United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 96-47: Recordkeeping, Decommissioning Notifications for Disposals of Radioactive Waste by Land Burial Authorized Under Former 10 CFR 20.304, 20.302, and Current 20.2002

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

                                August 19, 1996


NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 96-47:  RECORDKEEPING, DECOMMISSIONING NOTIFICATIONS    
                               FOR DISPOSALS OF RADIOACTIVE WASTE BY LAND      
                               BURIAL AUTHORIZED UNDER FORMER 10 CFR 20.304,   
                               20.302, AND CURRENT 20.2002


Addressees

All U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensees.  

Purpose

NRC is issuing this information notice to:  (1) inform addressees of problems
identified at several sites where disposals of radioactive waste by land
burial were made under the authorization of former 10 CFR 20.304 and 10 CFR
20.2002 (revision to the former 10 CFR Section 20.302); (2) emphasize
recordkeeping requirements of such burials; and (3) remind licensees of the
submittal dates (September 15, and October 15, 1996) for compliance with
"Final Rule on Timeliness in Decommissioning of Materials Facilities" 
(59 FR 36026, effective August 15, 1994) (hereafter called the "Timeliness
Rule").  This information notice emphasizes the current NRC position on
recordkeeping and notification requirements for such disposals.  NRC expects
that recipients will review the information for applicability to their
facilities and consider actions, as appropriate, to avoid similar problems to
those identified.  However, suggestions contained in this information notice
are not NRC requirements; therefore, no specific action or written response is
required, other than as specified for compliance with the regulations
described herein.
 
Description of Circumstances

On-site burials have been problematic for licensees during their
decommissioning of sites containing such burials.  A limited number of past
burial sites have been required to be exhumed during decommissioning, even
though the materials in these sites were disposed of in accordance with former
10 CFR 20.304 requirements.  In certain cases, portions of the buried
materials were required to be shipped off-site to a licensed disposal
facility, before NRC released the site for unrestricted use.  Based on this
experience, NRC regulations now require licensees to notify NRC if they have
burial sites that may require decommissioning and to maintain records of these
burials.





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Discussion

The Timeliness Rule includes requirements pertaining to buildings and outside
areas that have been unused for a period of 24 months, at facilities licensed
under 10 CFR Parts 30, 40, 70, and 72.  Outside areas include those where
disposals made pursuant to former 10 CFR 20.304, 20.302, and current
20.2002,which is the focus of this information notice.  Further, this
information notice reiterates the NRC position on the applicability of its
present decommissioning rules.  This NRC position was first stated in the
Final Rule on the "General Requirements for Decommissioning Nuclear
Facilities" (53 FR 24021), published June 27, 1988 (hereafter called
"Decommissioning Rule"), and repeated in NRC NUREG-1444, "Site Decommissioning
Management Plan."

Burial of certain quantities of radioactive waste in soil by licensees without
prior Agency approval was authorized on January 29, 1959 (22 FR 548). 
Originally, this authorization was codified in former 10 CFR 20.304.  On
January 28, 1981, the Commission concluded that it was inappropriate to
continue generic authorizations of burials pursuant to 10 CFR 20.304 without
regard to factors such as location of burial, concentrations of radioactive
material, form of packaging, and notification of NRC, and therefore NRC
rescinded 10 CFR 20.304 (45 FR 71761).  As of January 28, 1981, licensees
wishing to perform on-site disposals of the type previously authorized under
10 CFR 20.304 were required to obtain prior NRC approval in accordance with
10 CFR 20.302.  The current requirements of 10 CFR 20.2002 (revised from
10 CFR 20.302) remain in force. 

The evaluations required before the Commission terminates a license or makes a
regulatory decision related to disposed material were discussed in the supple-
mental information to the Decommissioning Rule.  There, the Commission stated
that it "...will take a hard look at the extent to which the site has been
previously used to dispose of low-level radioactive waste by land burial and
decide what remedial measures, including removal of such soil off-site, are
appropriate before the site can be released for unrestricted use and the
license terminated."  The Timeliness Rule established specific time periods
for decommissioning unused areas of an operating site and for decommissioning
the entire site, on termination of operations.

