Public Meetings Scheduled re Proposed Holtec Consolidated Interim Spent Fuel Facility in New Mexico

On April 9, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency is seeking public comment on the scope of its environmental review of Holtec International’s application for a license to construct and operate a consolidated interim spent fuel storage facility in Lea County, New Mexico.  NRC staff will hold a series of public meetings in late April and early May to describe the review process and take public comments. Overview According to the license application, Holtec is seeking to store up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium in commercial spent fuel in the Holtec International Storage Module Underground “MAXimum” Capacity (HI-STORM UMAX) Storage System for a 40-year license term.  The subterranean used nuclear fuel storage system has a maximum storage capacity of 10,000 canisters.  The initial license application is for 500 storage cavities.  The NRC previously certified HI-STORM UMAX in Docket number 72-1040. “Engineered over a decade ago and licensed by the NRC in 2015, HI-STORM UMAX is physically sized to store all of the used nuclear fuel produced in the U.S. and all canisters currently licensed in dry storage in the country making it a truly universal used fuel storage facility,” states Holtec.  “Already deployed at multiple nuclear power plants around the U.S. …, the HI-STORM UMAX stores the stainless steel canister containing the spent fuel or high-level waste entirely below-ground to serve as a ‘security-friendly’ storage facility, providing a clear, unobstructed view of the entire CISF from any location.  HI-STORE CIS is envisioned to unify the storage of all different storage canisters (both vertically and horizontally stored) in one standardized HI-STORM UMAX cavity system simplifying operations and aging management activities.” “Storing the Nation’s used nuclear fuel in the HI-STORM UMAX system is a temporary measure, as the stainless-steel canisters are easily retrievable and ready for transport pending the determination of a safe permanent solution for managing used nuclear materials.,” continues Holtec.  “The canisters are designed, qualified, and tested to survive and prevent the release of radioactive material under the most adverse accident scenarios postulated by NRC regulations for both storage and transportation.” Holtec is using its own funds to support the licensing action.  According to Holtec, the project has “the enthusiastic support of nuclear-savvy communities in southeastern New Mexico incorporated as the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), LLC.”  If the initial application is approved, Holtec plans to make supplemental submittals to incorporate the various canister types being used in the industry. The Holtec application and other documents related to the NRC’s review are available on the NRC website at www.nrc.gov. Public Comment On April 25, 2018, NRC will hold the first “scoping” meeting at the agency’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.  The meeting is scheduled from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET.  There will also be a webinar so people unable to attend in person may follow the meeting.  Interested stakeholders may participate in the meeting via webinar at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7824864004787186434. NRC staff will also hold three meetings in New Mexico as follows:

  • April 30, 2018 from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. MT at the Eastern New Mexico University- Roswell, Campus Union Building, Multi-Purpose Room 110, which is located at 48 University Boulevard in Roswell;
  • May 1, 2018 from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. MT at the
Lea County Event Center, which is located at 5101 N. Lovingston Highway in Hobbs; and,
  • May 3, 2018 from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. MT at the Eddy County Fire Service, which is located at 1400 Commerce Drive in Carlsbad.
The first meeting will be an open house and poster session.  The other two meetings will be full scoping meetings.  NRC staff members will hold an open house one hour before each of the Hobbs and Carlsbad meetings to meet informally with members of the public.  A court reporter will be available to record comments at all locations.  Spanish-speaking staff will be available at the New Mexico meetings to assist with translation. Background Holtec submitted its application on March 30, 2017.  The NRC formally docketed the application on February 28, 2018.  On March 30, 2018, NRC published a Federal Register notice requesting public comments on the scope of its environmental review.  (See 83 Federal Register 13,802 dated March 30, 2018.)  Comments will be accepted through May 29, 2018.  On April 6, 2018, NRC published a separate notice about the public meetings.  (See 83 Federal Register 14,897 dated April 6, 2018.) For additional information, please contact , please contact Erika Grandrimo of Holtec at (856) 797-0090 ext. 3920 or at (e.grandrimo (at) holtec (dot) com) e.grandrimo (at) holtec (dot) com or David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

New Reactor Licenses to be issued to Florida Power and Light

On April 5, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that the agency has authorized its staff to issue Combined Licenses for Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) Turkey Point site in Florida.  The licenses grant FPL permission to build and operate two AP1000 reactors at the site, which is located approximately 25 miles south of Miami. Overview After conducting a hearing on December 12, 2017, the Commission authorized the agency’s Office of New Reactors to issue the licenses.  The Commission found the staff’s review of FPL’s application adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings. Background FPL submitted the application on June 30, 2009, seeking permission to build and operate two AP1000 reactors adjacent to the two existing Turkey Point reactors.  The NRC certified the 1,100-megawatt AP1000 design in 2011. The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) independently reviewed aspects of the application that concern safety, as well as the staff’s final safety evaluation report.  In September 2016, the committee provided the results of its review to the Commission.  In October 2016, the NRC completed its environmental review and issued the final impact statement for the proposed Turkey Point reactors. For additional information, please contact Scott Burnell of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

