U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Letter Dated February 6, 1978 ... Regarding Redistribution of Backlighted Dials
Title: Letter Dated February 6, 1978 ... Regarding
Redistribution of Backlighted Dials
See the memorandum from J. R. Mapes to G. W. Kerr dated May
31, 1978. It is an OELD opinion that an NRC distribution
license is not needed to return to owners repaired watches
containing the original tritium sources. If the original
tritium source is replaced with a new source, an NRC
distribution license is required.
An OELD opinion was sought on the following questions
concerning the licensing requirements applicable to the
repair and redistribution of watches containing
approximately 200 millicuries of tritium enclosed in three
glass vials. These watches are generally described as
liquid crystal display (LCD) watches back lighted by
tritium activated luminous sources. The tritium used in
the luminous sources is byproduct material within the
meaning of Section 11e of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as
amended. OELD is of the opinion that under the
Commission's existing regulations these questions be
answered as follows.
1. Are repair facilities required to have an NRC
distribution license to return repaired watches that
contain the original tritium sources to the owners?
No. Since repaired watches containing original tritium
sources do not lose their status as exempt products under
10 CFR 30.19, an NRC distribution license is not required
to return these watches to the owners.
2. Is an NRC distribution license required when the
original tritium source is replaced with a new source and
returned to the owner?
Yes. When an LCD watch is repaired by replacing the
original tritium source or tritium time module with a new
source or time module, the repairer must obtain a specific
NRC or Agreement State byproduct material license
authorizing the repair and a specific NRC distribution
license authorizing the return of the watch to the owner.
3. Is it necessary for an individual offering repair
services on watches containing 200 millicuries tritium
sources to be licensed by the NRC or an Agreement State?
The answer depends on the type of repair service offered.
A person performing repairs which do not involve
replacement of the original tritium source or tritium time
module is not required to be licensed. That same person,
however, must obtain a specific byproduct material license
either from NRC or an Agreement State in order to perform
repairs that involve replacement of the original tritium
source or tritium time module with a new tritium source or
time module. Persons making such repairs are also required
to obtain an NRC distribution license authorizing the
return of the repaired watches to their owners.
The preceding analysis and conclusions leave one problem
unresolved. If the manner in which the tritium source
and/or tritium time module is inserted into an LCD watch is
significant from the radiological health and safety
standpoint, there would appear to be no justifiable basis
for distinguishing between repairs that involve removal and
reinsertion of the original tritium source or tritium time
module and repairs that involve replacement of the original
tritium source or tritium time module with a new tritium
source or time module. This concern raises the question of
the propriety of treating any repairs of LCD watches
involving the tritium source or tritium time module as
exempt "uses" within the meaning of 10 CFR 30.19.
The propriety of authorizing distribution of these items as
exempt from further regulation in the face of a safety
evaluation that virtually calls for (i.e., "anticipates")
certain repairs to be done by the manufacturer can also be
questioned. How can radiological health and safety be
assured when the item (or its user) is exempt from
regulation? In the absence of such assurance, how is the
exemption justified? Perhaps a definitive health physics
analysis may be needed to answer these questions. In any
event, some further thought on this matter seems to be
Regulatory references: 10 CFR 30.19, 10 CFR 32.22, 10 CFR
Subject codes: 3.5, 3.6, 12.2, 12.9
Applicability: Byproduct Material