This information notice describes the recordkeeping requirements for disposals
authorized under former 10 CFR 20.304 and 20.302 regulations, as well as the
current 10 CFR 20.2002, and the notification requirements in the Timeliness
Rule for these disposal sites.  Note that, in this information notice,
references to 10 CFR 20.2002, also apply to previous disposals under former 
10 CFR 20.302. 

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1.   Recordkeeping

At the time of decommissioning, complete records of 10 CFR 20.304, 20.302, and
Section 20.2002 disposals are necessary for NRC to evaluate the acceptability
of the disposals.  Each licensee is required, per 10 CFR 20.2108, to
maintainrecords of disposals made under 10 CFR 20.2002, and to preserve such
records until the Commission terminates the license requiring these records. 
Former 10 CFR 20.401(c)(3) stated that records of disposals made pursuant to
10 CFR Section 20.302, and 20.304 should be maintained until the Commission
authorizes their disposition.  In addition, the final rule on "Decommissioning
Recordkeeping and License Termination:  Documentation Additions," issued 
July 26, 1993 (58 FR 39628), requires a single document listing (1) all areas
outside restricted areas where current and previous wastes have been buried,
(as documented under 10 CFR Section 20.2108); and (2) other information
necessary to ensure that decommissioning is carried out in accordance with the
Commission's regulations.  This rule is applicable to licenses issued under 
10 CFR Parts 30, 40, 70, and 72.  See 10 CFR 30.35(g)(3), 40.46(f)(3),
Part 70.25(g)(3), and 72.30(d)(3).

At present, 10 CFR 20.2002 states that the licensee must apply to the
Commission for approval of proposed procedures to dispose of licensed material
in a manner not otherwise authorized in 10 CFR Part 20.  The former 10 CFR
20.302 required this also.  After the application is approved by NRC, records
of actual 10 CFR 20.2002 disposals must be maintained per 10 CFR 20.2108. 
These records should be sufficient to demonstrate compliance with the approved
procedures contained in the application.

Pursuant to the former 10 CFR 20.401 requirements, the records of disposals
performed under former 10 CFR 20.304 were required.  The following
requirements were placed on burials made under 10 CFR 20.304:

     1.   the total quantity of licensed and other radioactive material buried
          at any one location and time does not exceed, at the time of burial,
          1000 times the amount specified in Appendix C to Part 20;

     2.   the burial is at a minimum depth of four feet, and

     3.   successive burials are separated by distances of at least 6 feet and
          not more than 12 burials are made in any year.

NRC expects that licensees who disposed of radioactive waste in accordance
with Section 20.304, 20.302, and 20.2002, comply with the applicable
recordkeeping requirements.  Further, if the NRC determines that the minimum .                                                            
                                                            
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records required for disposals that may pose a significant risk to the public
after release have not been kept, the licensee may then be expected to
characterize the disposal sites by compiling the necessary information (e.g.,
sampling and survey data).  The acceptability of the timing and extent of
characterization will be determined by the NRC on a case-by-case basis.

2.  Decommissioning

Disposals made pursuant to former 10 CFR 20.304, 20.302, and current 20.2002
at facilities licensed under 10 CFR Parts 30, 40, 70, and 72, and that have
been unused for NRC licensed operations for a period of 24 months, are
subjectto the requirements of the Timeliness Rule.  For timing provisions see
10 CFR 30.36(d), 40.42(d), 70.38(d), and 72.54(d).  The following guidance was
provided in the Timeliness Rule, "Statements of Consideration" (59 FR 36033):

     VII  Implementation

          The timing provisions of this rule begin on the effective date. 
     Thus, licensees that currently have unused facilities at the time of
     publication of the final rule would not need to submit notifications
     required by this rule earlier than 2 years after the rule becomes
     effective.  This provides these licensees with the same period of 
     time (2 years) in which to determine whether the unused facility 
     would be put into use again or submit notification as required by 
     the rule.

