United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Compliance with the Rule "Timeliness in Decommissioning of Material Facilities"

                                                  UNITED STATES
                                          NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
                                OFFICE OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL SAFETY AND SAFEGUARDS
                                          WASHINGTON, D.C.  20555-0001

                                                November 5, 1996


NRC Administrative Letter 96-05:  Compliance with the Rule "Timeliness in Decommissioning of Material Facilities"


Addressees

All material and fuel cycle licensees.

Purpose

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is issuing this administrative letter to
inform addressees of their responsibility to comply with the requirements of the Rule,
"Timeliness in Decommissioning of Material Facilities" (59 FR 36026-36040, July
15, 1994).  This administrative letter highlights applicable compliance dates for many
licensees (August 15, 1996; September 15, 1996; and October 15, 1996) and does
not transmit any new requirements nor staff positions.  No specific action nor written
response is required.

Background

The Rule, "Timeliness in Decommissioning of Material Facilities" (known hereafter as
Timeliness Rule) amended 10 CFR Parts 2, 30, 40, 70, and 72, and established
definitive criteria for timely decommissioning upon termination of operations.  The
Timeliness Rule establishes requirements for notifying the NRC of pending
decommissioning actions and cessations in licensee operations, establishes
requirements for when decommissioning plans need to be submitted, and establishes
requirements for completing decommissioning activities.  The regulations also allow
licensees to request relief from the timing requirements where justified.

The Timeliness Rule applies to decommissioning of the entire site at the end of all
licensed activities at the site (i.e., "end-of-license" decommissioning) as well as of
separate buildings and outdoor areas (including inactive burial grounds) where
licensed activities have ceased (i.e., "end-of-use") while licensed activities continue
to be conducted at other site locations.  Section 5.B of Attachment 1 contains a
discussion on the applicability of the Timeliness Rule to inactive burial grounds.

The purpose of the Timeliness Rule is to avoid future problems and reduce potential
risk, to the public and environment, that may result from delayed decommissioning of
inactive facilities and sites.  Specific concerns that prompted the decommissioning
Timeliness Rule include the potential risk of safety practices becoming lax because of
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attrition of key personnel and lack of management interest at facilities once
operations cease, as well as the potential for bankruptcy, corporate takeover, or
other unforeseen changes, in a company's financial status, that may complicate or
delay decommissioning.

NRC is issuing this letter to ensure that licensees are aware of their responsibilities,
under the Timeliness Rule, and are aware of methods of fulfilling their
responsibilities, that NRC finds acceptable.

Discussion

The decommissioning and timeliness criteria apply to sites where:  (1) the licensee
has decided to permanently cease principal activities at the entire site or at any
separate building or outdoor area; or (2) no principal activities have been conducted
in such areas for a period of 24 months.  Further, the criteria apply to all licensees
for whom the authorization to perform licensed activities has expired or been
revoked.  Decommissioning and timeliness criteria also apply to broad-scope licenses
and to possession-only licenses (including possession for storage-only licenses). 
However, the timeliness criteria for possession-only licenses issued under 10 CFR
Part 72 differ from the criteria in 10 CFR Parts 30, 40, and 70 because the principal
activity in  Part 72 licenses is the storage of spent reactor fuel.  The Timeliness Rule
criteria do not apply to individual rooms/laboratories of any license, including a broad-
scope license, unless the building in which the rooms/laboratories are located will no
longer be used for licensed activity.  

Other possession-only licenses and storage-only licenses have been issued when
licensees have ceased or suspended operations for which the original licenses were
issued.  Licensees holding possession-only and storage-only licenses must comply
with the schedular requirements of the Timeliness Rule regardless of the expiration
dates on their licenses.  The Timeliness Rule requires licensees holding possession-
only and storage-only licenses to either proceed with decommissioning or justify why
they should be permitted to continue storing radioactive material.  Licensees that
believe they have already submitted adequate justification may wish to confirm that
understanding with their licensing office.

Attachment 1 to this letter provides a discussion of the Timeliness Rule requirements
and addresses special cases, including possession-only licenses, onsite disposals,
broad-scope licenses, uranium and thorium milling, and temporary job sites. 
Flowcharts to assist in determining compliance with the Timeliness Rule are provided
as Attachments 2, 3, and 4.  However, because of the wide variability in licensing
situations covered by this rule, the attachments should not be considered all-
inclusive.
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This administrative letter requires no specific action nor written response.  If you
have any questions about this letter, please contact the staff listed below or the
appropriate Regional Office.


