IMPROVING THE REGULATION AND MANAGEMENT OF LOW-ACTIVITY RADIOACTIVE WASTES

Committee on Improving Practices for Regulating and Managing Low-Activity Radioactive Waste

Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes IMPROVING THE REGULATION AND MANAGEMENT OF LOW-ACTIVITY RADIOACTIVE WASTES Committee on Improving Practices for Regulating and Managing Low-Activity Radioactive Waste Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board Division on Earth and Life Studies NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu

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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. The 10 organizations that provided financial support for this report are recognized in the Preface. International Standard Book Number 0-309-10142-5 (Book) International Standard Book Number 0-309-65838-1 (PDF) Library of Congress Control Number 2006922091 Cover: Typical low-activity waste, courtesy of the Nuclear Energy Institute. Waste shipping containers, courtesy of MHF Logistical Solutions. Uranium-contaminated areas, courtesy of the Department of Energy. Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800)624-6242 or (202)334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes COMMITTEE ON IMPROVING PRACTICES FOR REGULATING AND MANAGING LOW-ACTIVITY RADIOACTIVE WASTE DAVID H. LEROY, Chair, Leroy Law Offices, Boise, Idaho MICHAEL T. RYAN, Vice Chair, Charleston Southern University, South Carolina EDWARD L. ALBENESIUS, Westinghouse Savannah River Company (retired), Aiken, South Carolina WM. HOWARD ARNOLD, Westinghouse Electric (retired), Coronado, California FRANÇOIS BESNUS, Institute de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, Paris, France PERRY H. CHARLEY, Diné College-Shiprock Campus, New Mexico GAIL CHARNLEY, Health Risk Strategies, Washington, DC SHARON M. FRIEDMAN, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania MAURICE C. FUERSTENAU, Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada, Reno JAMES HAMILTON, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina ANN RAPPAPORT, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts D. KIP SOLOMON, University of Utah, Salt Lake City KIMBERLY W. THOMAS, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico Liaison ROBERT M. BERNERO, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (retired), Gaithersburg, Maryland Staff JOHN R. WILEY, Study Director TONI GREENLEAF, Financial and Administrative Associate DARLA J. THOMPSON, Research Associate MARILI ULLOA, Senior Program Assistant LAURA D. LLANOS, Senior Program Assistant JAMES YATES, JR., Office Assistant

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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes NUCLEAR AND RADIATION STUDIES BOARD RICHARD A. MESERVE, Chair, Carnegie Institution, Washington, DC S. JAMES ADELSTEIN, Vice Chair, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts HAROLD L. BECK, Department of Energy Environmental Laboratory (retired), New York City, New York JOEL S. BEDFORD, Colorado State University, Fort Collins ROBERT M. BERNERO, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (retired), Gaithersburg, Maryland SUE B. CLARK, Washington State University, Pullman JAMES E. CLEAVER, University of California, San Francisco ALLEN G. CROFF, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (retired), Tennessee DAVID E. DANIEL, University of Texas at Dallas SARAH C. DARBY, Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU), Oxford, United Kingdom SHARON L. DUNWOODY, University of Wisconsin, Madison RODNEY C. EWING, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor ROGER L. HAGENGRUBER, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque DANIEL KREWSKI, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada KLAUS KÜHN, Technische Universität Clausthal, Germany SUSAN M. LANGHORST, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri NIKOLAY P. LAVEROV, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow MILTON LEVENSON, Bechtel International (retired), Menlo Park, California C. CLIFTON LING, Memorial Hospital, New York City, New York PAUL A. LOCKE, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland WARREN F. MILLER, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque ANDREW M. SESSLER, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California ATSUYUKI SUZUKI, Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, Tokyo JOHN C. VILLFORTH, Food and Drug Law Institute (retired), Derwood, Maryland PAUL L. ZIEMER, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana Staff KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Board Director EVAN DOUPLE, Scholar RICK JOSTES, Senior Program Officer MICAH D. LOWENTHAL, Senior Program Officer BARBARA PASTINA, Senior Program Officer JOHN R. WILEY, Senior Program Officer

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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes CATHERINE S. BERKLEY, Financial and Administrative Officer TONI GREENLEAF, Financial and Administrative Associate DARLA J. THOMPSON, Research Associate MARILI ULLOA, Senior Program Assistant LAURA D. LLANOS, Senior Program Assistant COURTNEY GIBBS, Senior Program Assistant JAMES YATES, JR., Office Assistant

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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes List of Reviewers This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The content of the review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: David Adelman, University of Arizona, Tucson Jan Beyea, Consulting in the Public Interest, Lambertville, NJ Robert J. Budnitz, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, CA Michael Corradini, University of Wisconsin, Madison Sharon Dunwoody, University of Wisconsin, Madison Gordon Linsley, International Atomic Energy Agency (retired), Oxon, England Michael McWilliams, Stanford University, CA Richard Meserve, Carnegie Institution, Washington, DC Dianne Nielson, Department of Environmental Quality, Salt Lake City, UT Allan Richardson, Environmental Protection Agency (retired), Bethesda, MD Atsuyuki Suzuki, Nuclear Safety Commission,Tokyo, Japan

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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by John F. Ahearne, Sigma Xi and Duke University, Research Triangle Park, NC. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with NRC procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the NRC.

