United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 89-34: Disposal of Americium Well-Logging Sources

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

                                 March 30, 1989


Information Notice No. 89-34:  DISPOSAL OF AMERICIUM WELL-LOGGING 
                                   SOURCES


Addressees:

All holders of a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) specific license 
authorizing well-logging activities.  

Purpose:

This information notice is provided to inform well-logging licensees of the 
potential problems and costs that may be incurred in disposing of americium 
sources, when they are no longer needed.  Such disposal costs may be an unan-
ticipated financial hardship for some well-logging companies.  It is expected 
that licensees will review this information for applicability to their 
programs, distribute the notice to responsible licensee management, and 
radiation safety staff; and consider plans to ensure that special attention is 
paid to this area.  However, suggestions contained in this notice do not 
constitute any new NRC requirements, and no written response is required.   

Description of Circumstances:

Numerous licensees who provide well-logging services using americium sources 
are experiencing financial problems because of the depressed oil and gas 
industry.  Many of these licensees have terminated licensed activities, and 
some have under-gone bankruptcy proceedings.  In addition, after July 14, 1989, 
certain sources will no longer be permitted to be used in well-logging, unless 
the sources con-form to new performance criteria outlined in 10 CFR Section 
39.41 (see 52 FR 8225, March 17, 1987).  These factors may increase the number 
of non-usable sources, and, consequently, may increase source storage and 
disposal problems.  

With respect to disposal, most americium well-logging sources contain 
americium in sufficient concentrations that they are not generally acceptable 
for disposal as waste at low-level waste disposal facilities.  The U.S. 
Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for disposal of such waste but a DOE 
disposal facility will not be available for several years.  Thus, there are 
few choices available to a licensee who has no further need for americium 
sources. 

Discussion:

Licensees are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of the public and 
workers with respect to nuclear materials in their possession, in accordance 
with NRC regulations and requirements of their licenses.  Unsafe storage, 


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.                                                            IN 89-34
                                                            March 30, 1989
                                                            Page 2 of 2


abandonment, or unauthorized disposal of a radioactive source or any licensed 
material will result in enforcement action by NRC, and may constitute a 
criminal activity prosecutable by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

The following summarizes the choices that may be available to licensees with 
surplus radioactive sources:

     (1)  Transfer the source to another licensee (NRC or Agreement State) 
          that is willing and authorized to take the source. 
     (2)  Return the source to the manufacturer.  The licensee should deter-
          mine if the manufacturer has provisions for accepting returned
          sources, and is willing to accept returns.
     (3)  Transfer the source to a private contractor which is licensed to 
          permanently store or reprocess the source.  NRC staff is currently 
          aware of only one contractor in this type of business, and under-
          stands that the fees for the service can be up to tens of thousands 
          of dollars per source.
     (4)  Continue licensee storage of the source.

If a well-logging licensee plans to remain in business, but will no longer use
licensed material and cannot find an authorized recipient for licensed 
sources, the licensee may request that NRC amend the license to authorize 
"storage only" of sealed sources.  The license status will result in reduced 
program responsi-bilities and associated NRC licensing and inspection fees.  
Licensees that need information about the storage of sources, or who are 
experiencing difficulty in maintaining safe storage of any radioactive source 
should immediately contact their NRC Regional Office by telephone. 

No written response is required by this information notice.  If you have any 
questions about this matter, please call a technical contact listed below or 
the appropriate NRC Regional Office.




                                        Richard E. Cunningham, Director
                                        Division of Industrial and
                                          Medical Nuclear Safety, NMSS

Technical Contacts: Jack R. Metzger, NMSS
                    (301) 492-3424

                    Dale A. Powers, Region IV
                    (817) 860-8195

Attachments:
1. List of Recently Issued NMSS Information Notices
2. List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices
.                                                            Attachment 2 
                                                            IN 89-34
                                                            March 30, 1989
                                                            Page 1 of 1

                             LIST OF RECENTLY ISSUED
                             NRC INFORMATION NOTICES
_____________________________________________________________________________
Information                                  Date of 
Notice No._____Subject_______________________Issuance_______Issued to________

89-33          Potential Failure of          3/23/89        All holders of OLs
               Westinghouse Steam                           or CPs for PWRs.
               Generator Tube 
               Mechanical Plugs

89-32          Surveillance Testing          3/23/89        All holders of OLs
               of Low-Temperature                           or CPs for PWRs.
               Overpressure-Protection
               Systems

89-31          Swelling and Cracking         3/22/89        All holders of OLs
               of Hafnium Control Rods                      or CPs for PWRs 
                                                            with Hafnium 
                                                            control rods. 

89-30          High Temperature              3/15/89        All holders of OLs
               Environments at                              or CPs for nuclear
               Nuclear Power Plants                         power reactors.

89-29          Potential Failure of          3/15/89        All holders of OLs
               ASEA Brown Boveri                            or CPs for nuclear
               Circuit Breakers                             power reactors.
               During Seismic Event

89-28          Weight and Center of          3/14/89        All holders of OLs
               Gravity Discrepancies                        or CPs for nuclear
               for Copes-Vulcan                             power reactors.
               Air-Operated Valves

89-27          Limitations on the Use        3/8/89         All holders of OLs
               of Waste Forms and High                      or CPs for nuclear
               Integrity Containers for                     power reactors, 
               the Disposal of Low-Level                    fuel cycle 
               Radioactive Waste                            licenses and 
                                                            certain by-product 
                                                            materials 
                                                            licenses. 

89-26          Instrument Air Supply to      3/7/89         All holders of OLs
               Safety-Related Equipment                     or CPs for nuclear
                                                            power reactors.

_____________________________________________________________________________
OL = Operating License
CP = Construction Permit 
..
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