Anne White Sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management

On March 29, 2018, Anne Marie White of Michigan was sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (EM) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). “As Assistant Secretary, White will provide leadership to continue the safe cleanup of the environmental legacy brought about from five decades of nuclear weapons development and government-sponsored nuclear energy research,” states the DOE press release announcing the swearing in.  “She will work closely with communities that have partnered with DOE and its predecessor agencies for many decades.” “It is an honor to serve as Assistant Secretary of Energy for EM,” White said.  “I look forward to the challenges ahead and know that with the talented federal staff, our dedicated workers in the field, and the support of a wide array of stakeholders, we will deliver the EM mission safely and cost effectively.” Overview White is the founder of Bastet Technical Services, LLC — a consulting firm that has been engaged in providing strategic solutions to solve complex environmental challenges across the DOE complex.  She has more than 25 years of experience across a broad range of activities within the nuclear field, mainly focused on project and program management projects with complex technical, regulatory, and stakeholder challenges. “She has industry-recognized credentials in technical skills that lead to sound, technically underpinned, cost effective solutions,” stated an earlier announcement.  “She has extensive hands on in the field experience at many of the Environmental Management sites for which she will have responsibility.” White, who has supported a number of emerging nuclear power nations to develop legal and regulatory structures and national policies, received a Master’s Degree of Science in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Background On January 3, 2018, the White House announced President Donald J. Trump’s intent to nominate White to be the EM Assistant Secretary.  On March 22, 2018, White was confirmed for the position by voice vote of the U.S. Senate. Since June 2017, James Owendoff has been serving as the Acting EM-1 Assistant Secretary.  In this role, Owendoff has focused on more timely decisions on cleanup projects. The position was previously held by Monica Regalbuto at the end of the administration of former-President Barack Obama. For additional information, please contact Douglas Tonkay, Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Disposal, at (301) 903-7212 or at Douglas.Tonkay@em.doe.gov or go to www.energy.gov.

Texas Compact Commission Publishes Final Waste Management Rule

On March 23, 2018, the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (Texas Compact Commission) published a final rule regarding the management of low-level radioactive waste within the Texas Compact in the Texas Register.  (See 43 Texas Register 1,871 dated March 23, 2018.) In particular, the Texas Compact Commission adopted a new §675.24 titled, “Requirement to Report on the Importation of Certain Low-Level Radioactive Waste for Management or Disposal that is not Required to be Disposed of in the Compact Facility.”  The final rule incorporates changes to the text as originally published in the Texas Register on November 3, 2017.  (See 42 Texas Register 6,123 dated November 3, 217). Copies of the proposed rule can be obtained from the Texas Compact Commission’s website at http://www.tllrwdcc.org/rules/.  Summary of the Factual Basis for the Adoption of the New Rule In order to fulfill its responsibilities with respect to 42 United States Code §§2021(b) – 2021(j) and the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact §3.04(9) and §3.05(6), as set out in Texas Health and Safety Code (THSC), Chapter 403, the Texas Compact Commission has determined that it is in the public interest to gather information regarding low-level radioactive waste that enters the host state irrespective of whether it requires an agreement for importation for disposal at the Compact Facility. Pursuant to the Commission’s authority set out in THSC §403.006, the Commission adopts a new §675.24 to facilitate the gathering of that information by way of reporting requirements after the entry of the low-level radioactive waste into the state rather than requiring approval for the importation of certain categories of low-level radioactive waste into the host state. Summary of Changes made in the Proposed Rules after Comments After reviewing comments received during the public comment period, the Texas Compact Commission:

  •   revised the rule to require semi-annual rather than quarterly reporting;
  •   added language to sub-section (b)(4) to exclude waste that is regulated under §675.23 titled, “Importation of Waste from a Non-Party Generator for Disposal;
  •   revised subsection (b)(4) to clarify that the Texas Compact Commission seeks gross volume or weight of reported waste;
  •   added language to subsection (b)(4) to reflect that waste disposed of in the same reporting period which it was received should not be reported;
  •   revised subsection (c)(2) to clarify the source attributes of waste;
  •   removed subsection (c)(6) and combined information sought regarding location of management or the date and location of disposal of waste into subsection (c)(5);
  •   added language to subsection (d) to set forth the term of the Texas Compact Commission’s fiscal year;
  •   added language to subsection (d) to note that entities with a reporting obligation may do so on their own forms so long as the Texas Compact Commission provides prior authorization of the forms; and,
  •   added language to note that new entrants that import waste into the host state must enter into an agreement with a reporting requirement within 30 days of commencement of operations.
Public Comment and Commission Responses The public comment period on the proposed new rule opened on November 3, 2017 and closed at midnight on December 8, 2017.  On January 29, 2015, the Rules Committee of the Texas Compact Commission conducted a meeting to consider comments on the proposed rule in the Office of the Attorney General of Texas. During the public comment period, the Commission received written comments from EnergySolutions, Nuclear Sources & Services (NSSI), and Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS).  EnergySolutions supports adoption of the rule.  WCS does not oppose adoption of the rule.  NSSI believes the rule is inapplicable to its operations based on other law. Concise Restatement of Statutory Authority A new §675.24 is adopted pursuant to Public Law 105-236 and the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact as set out in THSC Chapter 403.
  •   Texas Compact §3.05(4) grants the Texas Compact Commission the rulemaking authority to carry out the terms of the Texas Compact.
  •   Texas Compact §3.04(9) authorizes the Texas Compact Commission to assemble and make public information concerning low-level radioactive waste management needs, technologies and problems.
  •   Texas Compact §3.05(6) authorizes the Texas Compact Commission to enter into agreements regarding the management and disposal of low-level radioactive waste.
The Texas Compact Commission interprets the foregoing provisions as authority to require reporting of information on NCFW.  A new §675.24 will further the public interest by gathering and monitoring information regarding low-level radioactive waste that enters the host state irrespective of whether it requires an agreement for importation for disposal at the Compact Facility. Background On November 3, 2017, the Texas Compact Commission published a proposed rule regarding the management of low-level radioactive waste within the Texas Compact in the Texas Register.  (See LLW Notes, November/December 2017, pp. 11-13.)  Comments on the proposed rule were due no later than the close of business on December 8, 2017. The proposed new §675.24 related to a requirement to report on the importation of certain low-level radioactive waste for management or disposal that is not required to be disposed in the Texas Compact Facility.  In order to fulfill its responsibilities, the Texas Compact Commission determined that it is in the public interest that it gathers information regarding low-level radioactive waste that enters the host state irrespective of whether it requires an agreement for importation for disposal at the Texas Compact facility. The proposed new §675.24 sought to facilitate the gathering of that information by the way of reporting requirements after the entry of the low-level radioactive waste into the state rather than requiring approval for the importation of certain categories of low-level radioactive waste into the host state. For additional information, please contact Texas Compact Commission Executive Director Leigh Ing at (512) 217-8045 or at (leigh.ing (at) tllrwdcc (dot) org) leigh.ing (at) tllrwdcc (dot) org

NRC Issues Annual Assessments for Nation’s Nuclear Plants

On March 5, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has issued annual letters to the nation’s 99 commercial nuclear power plants operating in 2017 regarding their operational performance throughout the year.  All but three plants were in the two highest performance categories. Overview Of the 96 highest-performing reactors, 83 met all safety and security performance objectives and were inspected by the NRC using the standard “baseline” inspection program. The NRC determined that 13 reactors needed resolution of one or two items of low safety significance.  For this performance level, regulatory oversight includes additional inspections and follow-up of corrective actions.  Plants in this level include: Browns Ferry 1, 2 and 3 (Alabama); Catawba 2 (South Carolina); Clinton (Illinois); Columbia (Washington); Diablo Canyon 2 (California); Fermi 2 (Michigan); Grand Gulf (Mississippi); Perry (Ohio); Sequoyah 1 and 2 (Tennessee); and, Wolf Creek (Kansas).  Diablo Canyon 2 and Fermi 2 have resolved their findings since the reporting period ended and have transitioned to the highest performing level. There were no reactors in the third performance category with a degraded level of performance. The NRC noted that there were three reactors in the fourth performance category.  Arkansas Nuclear One 1 and 2 require increased oversight because of two safety findings of substantial significance.  Pilgrim (Massachusetts) is in the fourth performance category because of long-standing issues of low-to-moderate safety significance.  Additional inspections will be conducted to confirm that the performance issues are being addressed. Next Steps Later this spring and summer, the NRC will host a public meeting or other event near each plant to discuss the details of the annual assessments.  A separate announcement will be issued for each public assessment meeting.  In addition to the annual assessment letters, plants also receive an NRC inspection plan for the coming year. Background Information on the NRC’s oversight of commercial nuclear power plants is available through the NRC’s webpage on the Reactor Oversight Process.  The NRC routinely updates information on each plant’s current performance and posts the latest information as it becomes available to the action matrix summary.  To see the 2017 assessment letters, click on “2017q4” for each plant.  Annual construction oversight assessments for new reactors at the Vogtle Unit 3 and 4 sites are also on the NRC website. For additional information, please contact the NRC’s Office of Public Affairs at (301) 415-8200.

