United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Revised Analyses of Decommissioning Reference Non-Fuel-Cycle Facilities (NUREG/CR-6477, PNNL-11209)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: October 1997
Date Published: December 2002

Prepared by:
M.C. Bierschbach, D.R. Haffner,
K.J. Schneider, S.M. Short

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Richland, Washington 99352

C. W. Prichard, NRC Project Manager

Prepared for:
Division of Industrial and Medical Nuclear Safety
Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

NRC Job Code L2025

Availability Notice


Cost information is developed for the conceptual decommissioning of non-fuel-cycle nuclear facilities that represent a significant decommissioning task in terms of decontamination and disposal activities. This study is a re-evaluation of the original study (NUREG/CR-1754 and NUREG/CR-1754, Addendum 1). The reference facilities examined in this study are the same as in the original study and include:

  • a laboratory for the manufacture of 3H-labeled compounds
  • a laboratory for the manufacture of 14C-labeled compounds
  • a laboratory for the manufacture of 125I-labeled compounds
  • a laboratory for the manufacture of 137Cs sealed sources
  • a laboratory for the manufacture of 241Am sealed sources
  • an institutional user laboratory

In addition to the laboratories, three reference sites that require some decommissioning effort were also examined. These sites are:

  • a site with a contaminated drain line and hold-up tank
  • a site with a contaminated ground surface
  • a tailings pile containing uranium and thorium residues

Decommissioning of these reference facilities and sites can be accomplished using techniques and equipment that are in common industrial use. Essentially the same technology assumed in the original study is used in this study.

For the reference laboratory-type facilities, the study approach is to first evaluate the decommissioning of individual components (e.g., fume hoods, glove boxes, and building surfaces) that are common to many laboratory facilities. The information obtained from analyzing the individual components of each facility are then used to determine the cost, manpower requirements and dose information for the decommissioning of the entire facility. DECON, the objective of the 1988 Rulemaking for materials facilities, is the decommissioning alternative evaluated for the reference laboratories because it results in the release of the facility for restricted or unrestricted use as soon as possible. For a facility, DECON requires that contaminated components either be: 1) decontaminated to restricted or unrestricted release levels or 2) packaged and shipped to an authorized disposal site. This study considers unrestricted release only. The new decommissioning criteria of July 1997 are too recent for this study to include a cost analysis of the restricted release option, which is now allowed under these new criteria.

The costs of decommissioning facility components are generally estimated to be in the range of $140 to $27,000, depending on the type of component, the type and amount of radioactive contamination, the remediation options chosen, and the quantity of radioactive waste generated from decommissioning operations. Estimated costs for decommissioning the example laboratories range from $130,000 to $205,000, assuming aggressive low-level waste (LLW) volume reduction. If only minimal LLW volume reduction is employed, decommissioning costs range from $150,000 to $270,000 for these laboratories. On the basis of estimated decommissioning costs for facility components, the costs of decommissioning typical non-fuel-cycle laboratory facilities are estimated to range from about $25,000 for the decommissioning of a small room containing one or two fume hoods to more than $1 million for the decommissioning of an industrial plant containing several laboratories in which radiochemicals and sealed radioactive sources are prepared.

For the reference sites of this study, the basic decommissioning alternatives are: (1) site stabilization followed by long-term care and (2) removal of the waste or contaminated soil to an authorized disposal site. Cost estimates made for decommissioning three reference sites range from about $130,000 for the removal of a contaminated drain line and hold-up tank to more than $23 million for the removal of a tailings pile that contains radioactive residue from ore-processing operations in which tin slag is processed for the recovery of rare metals.

Total occupational radiation doses generally range from 0.00007 person-rem to 13 person-rem for decommissioning the laboratory facilities of this study.

The results of this study are: (1) decommissioning costs have continued to increase since publication of the original study, due primarily to rapidly escalating costs for disposal of radioactive wastes at the available LLW burial sites; (2) these swiftly increasing LLW disposal costs provide a significant incentive for NRC licensees to effectively manage LLW generation, treatment, and disposal from decommissioning activities; and (3) decommissioning costs have increased on the order of 34% to 66% since the Final Decommissioning Rule was issued in 1988, due in large part to the 3.5-fold increase in burial costs.

The information presented will be used by the NRC in the development of financial assurance rulemakings for byproduct, source, and special nuclear materials licensees. This report may also be useful to the licensees planning for the decommissioning of their facilities.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, November 13, 2013