely radiological risks. NORM and TENORM generally are not regulated by federal agencies, and state regulation of these wastes is not consistent. Nevertheless, these wastes may have significant concentrations of radioactive materials as compared to some highly regulated 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 radiologically similar to NORM wastes, are regulated by their date of origin. Federal regulations do not prohibit ore processing residuals at facilities that were not under license by the USNRC before the 1978 passage of UMTRCA from being disposed in landfills. However, mill tailings generated after UMTRCA must be disposed in licensed radioactive waste facilities. In addition to inconsistencies in regulating the radiological risks,
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes current regulations generally overlook trade-offs between radiological and nonradiological risks. Very large (100,000 cubic meter) volumes of slightly contaminated soil and debris, and very heavy nuclear reactor components are being transported long distances for disposal. In developing current requirements for how low-activity wastes are managed or disposed, worker risks in excavating, loading, and unloading large-volume wastes; risks of transportation accidents; and environmental risks and costs (e.g., consuming large amounts of fossil fuel) have not been analyzed and compared 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 and widespread public concern with all aspects of radioactive waste management and disposal (NRC, 1996, 2001a, 2002a, 2003; GAO, 1999; Dunlap et al., 1993). During the committee’s open sessions, members of the attending public expressed considerable lack of trust in the low-activity waste regulatory system due to its complexity, inflexibility, and inconsistency. These factors have apparently raised doubts about the current system’s capability for protecting public health. The task of this interim report was to develop an overview of current regulatory and management practices for low-activity waste, and thus set the stage for the committee’s final report, which will assess policy and technical options for improving the current practices. The assessments will include risk-informed options, and the committee strongly believes that issues of public trust and risk perception will be important considerations in the final report.
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes Appendix A: Interim Report 1 Introduction This study was initiated by the National Academies’ Board on Radioactive Waste Management (the Board), which observed that statutes and regulations administered by the state and federal agencies that control low-activity wastes have developed in an ad hoc manner over almost 60 years. They usually reflect the waste’s origin from national defense, nuclear power, industrial, institutional, or natural sources rather than its radiological hazard. Inconsistencies in the regulatory patchwork or its application have led to very restrictive controls for some low-activity wastes but the relative neglect of others. The purpose of this interim report is to provide an overview of current regulations and management practices, in conformance with items 1 and 2 of the project’s task statement (see Sidebar 1.1). In developing the overview, the committee1 has sought to identify gaps and inconsistencies that would suggest areas for significant improvements. This initial fact-finding phase of the project led the committee to the findings that conclude this report. The committee will address item 3 of the task statement and provide recommendations in its final report. WHAT ARE LOW-ACTIVITY RADIOACTIVE WASTES? In initiating this study, the Board used the term “low-activity waste” to denote a spectrum of radioactive materials declared as wastes from a 1 The Committee on Improving Practices for Regulating and Managing Low-Activity Radioactive Waste is referred to as “the committee” throughout this report.
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes SIDEBAR 1.1 Task Statement The objective of this study is to evaluate options for improving practices for regulating and managing low-activity radioactive waste in the United States. The study will focus on the following three tasks: 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; 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 systems, and identify waste streams that are not being regulated or managed in a safe or cost-effective manner; and Provide an assessment of technical and policy options for improving practices for regulating and managing low-activity waste to enhance technical soundness, ensure continued protection of public and environmental health, and increase cost effectiveness. This assessment should include an examination of options for utilizing risk-informed practices for identifying, regulating, and managing low-activity waste irrespective of its classification. variety of national defense and private-sector activities.2 These low-activity wastes generally contain lower levels of radioactive material and present less of a hazard to public and environmental health than either spent nuclear fuel or high-level waste from chemical processing of spent fuel, both of which are highly hazardous and tightly regulated.3 However, low-activity wastes may contain naturally occurring or other long-lived radionuclides at well above background levels, and it may represent a significant chronic (and, in some cases, an acute) hazard to public and environmental health.4 2 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 Department of Energy (DOE) tank waste. The committee does not use the term in this sense. 3 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 Geologic Repositories for High-Level Radioactive Waste (NRC, 2003). Transuranic wastes, which are controlled by the DOE, are addressed in several other National Research Council reports (NRC, 2001b, 2002b, 2002c) and are not included in this study. 4 See Health Effects of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR V (NRC, 1990).