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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes Preface Studies by the National Academies provide scientific and technical advice to assist public decision makers. Studies are typically conducted at the request of a government agency, which funds the study. This study, however, was self-initiated by the National Academies’ Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board (NRSB). Looking back over 60 years since the widespread use of nuclear energy began, Board members recognized that statutes, regulations, and commercial practices that deal with low-activity radioactive wastes—which comprise the largest volume of radioactive wastes in the United States—have evolved as an inconsistent patchwork. Low-activity wastes range from medical and laboratory wastes, to industrial-scale equipment and process residues, to rubble and contaminated soils from nuclear facility decommissioning and cleanup, and to mining and mineral extraction wastes. Clearly this wide variety of wastes touches on many sectors of the economy. Low-activity wastes are regulated primarily by their origins—the nature of the industry that produced them—rather than the actual radiological hazards they present. Wastes from some origins are tightly controlled, resulting in limited and relatively expensive management and disposal options; while other wastes that present equal or greater risks are less closely controlled. Once initiated by the NRSB, this study received a great deal of interest from agencies responsible for the regulation and disposition of low-activity wastes as well as from public stakeholders. The committee gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the following 10 federal, state, and foreign organizations, which made this study possible:

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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes Army Corps of Engineers California Environmental Protection Agency Department of Defense Executive Agent for Low-Level Radioactive Waste Department of Energy Environmental Protection Agency The Institute of Applied Energy—Japan Institute de Radioprotection et de Surété Nucléaire—France Midwest Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Nuclear Regulatory Commission Southeast Compact Commission The committee benefited greatly from the diversity of perspectives, concerns, and new ideas brought to our attention by our sponsors. Congressional staff, industry representatives, and members of the public also provided valuable insights. Presentations to the committee (see Appendix C) generally cited needs and opportunities to improve the current system of regulations and management practices, but differed in what specific changes were needed or their urgency. Presenters also cautioned the committee that its advice should be practical and implementable in the context of existing legislation, regulation, and commercial infrastructure. The first half of this study culminated in an interim report that provided an overview of the current system and identified areas for improvement.1 In the second half of the study, which led to this final report, the committee developed the concept of a “risk-informed” framework that would provide rationale and structure for significant improvements in the system. By focusing on the risk presented by given wastes, rather than their origin, and requiring consistent measures to control these risks, the framework would further enhance safety, improve efficiency, and promote cooperation among all stakeholders. While noting current initiatives in the United States and internationally that are sound examples of risk-informed practices, the committee did not suggest specific changes in current legislation, regulations, or commercial practices. Rather it is the committee’s position that specific changes are matters of public policy to be developed through the risk-informed decision-making structure set forth in this report. The committee especially recognizes the efforts by the members and staff of the NRSB to initiate and secure funding for this study. NRSB staff 1   The committee’s interim report is reproduced in Appendix A.

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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes director Kevin Crowley was primarily responsible for starting the study. John Wiley, who served as study director, ably assisted the committee through all stages of information gathering, report development, and review. Staff members Toni Greenleaf, Darla Thompson, Marili Ulloa, Laura Llanos, and James Yates all helped bring this study to its successful conclusion. David H. Leroy, Chair Michael T. Ryan, Vice Chair2 2   During the preparation of this final report Michael Ryan served as Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste, which developed a white paper “History and Framework of Commercial Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management in the U.S.” submitted to the Commission on December 30, 2005.

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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes Contents     OVERVIEW   1     SUMMARY   3 1   INTRODUCTION   11      Summary of the Interim Report,   12      Development of this Report,   15 2   CURRENT INITIATIVES FOR IMPROVING LOW-ACTIVITY WASTE REGULATION AND MANAGEMENT   19      Current U.S. Initiatives,   19      International Initiatives,   32      The Current U.S. Disposal Situation and Post-2008 Issues,   38      Conclusions,   40 3   A RISK-INFORMED APPROACH TO LOW-ACTIVITY WASTE PRACTICES   43      Risk and Risk Assessment,   44      Risk and Decision Making,   50      Risk Perception, Trust, and Stakeholders,   53      Attributes of a Risk-Informed LAW Regulation and Management System,   57      Conclusions,   64

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Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes 4   IMPLEMENTING RISK-INFORMED PRACTICES   67      Implementing Risk-Informed Practices Through the Regulatory System,   68      Industry’s Needs and Responsibilities for Implementing Risk-Informed LAW Practices,   74      Public Stakeholder Interactions in Implementing a Risk-Informed Decision-Making Process,   81      Conclusions,   87 5   FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS   89     REFERENCES   97     APPENDIXES         A   Interim Report   105     B   International Approaches for Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Waste   177     C   Presentations to the Committee   193     D   Committee Biographies   199     E   Acronym List   207