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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes
question and their comparison to those of other waste materials, and not to the enterprise that produced the waste.
The committee recognizes that public perceptions of risk may differ from scientific assessments. Determining a level of acceptable risk is a matter of public policy informed by science. The committee also recognizes the substantial body of laws and regulations and the large financial investment in management infrastructure, including disposal facilities, that are now in place. While regulatory authorities are adequate to ensure safety, the current system is complex, is inconsistent, and does not address risks of the various LAW systematically. The system is likely to grow less efficient in the future as more and different wastes are generated (e.g., from nuclear facility decommissioning, site cleanups, and new nuclear applications).
The committee found no easy way to reform the existing system. Although there has been some progress, efforts over the past 25 years to change the system generally have not been successful. Radioactive waste issues are highly controversial among citizens, especially those whose communities might be involved in waste facility siting or transportation routes. For public policy makers, the political liabilities for engaging in these issues are high and benefits are small. Nevertheless, among decision makers at all levels who are responsible for continuing to ensure the safety of LAW management, there is strong interest in improving current practices.
In addressing its charge, the committee sought to be practical. The report discusses and recommends a four-tiered system of change based on established principles for risk-informed decision making, current risk-informed initiatives by waste regulators in the United States and abroad, solutions available under current regulatory authorities, and opportunities for focused legislation as needed if simpler approaches are inadequate.
biological, and possibly other hazards. The risk-informed methodology developed in this report could, generally speaking, be extended to incorporate all such hazards, although the details of doing so are beyond the scope of this study. See Recommendation 1.