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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