United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Clarification of Generic Letter 81-38, "Storage of Low Level Radioactive Wastes at Power Reactor Sites"

HPPOS-239 PDR-9111210366

See the memorandum from L. J. Cunningham and P. Lohaus to M. R. Knapp (and others) dated January 31, 1991.

This memo provides guidance for Generic Letter 81-38 and states that NRC licensees should minimize on-site storage of low-level radioactive waste. Licensees who construct storage facilities, or expand existing facilities with the intention of storing waste for more than five years should obtain a separate Part 30 license. HPPOS-264 and HPPOS-278 contain related topics.

Various questions from Regional inspectors and Headquarter reviewers had arisen concerning whether Generic Letter 81-38 required nuclear power reactor licensees to limit the storage time for radioactive waste generated by normal reactor operation and maintenance to five years or less.

Generic Letter 81-38 reflects the position of the NRC that all licensees should minimize on-site storage of low-level radioactive waste. However, the Commission recognizes that reactor licensees need to have interim (short-term) storage capability while disposal capacity is being developed by the States. The intent is that licensees who construct or expand storage facilities with the intention of storing waste for more than five years should obtain a separate Part 30 license.

The guidance provided in Generic Letter 81-38 was not intended to be applied to single packages or just a few packages of waste. Likewise, radioactive components, such as replaced steam generators or heat exchangers, generated through non-routine maintenance, were not intended to be included within the scope of Generic Letter 81-38.

The Commission is considering a number of low-level waste storage issues, including factors that need to be addressed in deciding whether to authorize storage beyond January 1, 1996. These activities are a part of the Commission's evaluation of possible actions to be taken in response to the 1996 title transfer and possession provisions of the Low-level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985.

Generic letter 81-38 can not be used as a basis for citing licensees for storing their normally generated low-level radioactive waste past a defined time period (e.g., 5 years). However, storage of such waste beyond the period allowed by the license (if specified) or referenced in the FSAR, without amending the license or performing a 50.59 evaluation and submitting an updated FSAR in accordance with 50.71 (e), may be a basis for enforcement action.

Regulatory references: 10 CFR 61, Generic Letter 81-38

Subject codes: 3.4, 9.0, 9.6

Applicability: Reactors

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, June 30, 2015