United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 83-05: Obtaining Approval for Disposing of Very-Low-Level Radioactive Waste - 10 CFR Section 20.302

                                                            SSINS No.: 6835 
                                                            IN 83-05       
                                UNITED STATES
                        NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
                    OFFICE OF INSPECTION AND ENFORCEMENT
                           WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555

                              February 24, 1983

Information Notice No. 83-05:   OBTAINING APPROVAL FOR DISPOSING OF  
                                   VERY-LOW-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE - 10 CFR 
                                   SECTION 20.302 

Addressees: 

All production and utilization facilities, including nuclear power reactors 
and research and test reactors, holding an operating license. 

Purpose: 

Modern radiation-detection equipment makes possible the detection of very 
low concentrations of radionuclides in materials, including very low levels 
of radioactive contamination in materials such as soils. A number of 
licensees have expressed concern over the perceived need to package and ship
large quantities of such materials to low-level waste burial sites. Such 
shipments are expensive and use the limited space available in burial sites.

The purpose of this information notice is to call attention to a little-used
section of NRC regulations [10 CFR 20.302(a)] that provides a method for 
obtaining approval of proposed procedures for disposing of licensed material
and any other radioactive material involved, in a manner not otherwise 
authorized in the regulations. This section of the regulations may be used 
to obtain approval of proposed procedures for disposal of, among other 
things, large volumes of material contaminated at very low levels, such as 
contaminated soil, oil, or tools and equipment. It is expected that 
recipients will review this information notice for applicability to their 
facilities. No specific action or response is required. 

Description of Circumstances: 

In its Policy Statement on Low-Level Waste Volume Reduction (46FR 51100, 
October 16, 1981) the NRC recognized the need to minimize the quantity of 
waste generated and shipped to commercial waste-disposal sites. With one 
exception, existing NRC regulations provide no minimum level of 
radioactivity in waste from a licensee's facility that may be disposed of in 
a manner other than as normal radioactive waste. That exception is the 
provision, in 10 CFR 20.306, that licensees may dispose of certain levels of 
tritium and carbon-14 in liquid-scintillation and animal-carcass waste 
without regard to its radioactivity. In publishing its proposed licensing 
requirements for land disposal of radioactive waste, the Commission 
recognized the need for similar provisions for other radionuclides and other 
wastes, wastes that would be exempt from the 


*10 CFR Part 61, "Licensing Requirements for Land Disposal of Radioactive 
Waste," 46FR 38081, July 24, 1981. 

8212060365
.

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                                                         February 24, 1983 
                                                         Page 2 of 3      

proposed 10 CFR Part 61* and would be of no regulatory concern. In the 
notice of proposed rulemaking, the Commission stated that it believed that 
such exemptions should be determined on a specific waste basis. Over 
one-fourth of the commenters on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for 
Part 61 endorsed the need for such provisions. The fundamental concern of 
practically all commenters appeared to be not whether a generic or a 
case-by-case approach should be taken, but rather that some action be taken 
as soon as possible. The NRC staff believes that the current policy of 
examining waste streams on a case-by-case basis will result in the quickest 
and best results. 

The NRC staff recognizes that setting generic limits is a desirable goal and
plans to work toward this goal over the next few years. The NRC staff also 
believes that the process of examining a few specific waste streams will 
facilitate the development of generic requirements and is accelerating its 
efforts on setting standards for disposal of very-low-level wastes by less 
restrictive means. Toward this end, the NRC's Office of Nuclear Regulatory 
Research has initiated research to provide a technical basis for a 
regulatory provision for disposal of specific wastes from nuclear power 
reactors. 

In the interim, before specific or generic provisions for disposing of very-
low-level radioactive wastes are adopted through rulemaking, licensees have 
another alternative for obtaining approval to dispose of large volumes of 
materials contaminated with very low levels of radioactivity. That 
alternative is provided in 10 CFR 20.302(a), "Method for obtaining approval 
of proposed disposal procedures." For example, a licensee recently proposed 
to relocate 17,000 cubic feet of very-low-level contaminated soil from the 
restricted area to the parking lot area. The very-low-level contaminated 
soil was to be covered with a minimum of 6 inches of clean soil and possibly 
paved over with asphalt in the future. In another ,case, a licensee proposed 
that very-low-level contaminated oil be burned in its oil fired boilers and 
proposed a technical specification change to limit the amount of 
radioactivity released through the boiler exhaust. In both cases, the NRC's 
evaluations concluded that the estimated doses were negligibly small from 
the standpoint of occupational exposure limits and acceptably small for 
potential non-occupational exposures. The licensees' proposals were 
approved. 

The purpose of this information notice is to bring the provisions of 10 CFR 
20.302a) to the attention of licensees. The NRC staff believes that 
submittals and approvals in accordance with 10 CFR 20.302(a) can provide a 
reasonable alternative to high cost disposals by shallow land burial at 
waste repositories of large volumes of material contaminated at low levels. 
Such submittals could also provide a data base for further development of 
regulatory provisions for disposing of specific wastes below some activity 
level without regard to their radioactivity similar to the provisions of 10 
CFR 20.306 for disposing of certain licensed materials containing low levels
of carbon-14 and tritium.
.

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                                                         February 24, 1983 
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Applications pursuant to 10 CFR 20.302(a) should be submitted to the Office 
of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR). The Office of Inspection and 
Enforcement and NRC Regional Offices have no authority to approve such 
requests. NRR has indicated that such requests for disposal pursuant to 10 
CFR 20.302(a) will be handled in a timely manner. 


                                   Edward L. Jordan Director 
                                   Division of Emergency Preparedness 
                                     and Engineering Response 
                                   Office of Inspection and Enforcement 

Technical Contacts: L. J. Cunningham, IE
                    301-492-8073

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