NRC Issues SRM re Final Rule for Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal (10 CFR Part 61)

On September 8, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) in response to SECY-16-0106, which sought Commission approval to publish a final rule in the Federal Register that would amend Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Parts 20, “Standards for Protection Against Radiation,” and Part 61, “Licensing Requirements for Land Disposal of Radioactive Waste.” The SRM can be found online at https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1725/ML17251B147.pdf. SRM Direction In the SRM, the Commission approved certain substantive revisions to the draft final rule and its subsequent publication as a supplemental proposed rule for a 90-day public comment period.  Specifically, prior to its publication as a supplemental proposed rule, the SRM states that the draft final rule should be revised to incorporate the following changes:

  1. reinstate the use of a case-by-case basis (i.e., “grandfather provision”) for applying new requirements to only those sites that plan to accept large quantities of depleted uranium for disposal;
  2. reinstate the 1,000 year compliance period from the proposed rule with a specific dose limit of 25 mrem/year and adopt a longer period of performance assessment—the period of which would be based on site-specific considerations and a “reasonable analysis,” as defined in SRM-SECY-13-0075, “Proposed Rule: Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal (10 CFR Part 61) (RIN 3150-AI92))—and apply the 1,000 year compliance period to the inadvertent intruder performance objective in 10 CFR 61.42 and the site stability performance objective in 10 CFR 61.44;
  3. clarify that the safety case consists of the quantitative performance assessment, as supplemented by consideration of defense-in-depth measures;
  4. modify the draft final rule text addressing defense-in-depth to narrow its consideration solely to providing additional assurance in mitigating the effects of large uncertainties that are identified during the performance assessment; and,
  5. be informed by broader and more fully integrated, but reasonably foreseeable, costs and benefits to the United States waste disposal system resulting from the proposed rule changes, including pass-through costs to waste generators and processors.
The SRM notes that the timing for the staff to prepare a regulatory basis for the disposal of Greater-than- Class C (GTCC) waste as directed in SRM-SECY-15-0094, “Historical and Current Issues Related to Disposal of Greater-Than-Class C Low-Level Radioactive Waste,” should be changed from the previous direction of within six (6) months of the completion of the ongoing 10 CFR Part 61 rulemaking to six (6) months after the publication of the supplemental proposed rule. Background The regulations for the disposal of commercial low-level radioactive waste in land disposal facilities are set forth in 10 CFR Part 61.  NRC originally adopted these regulations in 1982.  Although the NRC has never licensed any land disposal facilities under this part, the Agreement States that currently or plan to license low-level radioactive waste land disposal facilities must adopt compatible versions of these regulations. In SECY-13-0075, dated July 18, 2013, the NRC staff provided the Commission with a proposed rule to amend 10 CFR Part 61.  The Commission approved publication of the proposed rule in SRM-SECY-13-0075, dated February 12, 2014.  After making Commission directed changes, the NRC published the proposed rule for an initial 120-day comment period in the Federal Register on March 26, 2015.  The public comment period closed on July 24, 2015.  After receiving extension requests, the staff reopened the comment period, which then closed on September 21, 2015. For additional information on the Part 61 final rule and associated documents, please contact either Gary Comfort at (301) 415-8106 or at (Gary.Comfort (at) nrc (dot) gov) Gary.Comfort (at) nrc (dot) gov or Stephen Dembeck at (301) 415-2342 or at (Stephen.Dembek (at) nrc (dot) gov) Stephen.Dembek (at) nrc (dot) gov.