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes Regulations define Source Materials, Byproduct Materials, and Special Nuclear Materials as follows: Source material means: Uranium or thorium or any combination of uranium and thorium in any physical or chemical form; or Ores that contain, by weight, one-twentieth of 1 percent (0.05 percent), or more, of uranium, thorium, or any combination of uranium and thorium. Source material does not include special nuclear material. Byproduct material means: Any radioactive material (except special nuclear material) yielded in, or made radioactive by, exposure to the radiation incident to the process of producing or utilizing special nuclear material; and The tailings or wastes produced by the extraction or concentration of uranium or thorium from ore processed primarily for its source material content, including discrete surface wastes resulting from uranium solution extraction processes. Underground ore bodies depleted by these solution extraction operations do not constitute “byproduct material” within this definition. Special nuclear material means: Plutonium, uranium enriched in the isotope 233 or in the isotope 235, and any other material that the Commission, pursuant to the provisions of section 51 of the Act, determines to be special nuclear material, but does not include source material; or Any material artificially enriched by any of the foregoing but does not include source material (10 CFR 20.1003). The USNRC conducts licensing and inspection activities associated with domestic nuclear fuel cycle facilities, uses of nuclear materials, transport of nuclear materials, management and disposal of low-level waste (LLW) and high-level waste (HLW), and decontamination and decommissioning of facilities and sites. USNRC also is responsible for establishing the technical basis for regulations, and provides information and technical basis for developing acceptance criteria for licensing reviews. An important aspect of the USNRC regulatory program is its inspection and enforcement activities. The USNRC has four regional offices (Region I in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; Region II in Atlanta, Georgia; Region III in Lisle, Illinois; and Region IV in Arlington, Texas), that
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes conduct inspections of licensed facilities including nuclear waste facilities. USNRC also has an Office of State and Tribal Programs, which establishes and maintains communication with state and local governments and Tribes, and administers the Agreement States Program. An Agreement State is a state that has signed an agreement with the USNRC allowing the state to regulate the use of radioactive material within that state, consistent with the USNRC regulations. Out of the 50 states, 33 are Agreement States. USNRC issues guidance on how to implement its regulations in the form of Regulatory Guides and Staff Positions. The USNRC staff develops Regulatory Guides to establish a standard approach to licensing. They are not intended to be regulatory requirements, but they do reflect methods, procedures, or actions that would be considered acceptable by the staff for implementing specific parts of USNRC regulations. Regulatory Guides describe the standard format and content for license applications. Staff Positions are divided into two general types: so-called “generic” positions, dealing with issues which relate to licensing activities for nuclear facilities independent of the technology or site selected; and site-specific positions, which give site guidance or advice applicable to a specific site. In addition to the guidance, the USNRC staff uses Standard Review Plans (typically, a “NUREG” document), which provide guidance to the USNRC staff in reviewing licensee submittals. These plans are made public so that licensees and applicants understand what is needed to comply with regulations. In this respect, the licensees and applicants have this third type of guidance to assist them in preparing their demonstration of compliance with the applicable regulations and standards. Important guidance for radiation protection programs is provided in International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP) and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) technical guidelines. Applicable recommendations are cited in USNRC staff documents, which focus on dose assessments. USNRC regulations that affect the management of low-activity waste include the Low-Level Waste Disposal Regulations (10 CFR Part 61), Radiation Protection Standards (10 CFR Part 20), and criteria related to the disposition of uranium mill tailings (10 CFR Part 40, Appendix A). The USNRC regulates the radioactive characteristics of LLW materials acceptable for near-surface land disposal through a combination of prescriptive and performance-based requirements. Performance assessment is required to calculate worker and public exposure risks associated with waste disposal. According to the USNRC, a near-surface disposal facility is one in which radioactive waste is disposed within the upper 30 meters of the land surface. Institutional control of access is required for 100 years,
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes TABLE A.1 Near-Surface Disposal for Allowable Concentrations of Long-Lived Radionuclides Radionuclide Concentration, curies per cubic meter (Ci/m3) C-14 8 C-14 in activated metal 80 Ni-59 in activated metal 220 Nb-94 in activated metal 0.2 Tc-99 3 I-129 0.08 Concentration, nanocuries per gram (nCi/g) Alpha emitting transuranic nuclides with half-life greater than 5 years 100 Pu-241 3,500 Cm-242 20,000 SOURCE: Code of Federal Regulations, Title 10, Section 61.55. and within 500 years radioactivity must decay to a sufficiently low level so that it will not pose unacceptable hazards to an intruder or the general public. To meet this latter requirement, further prescriptive regulations define three classes of waste that are deemed suitable for near-surface disposal. Classification as Class A (the easiest to dispose), Class B, or Class C depends on which radionuclides are present and their concentrations (see Tables A.1 and A.2). If the waste qualifies as transuranic or is contaminated above certain limits with long-lived radionuclides, it is not suitable for near-surface disposal.1 1 Mining industry waste is excluded from this requirement.