                                                             signed by
                                          
                                                   John T. Greeves, Director
                                                   Division of Waste Management
                                                   Office of Nuclear Material Safety 
                                                     and Safeguards 

Contact:  Timothy C. Johnson, NMSS
             (301) 415-7299
             Email: tcj@nrc.gov

Attachments:  
1.  Summary of Timeliness Rule Requirements  
2.  Compliance with Decommissioning - Timeliness Rule, Case 1
3.  Compliance with Decommissioning - Timeliness Rule, Case 2
4.  Compliance with Decommissioning - Timeliness Rule, Case 3
5.  List of Recently Issued NRC Administrative Letters.                         Attachment 1
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SUMMARY OF TIMELINESS RULE REQUIREMENTS


1.0   INITIATION OF THE DECOMMISSIONING PROCESS 

There are three occurrences that lead to the requirement for licensees to notify the
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and to initiate the decommissioning process. 
These occurrences are:
 
(1) The license to conduct a principal activity has expired or been revoked.  (A
principal activity is one that is essential to achieving the purpose for which a license
was issued or amended.  Storage during which no licensed material is accessed for
use or disposal and activities incidental to decontamination or decommissioning are
not principal activities.) 

(2) The licensee has made the decision to permanently cease principal activities, at the
entire site or in any separate building or outdoor area, including inactive burial grounds
(land used for waste disposal under 10 CFR 20.302, 20.304, or the current 20.2002).

(3) There has been a 24-month duration in which no principal activities have been
conducted under license at the site or at any separate building or outdoor area,
including inactive burial grounds.

The licensee must provide written notification to NRC, per 10 CFR 30.36, 40.42,
70.38, and 72.54, within 60 days of the occurrence of any of the above.  When a
decommissioning plan is required, the written notification serves to initiate the
decommissioning process and decommissioning must begin upon approval of the
decommissioning plan.  If no decommissioning plan is needed, the licensee is to begin
decommissioning within the 60-day notification period.  The licensee may request to
delay initiation of the decommissioning process.  This request must be provided to the
NRC within 30 days of the occurrence of any of the above and contain justification for
the proposed delay.  Per 10 CFR 30.36(e), 40.42(e), 70.38(e), and 72.54(e)(1), NRC
may grant a request to delay or postpone initiation of the decommissioning process if
the Commission determines that the relief is not detrimental to the public health and
safety and is otherwise in the public interest.  The decommissioning process is not
initiated until NRC makes a determination on the request.   

If there are multiple licenses at a site, the requirements of the Timeliness Rule apply to
each individual license.  In situations where a license has expired but principal
activities will continue under other licenses in the same building or outdoor area, the
licensee would need to submit an alternative schedule request to delay
decommissioning until all licensed activities are terminated in that building or outdoor
area.  NRC may find this delay acceptable provided that the radioactive material from
the expired license is not significantly migrating, the licensee has sufficient financial .
                                                                                Attachment 1
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assurance for decommissioning, and adequate controls are in place to ensure
protection of the public and the environment.      

If there are multiple activities authorized under the same license, the requirements of
the Timeliness Rule apply to the license and not each individual activity, provided all
licensed activities occur in the same separate building or outdoor area.  

The effective date of the Timeliness Rule was August 15, 1994.  If principal activities
ceased and written notification was made to NRC before the effective date of the
Timeliness Rule, then August 15, 1994, is considered to be the date for initiating the
decommissioning process (date of notification), and no additional notification is
required from the licensee.  If principal activities ceased before the effective date of
the Timeliness Rule, but no written notification was submitted to the NRC, then the
24-month period of inactivity is considered to begin on August 15, 1994, and the
licensee should have provided written notification to NRC by October 15, 1996.  Any
licensee that decided to permanently cease principal activities after August 15, 1994,
should have notified NRC within 60 days of the decision.  If a licensee has missed one
of these notification deadlines, it should immediately notify the appropriate NRC
regional office.

