United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Letter Dated February 6, 1978 ... Regarding Redistribution of Backlighted Dials

HPPOS-136 PDR-9111210365

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

called for.

Regulatory references: 10 CFR 30.19, 10 CFR 32.22, 10 CFR

150.15

Subject codes: 3.5, 3.6, 12.2, 12.9

Applicability: Byproduct Material

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 29, 2012