NRC to Conduct Very Low-Level Radioactive Waste Scoping Study

On February 14, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the agency’s plans to conduct a very low-level radioactive waste (VLLW) scoping study to identify possible options to improve and strengthen the NRC’s regulatory framework for the disposal of the anticipated large volumes of VLLW associated with the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and material sites, as well as waste that might be generated by alternative waste streams that may be created by operating reprocessing facilities or a radiological event.  (See 83 Federal Register 6,619 dated February 14, 2018.) As part of the process, the NRC is seeking stakeholder input and perspectives.  Respondents are asked to consider specific questions posed by the NRC staff and other federal agencies in the Federal Register notice.  Comments are due by May 15, 2018.  Comments considered after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is only able to ensure consideration of comments received on or before the deadline. Specific Request for Comment The NRC is interested in receiving comments from a broad range of stakeholders including professional organizations, licensees, Agreement States and members of the public.  Likewise, interested stakeholders with insight into relevant international initiatives are invited to provide their perspectives regarding international best practices related to VLLW disposal or other experiences that the NRC staff should consider.  All comments will be considered and the results of the scoping study will be documented in a publicly available report, which will inform the Commission of the staff’s recommendation for addressing VLLW disposal. All comments that are to receive consideration in the VLLW Scoping Study must be submitted electronically or in writing.  Respondents are asked to consider the background material (see below) when preparing their comments.  In responding, commenters are encouraged to provide specific suggestions and the basis for suggestions offered.  Specifically, the NRC staff requests comment on the following questions:

  1. The United States does not have a formal regulatory definition of VLLW. What should the NRC consider in developing its own regulatory definition for VLLW?  Is there another definition of VLLW that should be considered?  Provide a basis for your response.
  1. The existing regulatory framework within 10 CFR 61.55 divides low-level radioactive waste into four categories: Class A, Class B, Class C, and GTCC. Should the NRC revise the waste classification system to establish a new category for VLLW?  What criteria should NRC consider in establishing the boundary between Class A and VLLW categories?
  1. The NRC’s alternative disposal request guidance entitled, ‘‘Review, Approval, and Documentation of Low- Activity Waste Disposals in Accordance with 10 CFR 20.2002 and 10 CFR 40.13(a),’’ which is undergoing a revision, allows for alternative disposal methods that are different from those already defined in the regulations and is most often used for burial of waste in hazardous or solid waste landfills permitted under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Should the NRC expand the existing guidance to include VLLW disposal or consider the development of a new guidance for VLLW disposal?  Why or why not?
  1. If the NRC were to create a new waste category for VLLW in 10 CFR Part 61, what potential compatibility issues related to the approval of VLLW disposal by NRC Agreement States need to be considered and addressed? How might defining VLLW affect NRC Agreement State regulatory programs in terms of additional responsibilities or resources?
  1. Following the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985, states formed regional compacts for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste. If the NRC were to create a new waste category for VLLW, does it fall within regional compact authority to control VLLW management and disposal?  How might defining VLLW affect regional compacts in terms of additional responsibilities or resources?
  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-imposed waste analysis requirements for facilities that generate, treat, store and dispose of hazardous wastes are defined in 40 CFR Parts 264 through 270. How would NRC incorporate and apply waste analysis requirements for VLLW at RCRA Subtitle C and D facilities?  Should the NRC impose concentration limits and/or treatment standards for VLLW disposal?
  1. Are there any unintended consequences associated with developing a VLLW waste category?
  1. What analytical methods/tools should be used to assess the risk of disposing of VLLW at licensed low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities or RCRA Subtitle C and D facilities — i.e., generic or site- specific?
  1. How should economic factors be considered in the VLLW scoping study?
Submitting Comments Interested stakeholders may submit comments by any of the following methods:
  •   Federal Rulemaking website:  Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC–2018–0026.  Address questions about NRC dockets to Jennifer Borges at (301) 287–9127 or at (Jennifer.Borges (at) nrc (dot) gov) Jennifer.Borges (at) nrc (dot) gov.
  •   Mail comments to:  May Ma, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN–2– A13, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555– 0001.
Background In 2007, following developments in the national program for low-level radioactive waste disposal, as well as changes in the regulatory environment, the NRC conducted a strategic assessment of its regulatory program for low-level radioactive waste.  The results of this assessment were published in late 2007 in SECY–07–0180, “Strategic Assessment of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program.”  The strategic assessment identified the need to coordinate with other agencies on consistency in regulating low activity waste (LAW) disposal and to develop guidance that summarizes disposition options for low-end materials and waste. In 2016, the NRC staff conducted a programmatic assessment of the low-level radioactive waste program to identify and prioritize tasks that the NRC could undertake to ensure a stable, reliable and adaptable regulatory framework for effective low-level radioactive waste management.  The results of this assessment were published in October 2016 in SECY–16–0118, “Programmatic Assessment of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program.”  The programmatic assessment identified the need to perform a LAW scoping study as a medium priority. In International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safety Guide No. GSG– 1, “Classification of Radioactive Waste,” the IAEA defines VLLW as waste that does not meet the criteria of exempt waste, but does not need a high level of containment and isolation and is therefore suitable for disposal in a near surface landfill type facility with limited regulatory control.  The NRC currently does not have a formal regulatory definition for VLLW, nor has it adopted the IAEA definition.  However, the NRC uses the term VLLW consistent with the international regulatory structure.  In general, the NRC considers VLLW as material containing some residual radioactivity, including naturally occurring radionuclides that may be safely disposed of in hazardous or municipal solid waste landfills. The LAW scoping study, which was later renamed the VLLW scoping study, will combine several tasks initially defined in the 2007 strategic assessment into one. These tasks include:
  • coordinating with other agencies on consistency in regulating LAW;
  • developing guidance that summarizes disposition options for low-end materials and waste; and,
  • promulgating a rule for disposal of LAW.
As part of the scoping study, the NRC will also evaluate regulatory options that would define the conditions under which LAW, including mixed waste, could be disposed of in Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C hazardous waste facilities. Consistent with SECY–16–0118, the NRC is conducting this VLLW Scoping Study, which will consider disposal of waste as defined by 10 CFR Part 61 as the isolation, by emplacement in a land disposal facility, of radioactive wastes from the biosphere that is inhabited by man and that contains his food chains.  As such, the scoping study will not address non-disposal related disposition pathways including unrestricted release, clearance, reuse or recycle of materials. The purpose of the VLLW scoping study is to identify possible options to improve and strengthen the NRC’s regulatory framework for the disposal of the anticipated large volumes of VLLW associated with the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and waste that might be generated by alternative waste streams that may be created by fuel reprocessing or a radiological event.  Additionally, the NRC plans to evaluate regulatory options that could define the conditions under which VLLW, including mixed waste, could be disposed of in RCRA hazardous waste facilities. For additional information, please contact Maurice Heath of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) at (301) 415–3137 or at (Maurice.Heath (at) nrc (dot) gov) Maurice.Heath (at) nrc (dot) gov.