2.0   DECOMMISSIONING PLAN REQUIREMENTS

If the licensee is required to submit a decommissioning plan per license condition or
per 10 CFR 72.54, 30.36(g), 40.42(g), or 70.38(g), then the plan must be submitted
to NRC within 12 months of the notification date, unless the licensee has submitted
an alternate schedule request.  Per 10 CFR 30.36(g)(2), 40.42(g)(2), 70.38(g)(2), and
72.54(f)(2), NRC may approve an alternate schedule for the initiation of
decommissioning, and thus for submittal of a decommissioning plan, if it determines
that the alternative schedule is necessary to the effective conduct of decommissioning
operations and presents no undue risk from radiation to public health and safety and is
otherwise in the public interest.  The decommissioning process is not initiated until
NRC makes a determination on the request.  

The decommissioning work scope at a limited number of sites may necessitate the
preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) per 10 CFR 51.20, as
required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.  The extensive analyses
essential for the preparation of an EIS can result in an unavoidable delay in the
submittal of a decommissioning plan, because it would not be prudent to develop a
decommissioning plan until the EIS is completed and a record of decision has been
issued by the Commission.  The licensee is still required to submit a request for an
alternative schedule for submittal of the decommissioning plan, however, which must
justify the delay.    

In addition, a site may require complex characterization, before a decommissioning
plan can be prepared, and a licensee may not be able to meet the requirement for .
                                                                                Attachment 1
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submittal within 12 months of notification.  This situation would therefore be used as
justification by the licensee when requesting an alternative schedule for submittal of
the decommissioning plan.

3.0   DECOMMISSIONING SCHEDULE REQUIREMENTS

If the licensee is required to submit a decommissioning plan, then decommissioning
must be initiated upon NRC approval of the plan.   Decommissioning must be
completed, including the submittal of a complete final survey report, and a request for
license termination submitted as soon as practicable but no later than 24 months after
the initiation of decommissioning, unless a delay or postponement has been requested
by the licensee and granted by NRC.  (Note:  The fee schedule for NRC review of
decommissioning plans is presented in 10 CFR 170.31.)

Decommissioning by a licensee not required to submit a decommissioning plan must
also be completed and a request for license termination submitted within 24 months
of the initiation of decommissioning, unless a delay or postponement has been
requested by the licensee and granted by NRC.

NRC may approve a request for an alternative schedule for the completion of
decommissioning of the site or separate building or outdoor area, if it determines the
alternative is warranted by consideration of:  technological feasibility; existing waste
disposal capacity; potential waste volume reduction; or reduction in worker radiation
exposure; by allowing decay of short-lived radionuclides.  Additionally, other
site-specific factors that may be taken into consideration include:  regulatory
requirements of other government agencies; lawsuits; groundwater treatment
activities; monitored natural ground-water restoration; actions that could result in
more environmental harm than deferred cleanup; and other factors beyond the control
of the licensee.  

4.0   COMPLETION OF THE DECOMMISSIONING PROCESS 

As the final step in decommissioning, the licensee shall certify the disposition of all
licensed material, including accumulated wastes, and conduct a radiation survey of
the premises where the licensed activities were carried out and submit a report of the
results of this survey or demonstrate that the premises are suitable for release in some
other manner.  This information must be submitted within the 24-month period after
notification or approval of the decommissioning plan, if required, unless an alternate
schedule has been approved.  Specific licenses, including expired licenses, will be
terminated by written notice to the licensee when the Commission determines that
radioactive material has been properly disposed of, reasonable effort has been made
to eliminate residual radioactive contamination, and a radiation survey has been
performed, or other information is submitted, by the licensee, that demonstrates that
the premises are suitable for release in accordance with NRC requirements.   

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5.0   APPLICATION OF THE TIMELINESS RULE TO SPECIAL CASES

5.1  Possession-Only Licenses

The requirements of the Timeliness Rule apply to possession-only licensees (including
possession for storage-only licensees) except those licensees where storage was the
original intent of the license (e.g., spent fuel storage licenses issued under 10 CFR
Part 72).  Possession-only licenses and storage-only licenses have been issued when
licensees have ceased or suspended principal activities for which the original license
was issued.  These licenses generally relax conditions that no longer apply because
operations under the original license no longer take place.  The Timeliness Rule
requires licensees holding possession-only or storage-only licenses to either proceed
with decommissioning or justify why they should be permitted to continue storing
radioactive material.

