United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

§ 60.102 Concepts.

This section provides a functional overview of subpart E. In the event of any inconsistency with definitions found in § 60.2, those definitions shall prevail.

(a) The HLW facility. NRC exercises licensing and related regulatory authority over those facilities described in section 202 (3) and (4) of the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974. Any of these facilities is designated a HLW facility.

(b) The geologic repository operations area. (1) This part deals with the exercise of authority with respect to a particular class of HLW facility--namely a geologic repository operations area.

(2) A geologic repository operations area consists of those surface and subsurface areas that are part of a geologic repository where radioactive waste handling activities are conducted. The underground structure, including openings and backfill materials, but excluding shafts, boreholes, and their seals, is designated the underground facility.

(3) The exercise of Commission authority requires that the geologic repository operations area be used for storage (which includes disposal) of high-level radioactive wastes (HLW).

(4) HLW includes irradiated reactor fuel as well as reprocessing wastes. However, if DOE proposes to use the geologic repository operations area for storage of radioactive waste other than HLW, the storage of this radioactive waste is subject to the requirements of this part.

(c) Areas related to isolation. Although the activities subject to regulation under this part are those to be carried out at the geologic repository operations area, the licensing process also considers characteristics of adjacent areas that are defined in other ways. There is to be an area surrounding the underground facility referred to above, which is designated the postclosure controlled area, within which DOE is to exercise specified controls to prevent adverse human actions following permanent closure. The location of the controlled area is the site. The accessible environment is the atmosphere, land surface, surface water, oceans, and the portion of the lithosphere that is outside the controlled area. There is an area, designated the geologic setting, which includes the geologic, hydrologic, and geochemical systems of the region in which a geologic repository operations area is or may be located. The geologic repository operations area plus the portion of the geologic setting that provides isolation of the radioactive waste make up the geologic repository.

(d) Stages in the licensing process. There are several stages in the licensing process. The site characterization stage, though begun before submission of a license application, may result in consequences requiring evaluation in the license review. The construction stage would follow, after issuance of a construction authorization. A period of operations follows the issuance of a license by the Commission. The period of operations includes the time during which emplacement of wastes occurs; any subsequent period before permanent closure during which the emplaced wastes are retrievable; and permanent closure, which includes sealing of shafts. Permanent closure represents the end of active human intervention with respect to the engineered barrier system.

(e) Isolation of waste. (1) During the first several hundred years following permanent closure of a geologic repository, when radiation and thermal levels are high and the uncertainties in assessing repository performance are large, special emphasis is placed upon the ability to contain the wastes by waste packages within an engineered barrier system. This is known as the containment period. The engineered barrier system includes the waste packages and the underground facility. A waste package is composed of the waste form and any containers, shielding, packing, and absorbent materials immediately surrounding an individual waste container. The underground facility means the underground structure, including openings and backfill materials, but excluding, shafts, boreholes, and their seals.

(2) Following the containment period special emphasis is placed upon the ability to achieve isolation of the wastes by virtue of the characteristics of the geologic repository. The engineered barrier system works to control the release of radioactive material to the geologic setting and the geologic setting works to control the release of radioactive material to the accessible environment. Isolation means inhibiting the transport of radioactive material so that amounts and concentrations of the materials entering the accessible environment will be kept within prescribed limits.

[48 FR 28222, June 21, 1983, as amended at 61 FR 64268, Dec. 4, 1996]

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, July 10, 2014