United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Further Guidance on Labeling Requirements

HPPOS-028 PDR-9111210150

See the letter from H. D. Thornburg to D. C. Trimble dated September 14, 1981, and the incoming request from D. C. Trimble (Arkansas Power & Light Company) dated June 19, 1981.

In general, a container should be labeled when radioactive material is added to it. However, conditions may exist when addition of appropriate information to the label may be delayed. The health physics position was written in the context of 10 CFR 20.203, but it also applies to the "new" 10 CFR Part 20, Sections 20.1904 and 20.1905.

An NRC Radiological Assessment Team Appraisal resulted in a citation for failing to label containers of radioactive material in accordance with 10 CFR 20.203 (f) (1) and (2) [or 10 CFR 20.1904 (a)].

While Arkansas Power & Light Company (AP&L) believed the specific situation cited was a violation of the 10 CFR 20.203 (f) (1) and (2) [or 10 CFR 20.1904 (a)] guidelines, the Radiological Assessment Team and the Regional NRC Inspector's interpretation of these 10 CFR 20.203 (f) (1) and (2) [or 10 CFR 20.1904 (a)] requirements were viewed as impractical and costly if applied to all radioactive materials on the Arkansas Nuclear One (ANO) site. In the course of one day, ANO has generated as many as 2,000 bags of contaminated trash and tools. Most of these packages contain material with contamination levels less than 20,000 dpm per 100 square centimeters or exposure rates less than 1 mR per hour.

It is AP&L's belief that the intent of the regulation was to prevent severe overexposures (internal or external) and to ensure minimal personnel exposure when working in areas containing packages of radioactive material.

Specific problems with the NRC Region IV interpretation of the regulation involve the following: (1) the labeling of every package without regard for the radiological contents of the container or the area in which the package is used, (2) the type of information required on the label (no allowance is made for alternative steps such as color coding to display the potential hazard of the material), and (3) the point in time or situation where the label must be affixed to the package. To aid in clarification of 10 CFR 20.203 (f) (1) and 2) [or 10 CFR 20.1904 (a)] requirements and ensure consistency in radiation protection practices, AP&L requested an NRR statement regarding the following: 1) the definition of a container, and (2) the situation or time when labeling must commence.

Some degree of flexibility with respect to 10 CFR 20.203 (f) (1) and (2) [or 10 CFR 20.1904 (a)] requirements are allowed through the exceptions provided in 10 CFR 20.203 (f) (3) [or 10 CFR 20.1905].

If these exceptions do not provide the relief necessary to make a radioactive materials control program practical to implement, exemptions may be requested in accordance with 10 CFR 20.501 [or 10 CFR 20.2301]. Since there is no special definition of "container" in 10 CFR Part 20, the usual (dictionary) meaning of the term applies (i.e., a container is "a thing in which material is held or carried").

In general, a container should be labeled when the radioactive material is added to it. However, we appreciate that certain conditions may exist where the addition of appropriate information to the label may necessitate some delay. For example, dose rate information may not be added until the container is filled, or the final dose rate information may not be added until the container can be moved to a low-background area for measurement.

In summary, although 10 CFR 20.203 (f) (1) and (2) [or 10 CFR 20.1904 (a)] do not provide the "flexibility" you desire, we suggest that you consider the following possibilities for reducing the burden of labeling containers of dry radioactive waste.

First, consider the possibility of utilizing the exceptions provided in 10 CFR 20.203 (f) (3) [or 10 CFR 20.1905].

Second, consider applying for an exemption, pursuant to 10 CFR 20.501, from the requirements of 10 CFR 20.203 (f) [or 10 CFR 20.1904]. In any case, to be acceptable, alternative methods of control (such as those suggested by you of color coding and establishing posted local radioactive materials storage areas) must provide worker protection and material controls equivalent to those of the labeling described in 10 CFR 20.203 (f) (1) and (2) [or 10 CFR 20.1904 (a)]. These alternative methods should assure that exposures are ALARA and should be formally documented in procedures and included in training.

Third, should you find that these approaches do not provide the desired flexibility, you might consider submitting a petition for rulemaking, pursuant to 10 CFR 2.802. Under this provision, interested persons may petition the NRC to issue, amend, or rescind any of its regulations.

Regulatory references: 10 CFR 20.203, 10 CFR 20.1904, 10 CFR 20.1905

Subject codes: 4.7

Applicability: All

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, June 04, 2015