Therefore, licensees who have unused outside areas (i.e., burial areas) that
contain elevated levels of licensed radioactive materials, and have declared
that licensed operations have ceased in those areas, are subject to the
Timeliness Rule.  In addition, for an outside area (i.e., burial area) that
has been unused for NRC licensed operations for a period of 24 months prior to
August 15, 1996, the licensee should:

1.   No later than October 15, 1996, notify NRC of the above and either:      
     (1) begin decommissioning; or (2) submit, within 12 months of
     notification, a decommissioning plan, if required by the regulations; or

2.   Submit a request to extend the above time periods by no later than
     September 15, 1996, in accordance with the provisions of the rule.  

When notifying NRC, as stated above, the licensee should specify the type of
outside area that is being considered for decommissioning (storage area,
Section 20.304 burial, land application, etc.).             
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During decommissioning, NRC will evaluate disposals authorized under former
Section 20.304, 20.302, and current 20.2002 to determine their potential
impact on the health and safety of the public.  The acceptability of a
disposal will depend on two factors:  (1) the potential for the disposed
material to migrate and significantly contaminate the groundwater; and (2) the
potential for significant exposure to members of the public who may, at some
time in the future, develop and use the disposal site for a private residence,
farm, business, or other purpose.

The NRC staff is currently developing a methodology that can be used to
determine the acceptability of prior burials.  This methodology will be used
as a screening tool to determine which burial sites have the greatest
potential to impact public health and safety.  This screening tool will be
based on the total activity disposed of in the burial ground and the potential
for that activity to produce a significant dose to a member of the public. 
Staff will require no further effort on sites that pass this screening.  Those
sites that do not pass the screening would require more detailed environmental
pathway analysis.  This may require site characterization information and
adose assessment.  The staff will consider the magnitude of the projected
dose, and existing radiological criteria for decommissioning, to determine in
conjunction with the objective of keeping residual contamination levels as low
as reasonably achievable if the waste may pose a significant risk to the
public and if the burial requires remediation.  This methodology will be
completed and distributed for use by the licensees prior to September 15,
1996.

Currently NRC does not have a list of sites that contain former 10 CFR 20.304
burials.  Therefore, it would be beneficial for licensees affected by this
notice, to notify the staff that it is in possession of a burial site, by the
October 15, 1996 deadline, even though many of those sites will not need to be
remediated.  In the alternative, NRC will acquire this information during
routine inspections.  Once the licensee has notified NRC, it can then use the
screening methodology to determine if its burial site requires further action. 
If the burial site passes the screening method, the licensee would notify NRC
that the site passed and would not need to take further action.  If the site
does not pass, then the licensee would have to further assess the prior burial
through site characterization and/or radiological surveys and potentially
submit a decommissioning plan and proceed with decommissioning in accordance
with NRC's existing requirements.   

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This information notice requires no specific action or written response. 
However, licensees must comply with the notification requirements in the
Timeliness Rule as stated above.  As stated in NRC's revised enforcement
policy (NUREG-1600), failure to meet requirements in the Timeliness Rule can
be classified as a Severity Level III violation and subject to a civil
penalty.  Licensees who notify NRC should provide such notices to the
appropriate offices listed in Sections 30.6, 40.5, 70.5, and 72.4 of the
regulations.  If you have any questions about the information in this notice,
please contact the technical contacts listed below or the appropriate regional
office.


                                        signed by

                                   Margaret V. Federline, Acting Director
                                   Division of Waste Management
                                   Office of Nuclear Material Safety 
                                     and Safeguards

Technical contacts:  David N. Fauver, NMSS
                     (301) 415-6625
                     E-mail:  dnf@nrc.gov

                     Heather M. Astwood, NMSS
                     (301) 415-5819
                     E-mail:  hma@nrc.gov

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, November 21, 2013