United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Criteria for Waste Incidental to Reprocessing

Under the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 (NDAA exit icon), the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), may render waste determinations regarding the radioactive byproducts that result from reprocessing spent (depleted) nuclear fuel. In so doing, the Secretary may determine that the waste byproducts in question are actually waste incidental to reprocessing (WIR), rather than high-level radioactive waste (HLW).

Such waste determinations are based on whether the byproducts in question meet all of the criteria set forth in Section 3116 of the NDAA (Public Law 108-375, 2004 exit icon) for the Covered States. (Section 3116 currently identifies the Covered States as Idaho and South Carolina.) Specifically, Section 3116 establishes the following criteria for determining that waste is not HLW:

  1. The waste does not require permanent isolation in a deep geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel or HLW.
  2. The waste has had highly radioactive radionuclides removed to the maximum extent practical.
  3. The waste meets either of the following conditions:
    • The waste does not exceed concentration limits for Class C low-level waste (LLW) and will be disposed of in compliance with the performance objectives set forth in Subpart C of Title 10, Part 61, of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR Part 61), “Licensing Requirements for Land Disposal of Radioactive Waste”; or
    • The waste exceeds concentration limits for Class C LLW but will be disposed of in compliance with the performance objectives set forth in Subpart C of 10 CFR Part 61, and pursuant to plans that DOE developed in consultation with the NRC.

As described in paragraphs (c) and (d) of Section 3116 of the NDAA, these criteria apply to certain waste that will be disposed of in South Carolina and Idaho, but not to waste that will be transported out of those States. Moreover, for other States, alternative criteria for waste determinations are specified in DOE Order 435.1 exit icon, "Radioactive Waste Management," the associated "Radioactive Waste Management Manual," or the West Valley Policy Statement (for West Valley only). Nonetheless, in general, the various sets of criteria share several similarities, including the fact that all of the sets of criteria refer to the performance objectives set forth in Subpart C of 10 CFR Part 61.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, November 19, 2013