5.2  On-Site Disposals

Disposal sites approved under former 10 CFR 20.304, 20.302 and the current
20.2002 at facilities licensed under 10 CFR Parts 30, 40, 70, and 72 are required to
comply with the requirements of the Timeliness Rule.  Licensees with burial sites
closed and unused since August 15, 1994, were required to notify NRC no later than
October 15, 1996, that they had an outdoor area unused for the last 24 months. 
Licensees will then need to demonstrate the acceptability of the burial sites or begin
remediating the sites.  For additional information regarding compliance for on-site
disposals see NRC Information Notice No. 96-47, entitled, "Record Keeping,
Decommissioning Notifications for Disposals Authorized under Former 10 CFR
20.304, 20.302, and Current 20.2002." 

5.3  Broad-Scope Licenses

The requirements of the Timeliness Rule apply to broad-scope licensees regulated by
10 CFR Part 33, "Specific Licenses of Broad Scope for Byproduct Material."

The permanent cessation of principal activities in an individual room or laboratory may
require the licensee to notify NRC if no other licensed activities are being performed in
the building.  Licensees should note even if licensed activities are being performed in
other parts of the building that, they are required to keep lists of restricted (and
formerly restricted) areas pursuant to 10 CFR 30.35(g)(3).  Inspectors will review
these lists to identify individual rooms that have been released, and verify that the
rooms have been properly decommissioned.

5.4  Uranium and Thorium Milling

10 CFR 40.42(l) incorrectly states that uranium and thorium milling are exempt from
10 CFR 40.42(f) and 40.42(g) with respect to reclamation of tailings impoundments .
                                                                                Attachment 1
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and/or waste disposal areas.  These references should actually be 10 CFR 40.42(g)
and 40.42(h), respectively.  Conforming changes to the rule will be used to correct
these typographical errors.  Per 10 CFR 40.42(l), specific licenses for uranium and
thorium milling are exempt from the provisions in the Timeliness Rule in:  10 CFR
40.42(d)(4), for the 24-month period of inactivity; 10 CFR 40.42(g), for the content
of the decommissioning plan; and 10 CFR 40.42(h), for the timing of completion of
the plan, with respect to the reclamation of tailings impoundments and/or disposal
areas.  The Timeliness Rule applies to the buildings and onsite areas other than the
impoundment.

5.5  Temporary Job Sites

The Timeliness Rule applies to licensees who conduct licensed activities at temporary
job sites (e.g., reactor component repair service; well logging; radiography; portable
gauge use; mobile nuclear medicine service; field flood studies) and are licensed
pursuant to 10 CFR Parts 30, 40, and 70.  The rule also applies to Agreement State
licensees conducting licensed activities at temporary job sites pursuant to the
provisions for reciprocity in 10 CFR Part 150.  Generally, operations conducted at
temporary job sites do not result in site contamination and all radioactive materials are
required to be removed at the completion of the licensed work.  Hence, such
operations, conducted in compliance with NRC regulations and license conditions, do
not typically involve site decommissioning and, therefore, the Timeliness Rule
provisions will not apply.

Further, NRC or Agreement State licensees conducting licensed activities at temporary
job sites are not expected to notify NRC upon release of each job site under normal
operations.  These licensees are, however, expected to comply with applicable
notification requirements, if significant contamination does occur (e.g., 10 CFR 30.50
and 39.77).  In case of site contamination, decommissioning may be required and
compliance with the Timeliness Rule may be applicable.  Such occurrences will, in
general, be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

6.0  ENFORCEMENT

Failure to comply with the Timeliness Rule may be classified as a Severity Level III
violation and may result in consideration of monetary civil penalties or other
enforcement action, as appropriate.  Examples of noncompliance are:  failure to notify
NRC as required by regulation or license condition; failure to meet decommissioning
standards; failure to complete decommissioning activities in accordance with
regulation or license condition; and failure to meet required schedules without
adequate justification.  NRC's enforcement policies are described in NUREG-1600,
"General Statement of Policy and Procedures for NRC Enforcement Actions,"
published in July 1995.

.                                                                                   Attachment 1
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Licensees currently out of compliance should take immediate corrective actions.  For
guidance on corrective action, see Information Notice 96-28, "Suggested Guidance
Related to Development and Implementation of Corrective Action," dated May 1,
1996.
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