United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Disposal of Exempt Quantities of Radioactive Material

HPPOS-043 PDR-9111210193

Title: Disposal of Exempt Quantities of Radioactive


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


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 Thursday, March 29, 2012