United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Jurisdiction Over Low Level Waste Management at Reactor Sites in Agreement States

HPPOS-097 PDR-9111210206

See the memorandum from G. H. Cunningham to H. R. Denton dated September 13, 1985.

This memo provides the following OELD opinion. The NRC has jurisdiction over the handling and storage of low-level wastes within the reactor exclusion area. In Agreement States, the states have control over land burial of low level wastes, even in the exclusion area. The opinion also extends to reactor decommissioning.

In Agreement States, the NRC licenses and regulates the handling and storage of low level waste in the exclusion area. When wastes are derived from offsite waste generators, NRC jurisdiction is based on 10 CFR 100.3 (a), which requires the reactor licensee to have an exclusion area in which the licensee maintains and has full control over all activities in order to protect public health and safety from the release of possible fission products from hypothetical major accidents. Under Generic Letter 85-14, any program sponsored by a state to fulfill its low level waste obligations in accordance with the Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act (Public Law 96-573, 42 U.S.C. 2021b-2021d) by storage of waste within the exclusion area of a nuclear power reactor is subject to the licensing and regulatory jurisdiction of the NRC pursuant to 10 CFR 150.15 (e) (1).

The disposal of low level radioactive waste generated by the operation of a nuclear reactor was omitted in 10 CFR 150.15 as a function reserved to the federal government. This implies that it was relinquished to the Agreement States. Therefore, because of the hazards or potential hazards of high level atomic energy wastes from the chemical processing of irradiated fuel elements, its disposal is governed by license pursuant to CFR 150.15 (a) (4). However, the states have control over land burial of low level wastes (27 FR 1351, February 14, 1962).

In regards to the decommissioning of nuclear reactors, after removal of all special nuclear material from the site and fixing the reactor so that it can never again be used in the production or utilization of special nuclear material, Agreement States may regulate the remaining byproduct radioactivity provided the NRC takes the position that leaving the radioactive structures on site in a safe configuration is the method of choice for disposal. But, assuming a continued legal viability for 10 CFR 150.15 (a) (1), a storage option preserves NRC jurisdiction.

Regulatory references: 10 CFR 20.302, 10 CFR 100.3, 10 CFR 150.15, 10 CFR 20.2002

Subject codes: 9.6, 12.2, 12.9

Applicability: Reactors

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, June 09, 2015