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes TABLE A.2 Allowable Concentrations of Short-Lived Radionuclides for Near-Surface Disposal Radionuclide Class A Waste (Ci/m3) Class B Waste (Ci/m3) Class C Waste (Ci/m3) Total of all nuclides with less than 5-year half-life 700 a a H-3 40 a a Co-60 700 a a Ni-63 3.5 70 700 Ni-63 in activated metal 35 700 700 Sr-90 0.04 150 7,000 Cs-137 1 44 4,600 aThere are no limits for these radionuclides in Class B or C wastes. Practical considerations such as the effects of external radiation and internal heat generation on transportation, handling, and disposal limit the concentrations for these wastes. NOTE: Not all Class C-or-less wastes will be acceptable at all sites and some greater than Class C wastes may be acceptable at certain sites. This distinction is the essence of the difference between waste classification and site-specific decisions on remediation. SOURCE: Code of Federal Regulations, Title 10, Section 61.55.
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes Appendix A: Interim Report The Environmental Protection Agency (Appendix B of Interim Report) More than a dozen major statutes or laws form the legal basis for the programs of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA authority to develop radiation protection standards and to regulate radioactive materials, including TENORM, is derived from a number of those federal laws, plus Executive Orders. The authority to develop Federal guidance for radiation protection was originally given to the Federal Radiation Council (FRC) by Executive Order 10381 in 1959 as an offshoot of authorities of the Atomic Energy Act (42 U.S.C. 2011 et seq.) (1954). Over the next decade the FRC developed Federal guidance ranging from guidance for exposure of the general public to estimates of fallout from nuclear weapons testing. Federal guidance developed by the FRC provided the basis for most regulation of radiation exposure by Federal and state agencies prior to the establishment of the EPA. In 1970, the responsibility for developing federal guidance for radiation protection was transferred from the FRC to the newly formed EPA under Reorganization Plan No. 3. Federal Guidance Documents are signed by the President and issued by EPA. By signing these, the President provides a framework for federal and state agencies to develop regulations that ensure the public is protected from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. Federal Guidance is also an opportunity for the President to promote national consistency in radiation protection regulations. For example, the guidance document “Radiation Protection Guidance to Federal Agencies for Occupational Exposure,” issued by EPA in 52 CFR Part 2822, January 27, 1987, established general principles and specifies
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes the numerical primary guides for limiting worker exposure to radiation. EPA, working in coordination with agencies of the governmental Interagency Steering Committee on Radiation Standards (ISCORS), has been revising its “Federal Radiation Protection Guidance for Exposure of the General Public” for issuance in the near future; that document last published in 1960, was revised in draft in 1994, and has been undergoing significant revisions since that time. EPA regulates radon and radioisotope emissions through its authority under the Clean Air Act (42 USC 7401 et seq.) (1970). Regulations promulgated by the Agency that control radioactive facilities and sites include 40 CFR Part 61: Subpart B, Underground Uranium Mines Subpart H, Department of Energy Facilities Subpart I, Certain non-DOE Facilities Subpart K, Elemental Phosphorous Plants Subpart Q, DOE Facilities Radon Emissions Subpart R, Radon from Phosphogypsum Stacks Under the Radon Gas and Indoor Air Quality Research Act (USC 42 et seq.) (1986) and Indoor Radon Abatement Act (1988), as well as authorities of the Clean Air Act, EPA has developed guidance for control of radon in buildings and schools. The guidance for radon has been generally adopted as a standard for use in establishing cleanups of radioactively contaminated sites. Although indoor radon exposures are believed by the radiation protection community to be the largest radiation related risk, indoor radiation does not arise from the low-activity wastes dealt with in this report. The Clean Water Act’s (CWA) (33 USC 121 et seq.) (1977) primary objective is to restore and maintain the integrity of the nation’s waters. This objective translates into two fundamental national goals: eliminate the discharge of pollutants into the nation’s waters, and achieve water quality levels that are fishable and swimmable. Under this law, EPA is given the authority to establish water quality standards and regulate the discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States. Section 502(6) of the CWA includes radioactive materials in the definition of pollutants. EPA’s implementing regulations at 40 CFR 122.2, which define the term pollutant, include radioactive materials except those regulated under the Atomic Energy Act. Thus EPA currently regulates radionuclides and radiation in discharges and establishes water quality standards. This includes TENORM radionuclides with the exception of uranium and thorium. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) (42 USC 300f et seq.) (1974), is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans’ drinking
