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:

  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;

  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 systems, and identify waste streams that are not being regulated or managed in a safe or cost-effective manner; and

  3. 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.

regulating and managing LAW. The committee finished the first part of its study with an interim report published in late 2003. The interim report addressed the first two items of the committee’s task statement (see Sidebar 1.1) by providing an overview of LAW characteristics, inventories, management and disposal practices, and the federal and state regulations that control these wastes. The interim report is reproduced in Appendix A and summarized in the next section. Readers who seek background information on the topics discussed in this report should refer to Appendix A.


Federal authority for controlling nuclear materials dates back to the McMahon Act of 1946, enacted during the early period of development of nuclear weapons. Its successor, the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (AEA), as amended, is the basis for today’s federal control of nuclear energy-related enterprises and their wastes. However, a substantial portion of low-activity radioactive wastes comes from enterprises not regulated under the AEA, and their control devolves to state authorities.

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