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Oversight of Materials and Reactor Decommissioning

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Materials Program

NRC regulates the decommissioning of materials facilities by reviewing decommissioning plans, conducting inspections, and monitoring the status of activities to ensure that radioactive contamination is reduced or stabilized. This monitoring system ensures that safety requirements are being met throughout the process.

The goals of the oversight program at materials sites undergoing decommissioning are to

  • ensure, through the review and approval of decommissioning plans and surveys, that the decommissioning can be conducted safely and in accordance with NRC's regulations and requirements;

  • ensure, through direct observation and verification, that the decommissioning is being conducted in accordance with the approved decommissioning plan and NRC's regulations;

  • ensure that corrective actions are taken by facilities undergoing decommissioning if they are not conforming to the approved decommissioning plan or NRC's regulations; and

  • ensure that the site, at the completion of decommissioning, complies with NRC's criteria for license termination.

The NRC does not independently monitor radioactive releases on a continuous basis but will perform an independent measurement of the releases to verify the licensee's samples. The NRC also reviews the licensee's documents and procedures for monitoring releases and reviews the results periodically.

Inspectors follow guidance in the NRC Inspection Manual Chapter 2602, which contains objectives and procedures to use for each type of inspection.

Inspection reports, correspondence, and other information about facilities undergoing decommissioning are available to the public on the Agencywide Documents Access Management System (ADAMS). You can locate information on facilities undergoing decommissioning by searching for the facility name, license number, or document number.

As part of our oversight process, NRC issues sanctions (called enforcement actions) to facilities that violate our regulations. These sanctions may include notices of violation, monetary fines, or orders to modify, suspend, or revoke a license or require specific actions because of health issues.

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Reactors Program

The goals of the oversight program at nuclear plants undergoing decommissioning are to

  • determine, through direct observation and verification, if decommissioning activities are being conducted safety, if the spent nuclear fuel is being stored safely, and if activities at the site are being conducted in accordance with all applicable regulations and commitments;

  • determine if the administrative controls that the licensee has in place are adequate and comply with regulatory requirements, (the controls include self-assessment, audits and corrective actions, design control, safety review, maintenance and surveillance, radiation protection, and effluent controls); and

  • identify any significant declining performance trends and verify that the licensee has taken actions to reverse any trend.

The NRC oversees decommissioning of nuclear reactors through inspections that emphasize radiological controls, management, procedures compliance, spent fuel pool operations, and the safety review program. Many activities that occur during decommissioning are very routine and occur frequently in operating plants. These include decontamination of surfaces and components, surveys for radioactive contamination, waste packaging and disposal, and other activities. The inspection effort at plants being decommissioned is significantly less than at an operating reactor site. Rather than maintaining a continual presence, inspectors at a site being decommissioned will be provided to cover specific activities occurring there.

For example, if the licensee is planning to remove a large component, the NRC might send an expert in radiation protection, an expert in heavy lifting and polar cranes, and an expert in packaging radioactive waste.

During active decommissioning, NRC inspectors may be at the facility 2 or 3 weeks of the month. During a long-term storage period, they would be present several times a year.

The NRC does not independently monitor radioactive releases on a continuous basis but will perform an independent measurement of the releases to verify the licensee's samples and to measure the amount of radioactive material leaving the plant. The NRC also reviews the licensee's documents and procedures for monitoring releases and reviews the results periodically. All reactor licensees submit effluent release results to the NRC annually.

Inspection procedures used by the NRC during decommissioning activities are prescribed by NRC's Inspection Manual, Chapter 2561, 2602, and 2605.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, December 09, 2013