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes water. Under SDWA, EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards. Implementing regulations for 40 CFR Part 141 include the establishment of national primary drinking water standards which currently include maximum contaminant limit goals (MCLG) and maximum contaminant limits (MCL) for radiation and radionuclides; current standards include radium-226 and radium-228, uranium, combined alpha, and beta and photon emitters. MCLs have also been proposed for Radon. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) (42 USC 9601 et seq.) (1980) and the Superfund Amendments and Reathorization Act (SARA) (42 USC 9601 et seq.) (1986) created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and provided broad Federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. CERCLA established prohibitions and requirements concerning closed and abandoned hazardous waste sites; provided for liability of persons responsible for releases of hazardous waste at these sites; and established a trust fund to provide for cleanup when no responsible party could be identified. EPA has determined that radiation is a carcinogen and thus a hazardous substance. Under the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Contingency Plan, EPA has issued guidance on removals and clean up of radioactively contaminated sites. Implementing regulations for the NCP are found at 40 CFR Part 300. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (15 USC 2601 et seq.) (1976) was enacted by Congress to give EPA the ability to track the 75,000 industrial chemicals currently produced or imported into the United States. EPA repeatedly screens these chemicals and can require reporting or testing of those that may pose an environmental or human-health hazard. EPA can ban the manufacture and import of those chemicals that pose an unreasonable risk. While radionuclides are considered toxic substances under the act, source material, special nuclear material, or byproduct material (as such terms are defined in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 USC. 2011 et seq.) and regulations issued under such Act) are excluded from coverage. Consequently, TENORM radionuclides may be subject to this law. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) (42 USC 321 et seq.) (1976) gave EPA the authority to control hazardous waste. This includes the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. RCRA also set forth a framework for the management of nonhazardous solid waste. The 1986 amendments to RCRA enabled EPA to address environmental problems that could result from underground tanks storing petroleum and other hazardous substances. RCRA focuses only on active and future facilities and does not address abandoned or historical sites (see CERCLA). The Hazardous and Solid
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes Waste Amendments (HSWA) are the 1984 amendments to RCRA that restricted land disposal of hazardous waste. Some of the other mandates of this strict law include increased enforcement authority for EPA, more stringent hazardous waste management standards, and a comprehensive underground storage tank program. RCRA specifically excludes source, special nuclear, and byproduct material from its jurisdiction. EPA’s implementing regulations for RCRA do not address, but also do not prohibit, disposal of radioactively contaminated substances in landfills. With the approval of the appropriate regulatory authority, such facilities have been used for disposal of TENORM, nuclear accelerator wastes, and certain AEA materials. Additional radiation protection authorities provided to the EPA by Congress include responsibilities for setting protective standards for radioactive waste disposal. Under the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Land (WIPP) Withdrawal Act, as amended (P.L. 102-579, 106 Stat. 4777), Congress gave EPA the authority to regulate many of the Department of Energy’s activities concerning this radioactive waste disposal site in New Mexico. EPA was required to finalize regulations which apply to all sites—except Yucca Mountain—for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel, transuranic and high-level radioactive waste. In 1998, EPA granted a certification of compliance indicating that the WIPP complied with EPA’s radioactive waste disposal regulations and could open to receive these materials. The compliance criteria regulations were established by EPA in 40 CFR Part 194 and the disposal regulations set by EPA in 40 CFR Part 191. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (42 USC 10141 n), Section 801, required the EPA, based upon and consistent with the findings and recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences, to develop regulations on health and safety standards for protection of the public from releases from radioactive materials stored or disposed of in the proposed Yucca Mountain radioactive waste disposal site. The standards to be developed were required to prescribe the maximum annual effective dose equivalent to individual members of the public from releases to the accessible environment from radioactive materials stored or disposed of in the repository. In 1999, EPA proposed draft standards and held public hearings; final regulations were published in 2001 for use by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy. Current regulations applicable to remediation of both inactive uranium mill tailings sites, including vicinity properties, and active uranium and thorium mills have been issued by the EPA under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) (42 USC 2022 et seq.) of 1978, as amended. EPA’s regulations in 40 CFR Part 192 apply to remediation of such properties and address emissions of radon, as well as radionuclides, metals, and other contaminants into surface and groundwater.
