United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Disposal of Exempt Quantities of Radioactive Material

HPPOS-043 PDR-9111210193

See the memorandum from J. M. Gutierrez to J. H. Joyner dated April 13, 1983, and the incoming request from J. H. Joyner dated March 22, 1983.

It is an OELD opinion that radioactive material held under license can only be disposed of pursuant to 10 CFR Part 20, even when the quantity disposed is less than that listed in 10 CFR 30.71, Schedule B. The document clarifies the scope and purpose behind 10 CFR Parts 20 and 30. The health physics position was written in the context of 10 CFR 20.301, 20.303, and 20.306, but it also applies to the "new" 10 CFR Part 20, Sections 20.2001, 20.2003, and 20.2005. HPPOS-190 contains a related topic.

In an incident considered for enforcement action, a janitor employed by a licensee removed a five gallon drum containing one to two microcuries of tritium. The drum was subsequently sent to a landfill before the licensee discovered the loss. Neither 10 CFR Part 20 nor the terms of the materials license in question would authorize disposal of one to two microcuries of tritium in a landfill. Specifically, although 10 CFR 20.303 and 20.306 [or 10 CFR 20.2003 and 20.2005] permit the disposal of small quantities of tritium (hydrogen-3) by a means other than to an authorized recipient, neither regulation section is applicable to the facts of this situation.

The opinion of OELD was sought because the incident raised the question of whether a licensee should be cited for an act with so little public health and safety consequence. In addition, it was suggested that certain regulations appear to authorize disposal of licensed material in individual quantities that do not exceed those listed in 10 CFR 30.71, Schedule B by transfer to any recipient, including garbage collectors and sanitary landfills.

10 CFR Part 30, specifically Section 30.71, Schedule B, establishes quantities of potentially licensable material that are sufficiently small so as not to warrant licensing. In contrast to the threshold determination of what quantities should be licensed, 10 CFR Part 20 governs the waste disposal process for material determined to be licensable, regardless of the quantities being considered for disposal.

As guidance, a general rule of statutory construction is that when two regulations are in apparent contradiction, the specific governs the general. Thus, although 10 CFR 30.18 (a) does authorize the receipt, possession, use, transfer, ownership or acquisition of potentially licensable material in quantities below that listed in Schedule B of 10 CFR 30.71, the governing regulation for purposes of waste disposal is 10 CFR 20.301 [or 10 CFR 20.2001]. Therefore, once a license is issued, the terms of that license and Part 20 govern with respect to waste disposal. Schedule B is irrelevant to that question, but it rather goes to the issue of whether a quantity of a particular substance in the first instance should be licensed.

Therefore, when the licensee inadvertently disposed of one to two microcuries of tritium, it was in violation of both the terms of its license and the regulations of 10 CFR 20.301 (a) [or 10 CFR 20.2001 (a) (1)]. From an enforcement perspective, the fact that the amount disposed would not in itself be licensable is irrelevant.

Regulatory references: 10 CFR 20.301, 10 CFR 20.2001, 10 CFR 30.18, 10 CFR 30.71

Subject codes: 9.0, 9.7, 11.2, 12.7

Applicability: All

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, June 05, 2015