NRC Seeks Public Comment re Development of Regulatory Basis for Alternative Means of Disposal of GTCC and Transuranic Waste

On February 14, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Federal Register notice announcing that the agency is seeking stakeholder participation and involvement in identifying the various technical issues that should be considered in the development of a regulatory basis for the disposal of Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) and transuranic radioactive waste through means other than a deep geologic disposal, including near surface disposal.  (See 83 Federal Register 6,475 dated February 14, 2018.) As part of the process, the NRC is requesting that interested stakeholders respond to specific questions contained in the Federal Register notice.  Comments are due by April 16, 2018.  Comments considered after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is only able to ensure consideration of comments received on or before the deadline. Specific Request for Comment The NRC is seeking stakeholder participation and involvement in identifying the various technical issues that should be considered in the development of a draft regulatory basis for the disposal of GTCC and transuranic radioactive waste through means other than a deep geologic disposal, including near surface disposal.  To assist in this process, the NRC staff is requesting that interested stakeholders respond to the questions below.  In addition, the NRC staff has conducted some initial technical analyses to assist its understanding of potential hazards with near surface disposal of GTCC and transuranic wastes, which are contained in draft “NRC Staff Analyses Identifying Potential Issues Associated with the Disposal of Greater-Than-Class C Low- Level Radioactive Waste.”  The draft analyses should assist in providing responses to the following questions:

  1. What are the important radionuclides that need to be considered for the disposal of the GTCC and transuranic wastes?
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has described three broad categories of GTCC wastes, including a range of transuranic radionuclides, in its “Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Disposal of Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) Low-Level Radioactive Waste and GTCC-Like Waste.”  (See LLW Notes, November/December 2017, pp. 1, 23-28.)  The three categories are entitled activated metals, sealed sources and other wastes.  The attributes (i.e., radionuclide concentrations, heat generation, and waste form) vary significantly between the three categories.  Certain waste streams represent a very specific waste form (i.e., stainless steel for most activated metals; very concentrated amounts in sealed sources) that may require specific treatment to mitigate potential safety, security and criticality concerns.  Some waste streams may contain sufficient quantities of specific radionuclides that will present a significant thermal output and/or gas generation through radiolysis.  Still other waste streams may contain a significant quantity of fissile radionuclides (i.e., some isotopes of uranium and plutonium).  The NRC is interested in identifying those radionuclides that could be important for evaluating the safety and security of storage associated with the operational period at a disposal facility and the post-closure period (including inadvertent intruder protection).  Additionally, the NRC is interested in obtaining available data and information to support the characteristics of GTCC and transuranic wastes.
  1. How might GTCC and transuranic wastes affect the safety and security of a disposal facility during operations (i.e., pre-closure period)?
The presence of sufficient quantities of high activity radionuclides and/or fissile radionuclides in GTCC and transuranic wastes may impact the design and operational activities associated with a disposal facility prior to disposal.  The NRC is interested in identifying those design and operational activities at a disposal facility that may be impacted by GTCC and transuranic wastes.  For example, the requirements in 10 CFR Part 73 would require licensees to develop safeguards systems to protect against acts of radiological sabotage and to prevent the theft or diversion of Special Nuclear Material (i.e., transuranic waste such as plutonium, uranium-233 or uranium enriched in the isotopes uranium-233 or uranium-235) if a sufficient amount of Special Nuclear Material were present above ground at the disposal facility. 
  1. How might GTCC and transuranic wastes affect disposal facility design for post-closure safety including protection of an inadvertent intruder?
The NRC is considering disposal units (i.e., a single trench, borehole, and vault) that would contain a single category of waste (i.e., sealed sources) as well as disposal units that contain a mixture of all three waste types.  However, the NRC believes the best approach for understanding the issues would be to assume that waste within a disposal unit would be separated by the waste category and not be co-mingled.  Such an approach could provide a clear understanding of the issues associated with how a specific waste category might affect disposal facility design.  Certain waste streams associated with GTCC and transuranic wastes have larger inventories and concentrations of radionuclides than was typically considered at low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities.  For example, certain GTCC and transuranic wastes in sufficient quantities have the potential for significant thermal output that could affect degradation processes within a disposal unit and hydrogen gas generation through radiolysis that could also affect degradation processes of the waste package and waste form.  Additionally, waste streams associated with GTCC and transuranic wastes may have fissile materials that require facilities to be designed to limit the potential for a criticality event or limit the amount of fissile material that can be disposed.  There is a potential balance between security/safety and economic feasibility of design, construction and operation.  The NRC would like to hear from the stakeholders on these aspects as well.  The information provided on economic feasibility would be in concert with the NRC’s strategies on examining the cumulative effects of potential regulatory actions.  The NRC is interested in identifying the various scenarios that should be considered in evaluating the post-closure safety for the disposal of GTCC and transuranic waste—especially scenarios associated with specific issues and concerns that may not have been previously considered for commercial disposal facilities (i.e., synergistic effects of the thermal output on geochemical processes affecting release of radionuclides). Submitting Comments Interested stakeholders may submit comments by any of the following methods:
  •   Federal Rulemaking website:  Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC–2017–0081.  Address questions about NRC dockets to Carol Gallagher at (301) 415-3463 or at (Carol.Gallagher (at) nrc (dot) gov) Carol.Gallagher (at) nrc (dot) gov.
  •   Email Comments to:  Email comments to (Rulemaking.Comments (at) nrc (dot) gov) Rulemaking.Comments (at) nrc (dot) gov.  If you do not receive an automatic email reply confirming receipt, then contact the NRC at (301) 415-1677.
  •   Fax comments to:  Fax comments to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at (301) 415-1101.
  •   Mail comments to:  Mail comments to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555– 0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.
  •   Hand deliver comments to:  Comments may be hand delivered to the NRC at 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852 between 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Interested stakeholders are reminded to please include Docket ID NRC 2017-0081 in the subject line of any comment submission. Background The NRC’s “Licensing Requirements for Land Disposal of Radioactive Waste” are provided in 10 CFR Part 61.  Section 10 CFR 61.2, “Definitions,” provides that waste as used in Part 61 means those low-level radioactive wastes containing source, special nuclear or byproduct material that are acceptable for disposal in a land disposal facility.  The definition also indicates that low- level radioactive waste means radioactive waste not classified as high-level radioactive waste, transuranic waste, spent nuclear fuel or byproduct material as defined in paragraphs (2), (3), and (4) of the definition of byproduct material in § 20.1003. The Statements of Consideration (SOC) for the 10 CFR Part 61 proposed rule explained that not all waste may be suitable for disposal in the near surface.  Specifically, Section IV, “Purpose and Scope,” of the SOC indicates that, while 10 CFR Part 61 was intended to deal with the disposal of most low-level radioactive waste defined by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act, the 10 CFR Part 61 waste classification system identified some low-level radioactive wastes that are not suitable for disposal under its regulatory framework, and alternative methods would have to be used. In § 61.55, “Waste classification,” the NRC developed a classification system for waste for near surface disposal, which categorizes waste as Class A, B or C.  This provision also describes waste that is not generally acceptable for near-surface disposal, whose disposal methods must be more stringent than those specified for Class C waste.  This waste is referred to as GTCC waste. Nuclear power reactors, facilities supporting the nuclear fuel cycle and other facilities and licensees outside of the nuclear fuel cycle generate the GTCC waste.  This class of wastes include:
  • plutonium- contaminated nuclear fuel cycle wastes;
  • activated metals;
  • sealed sources; and,
  • radioisotope product manufacturing wastes – i.e., wastes “occasionally generated as part of manufacture of sealed sources, radiopharmaceutical products and other materials used for industrial, education, and medical applications.”
Transuranic waste is not included in the § 61.2 definition of low-level radioactive waste.  In a 1988 amendment to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, a definition for transuranic was added.  Transuranic waste is defined as “material contaminated with elements that have an atomic number greater than 92, including neptunium, plutonium, americium, and curium, and that are in concentrations greater than 10 nanocuries per gram [(nCi/g)], or in such other concentrations as the [U.S.] Nuclear Regulatory Commission may prescribe to protect the public health and safety.”  Transuranic waste is a byproduct of nuclear research and power production and is primarily produced from spent fuel recycling, medical isotope production or nuclear weapons fabrication.  The waste may consist of rags, tools and laboratory equipment contaminated with organic and inorganic residues. The identification and evaluation of regulatory concerns associated with land disposal of GTCC and transuranic waste will largely depend on the characteristics of the wastes – i.e., isotopes; concentrations and volumes of waste; and, physical and chemical properties.  The variable characteristics of the waste can influence the decision regarding the appropriate regulatory approach to use for management and disposal of these wastes.  Overly conservative assumptions for the inventory and characteristics could significantly limit disposal options, whereas, overly optimistic assumptions with respect to characteristics could lead to a disposal facility that may not provide adequate protection of public health and safety and security. For additional information, please contact Cardelia Maupin of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) at (301) 415–4127 or at (Cardelia.Maupin (at) nrc (dot) gov) Cardelia.Maupin (at) nrc (dot) gov.

NRC Issues Regulatory Basis for New Decommissioning Regulations

On November 27, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published in the Federal Register the regulatory basis for proposed new regulations on the decommissioning of commercial nuclear power reactors.  (See 82 Federal Register 55, 954 dated November 27, 2017.) The regulatory basis supports a proposed rule, which the agency expects to publish for public comment next year. The regulatory basis titled, “Regulatory Improvements for Power Reactors Transitioning to Decommissioning,” has been assigned NRC Docket ID 2015-0070 and can be found at https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1721/ML17215AO1O.pdf. Overview In the regulatory basis, the NRC staff concludes that there is sufficient justification to proceed with new regulations in the following areas:

  • emergency preparedness;
  • physical security;
  • cyber security;
  • drug and alcohol testing;
  • training requirements for certified fuel handlers;
  • decommissioning trust funds;
  • financial protection requirements and indemnity agreements; and,
  • application of the backfit rule.
In many cases, these new regulations would formalize steps to transition power reactors from operating status to decommissioning, without the use of exemptions and license amendments.  The NRC staff also recommends clarifying requirements regarding topics such as spent fuel management and environmental reporting requirements. The NRC staff recommends addressing some topics via updated guidance or inspection procedures in lieu of rulemaking.  These topics include:
  • the role of state and local governments in the decommissioning process;
  • certain staffing requirements; and,
  • aging management of certain plant systems, structures and components.
In addition to the regulatory basis, NRC staff plans to publish a revised preliminary draft of the regulatory analysis, which will update and refine the analysis of costs and benefits. Background  The NRC published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on the draft regulatory basis for a future power reactor decommission rule in November 2015, seeking public comment on a number of areas to be considered during the rulemaking process.  (See LLW Notes, November/December 2017, pp. 37-38.)  In March 2017, the agency issued a draft regulatory basis in the Federal Register.  (See LLW Notes, March/April 2107, pp. 23-24.)  The NRC staff considered public comments received during both stages in preparing this regulatory basis. The NRC began a similar rulemaking process in 2000-2001, but stopped after a stronger focus on security was prompted by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  However, five reactors have permanently shut down since the beginning of 2013, and three more are expected to cease operations by 2019. The five reactors now undergoing decommissioning required several exemptions from NRC’s regulations for operating reactors to reflect their decommissioning status.  By incorporating changes into regulation, the NRC believes the transition from operation to decommissioning can become more efficient and effective for the agency and the licensee, as well as more open and transparent for the public. The regulatory basis is publicly available in the NRC’s ADAMS online document database at accession number ML17215A010.  For additional information, please contact David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

DOE Submits Report to Congress re Alternatives for the Disposal of GTCC and GTCC-Like Waste

On November 14, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE or the Department) submitted a Report to Congress titled, Alternatives for the Disposal of Greater-than-Class C Low-Level Radioactive Waste and Greater-than-Class C-Like Waste. The report satisfies a statutory requirement in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which requires that, prior to making a final decision on the disposal alternative or alternatives to be implemented regarding GTCC low-level radioactive waste, the Secretary of Energy shall submit a report to Congress that describes the alternatives under consideration and await action by Congress.  The report must also include all the information required by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985 (LLRWPAA) for inclusion in a comprehensive report—submitted by the Secretary of Energy to Congress in February 1987—on ensuring the safe disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste. The report has been posted to the DOE’s Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) low-level radioactive waste website at http://www.gtcceis.anl.gov/. Overview GTCC low-level radioactive waste, which is generated by NRC or Agreement State licensees, has radionuclide concentrations exceeding the limits for Class C low-level radioactive waste established by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  The federal government is responsible for the disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste.  At this time, there is no disposal facility for GTCC low-level radioactive waste. In February 2016, DOE issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Disposal of Greater-ThanClass C (GTCC) Low-Level Radioactive Waste and GTCC-Like Waste (DOE/EIS-0375).  The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) did not constitute a final decision, however, as the Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires the Department to submit a Report to Congress on disposal alternatives for GTCC low-level radioactive waste and await action by Congress.  (See LLW Notes, January/February 2016, pp. 1, 24-25.) Accordingly, the November 2016 Report to Congress evaluates the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed development, operation and long-term management of a disposal facility or facilities for GTCC low-level radioactive waste and GTCC-like waste in DOE’s inventory as shown in the Final EIS. Preferred Alternative The preferred alternative for the disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste and GTCC-like waste identified in the Final EIS is land disposal at generic commercial facilities and/or disposal in the WIPP geologic repository.  Full waste emplacement operations at WIPP are not expected until the 2021 timeframe.  Therefore, the Department is primarily considering disposal at generic commercial facilities at this time.  The preferred alternative does not include disposal at any DOE sites other than WIPP. The November 2016 Report to Congress states that the analysis in the Final EIS has provided the Department with the information needed to identify a preferred alternative with the potential for disposal of the entire waste inventory analyzed in the Final EIS. DOE has determined that the preferred alternative would satisfy the needs of the Department for the disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste and GTCC-like waste.  As described in Section VIII of the report, legislation and regulatory actions would be required for DOE to implement its preferred disposal alternative. Conclusions and Next Steps Prior to making a final decision on which disposal alternative to implement, Section 631(b)(1)(B)(i) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires DOE to submit a Report to Congress and await action thereon.  DOE has fulfilled the first step by submitting the November 2016 Report to Congress.  DOE must now wait for Congress to take appropriate action in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 before the Department can issue a Record of Decision. Background The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985 assigned the responsibility for the disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste to the federal government.  DOE’s Office of Environmental Management was designated as the specific office responsible for GTCC low-level radioactive waste disposal. On May 11, 2005, DOE issued an Advance Notice of Intent (ANOI) in the Federal Register that invited the public to provide preliminary comments on the potential scope of the EIS.  DOE then issued a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS on July 23, 2007.  (A printing correction was issued on July 31, 2007.)  The NOI provided responses to the major issues identified by commenters on the ANOI, identified the preliminary scope of the EIS and announced nine public scoping meetings and a formal scoping comment period lasting from July 23 through September 21, 2007.  DOE used all input received during the scoping process to prepare the Draft EIS. A 120-day public comment period on the Draft EIS began with the publication of the EPA Notice of Availability in the Federal Register on February 25, 2011 and closed on June 27, 2011.  DOE conducted public hearings at nine locations during April and May of 2011.  All comments received on the Draft EIS were considered in the preparation of the Final EIS. In February 2016, DOE issued the Final EIS that evaluated five alternatives for the disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste and GTCC-like waste.  The final EIS identified land disposal at generic commercial facilities and/or disposal in the WIPP geologic repository as the preferred alternative. For additional information, please contact Theresa J. Kliczewski, GTCC EIS Document Manager for DOE, at (202) 586-3301 or at Theresa.Kliczewski@em.doe.gov.

Comment Period Opens re Guidance Document for Alternative Disposal Requests

On October 19, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published a notice in the Federal Register requesting comment on the draft revision to its guidance document for alternative disposal requests entitled, “Guidance for the Reviews of Proposed Disposal Procedures and Transfers of Radioactive Material Under 10 CFR 20.2002 and 10 CFR 40.13(a).”  (See 82 Federal Register 48,727 dated October 19, 2017.) The Federal Register notice regarding the draft revision to the NRC guidance document for alternative disposal requests is available at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-10-19/pdf/2017-22694.pdf. Purpose The purpose of the referenced document and associated procedure is to provide guidance for NRC staff and describe the process for documenting, reviewing, and approving (on a case-by- case basis) requests received from licensees, license applicants and other entities for alternative disposal of licensed material.  The staff may authorize these requests under the provisions of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) 20.2002 and 10 CFR 40.13(a). Scope The procedure covers the steps that NRC staff need to take in order to review, document, and approve a request for alternative disposal of licensed material, including:

  •   entering documents into the NRC public document system, which is known as the Agency-Wide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS);
  •   establishing an Enterprise Project Identifier (EPID) and/or Cost Activity Code (CAC) for 
monitoring time charged to the project;
  •   conducting a technical review of the disposal request, including performing dose 
assessments;
  •   preparing a Safety Evaluation Report (SER) or Technical Evaluation Report (TER);
  •   preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA);
  •   coordinating with state regulatory agencies and disposal site operators;
  •   implementing a Communications Plan, where applicable, including conducting public 
meetings; and,
  •   implementing the approaches included within the All Agreement States Letter.
Although § 20.2002 and § 40.13(a) reviews are similar in most respects, there are a few differences that are described in the document.  Where there are differences between the procedures for handling the different types of requests, a sub-section for each type of request is 
provided.  Otherwise, they will be referred to collectively as ADRs. The procedure does not cover all releases of solid materials from a licensee’s control, only those that are submitted for NRC approval under 10 CFR 20.2002 and 10 CFR 40.13(a).  The NRC’s procedures for release of solid materials are described in NUREG-1757, Volume 1, Rev. 2, Section 15.11. Submitting Comments Comments are due by December 18, 2017.  Comments received after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is able to assure consideration only for comments received on or before this date. Interested stakeholders may submit comments by any of the following methods:
  •   Federal Rulemaking Web Site:  Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2017-0198.
  •   Mail comments to:  May Ma, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN-2-A13, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.
Docket ID NRC-2017-0198 should be referenced when submitting comments. For additional information, please contact Robert Lee Gladney, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at (301) 415-1022 or (Robert.Gladney (at) nrc (dot) gov) Robert.Gladney (at) nrc (dot) gov.