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes Appendix A: Interim Report The McMahon Act (Appendix C of Interim Report) The McMahon Act (Atomic Energy Act of 1946) was focused on safeguards and security for materials that have significance in the development of “atomic fission.” The Atomic Energy Act was significantly rewritten as the more familiar Atomic Energy Act of 1954. This version with several major amendments of its coverage and content comprises today’s regulations from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Nonetheless the very first definitions that were designed to provide safeguards and security of materials involved in “atomic fission” survive with only slight changes in wording today. The 1946 definitions were: (b) Source Materials. (1) Definition. The term “source materials” shall include any ore containing uranium, thorium, or beryllium, and such other materials peculiarly essential to the production of fissionable materials as may be determined by the Commission with the approval of the President. (2) License for Transfers Required. No person may transfer possession or title to any source material after mining, extraction, or removal from its place of origin, and no person may receive any source material without a license from the Commission. (3) Issuance of Licenses. Any person desiring to transfer or receive possession of any source material shall apply for a license therefore in accordance with such procedures as the Commission may by regulation
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes establish. The Commission shall establish such standards for the issuance or refusal of licenses, as it may deem necessary to assure adequate source materials for production, research or developmental activities pursuant to this Act or to prevent the use of such materials in a manner inconsistent with the national welfare. (c) Byproduct Materials. (1) Definition. The term “byproduct material” shall be deemed to refer to all materials (except fissionable material) yielded in the processes of producing fissionable material. (2) Distribution. The Commission is authorized and directed to distribute, with or without charge, byproduct materials to all applicants seeking such materials for research or developmental work, medical therapy, industrial uses, or such other useful applications as may be developed, if sufficient materials to meet all such requests are not available, the Commission shall allocate such materials among applicants therefore, giving preference to the use of such materials in the conduct of research and developmental activity and medical therapy. The Commission shall refuse to distribute or allocate any byproduct materials to any applicant, or recall any materials after distribution or allocation from any applicant, who is not equipped or who fails to observe such safety standards to protect health as may be established by the Commission. Sec. 5. (a)(1) Definition. The term “fissionable materials” shall include plutonium, uranium 235, and such other materials as the Commission may from time to time determine to be capable of releasing substantial quantities of energy through nuclear fission of the materials. (2) Privately Owned Fissionable Materials. Any person owning any right, title, or interest in or to any fissionable material shall forthwith transfer all such right, title, or interest to the Commission. (3) Prohibition. It shall be unlawful for any person to (a) own any fissionable material; or (b) after sixty days after the effective date of this Act and except as authorized by the Commission possess any fissionable material; or (c) export from or import into the United States any fissionable material, or directly or indirectly be a party to or in any way a beneficiary of, any contract, arrangement or other activity pertaining to the production, refining, or processing of any fissionable material outside of the United States. (4) Distribution of Fissionable Materials. The Commission is authorized and directed to distribute fissionable materials to all applicants requesting such materials for the conduct of research or developmental activities either independently or under contract or other arrangement with the
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes Commission. If sufficient materials are not available to meet all such requests, and applications for licenses under section 7, the Commission shall allocate fissionable materials among all such applicants in the manner best calculated to encourage independent research and development by making adequate fissionable materials available for such purposes. The Commission shall refuse to distribute or allocate any materials to any applicant, or shall recall any materials after distribution or allocation from any applicant, who is not equipped or who fails to observe such safety standards to protect health and to minimize danger from explosion as may be established by the Commission.”
Representative terms from entire chapter: