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Update of the 2007 Strategic Assessment of the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program

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In 2007, due to developments in the national program for Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) disposal, as well as, changes in the regulatory environment, the NRC's LLRW program faced new challenges and issues. New technical issues related to protection of public health and the environment and security emerged. These challenges and issues included 1) need for greater flexibility and reliability in LLRW disposal options; 2) increased storage of Class B and Class C LLRW because of the limited access of the Barnwell, South Carolina disposal facility to out-of compact waste generators; 3) the potential need to dispose of large quantities of power plant decommissioning waste, as well as depleted uranium from enrichment facilities; 4) increased safety concerns; 5) need for greater LLRW program resources than were available; 6) increased security concerns related to storing LLRW in general and sealed radioactive sources in particular; and 7) potential for generation of new waste streams (for example, by the next generation of nuclear reactors and the potential reemergence of nuclear fuel reprocessing in the United States).

Based on these challenges and issues, the NRC staff conducted a Strategic Assessment of the NRC's LLRW regulatory program. Based on extensive stakeholder input during meetings, the NRC staff received a variety of activities to be included in the Strategic Assessment and evaluated them based on the overall strategic objectives for ensuring safety, and security, and other factors. From these solicited activities, the NRC staff developed a list of 20 activities responsive to identified programmatic needs. These activities were assigned priorities of high, medium, or low and ranged from narrowly focused activities such as updating LLRW storage guidance to broader activities such as suggesting legislative changes to Congress to improve the national LLRW program.

The NRC staff published the Strategic Assessment in late 2007 in SECY-07-0180, "Strategic Assessment of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program". The Strategic Assessment identified and prioritized the NRC staff's activities to ensure that the LLW program continued to: 1) ensure safe and secure LLRW disposal; 2) improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability of the NRC's LLRW regulatory program; and 3) ensure regulatory stability and predictability, while allowing flexibility in disposal options.

Since 2007, the NRC staff has completed two of the high priority activities identified in the 2007 Strategic Assessment, including updating guidance for LLRW storage and evaluating the disposal of depleted uranium and the measures needed to ensure its safe disposal. In addition, the NRC staff continues to work on the revisions to 10 CFR Part 61 and the 1995 Concentration Averaging and Encapsulation Branch Technical Position and developing a procedure for the review of low-activity waste disposal in Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) facilities not licensed by the NRC.

After 7 years, progress has been made in the activities in the Strategic Assessment as described above. In addition, the national LLRW program continues to evolve. To set the direction for the NRC's LLRW regulatory program in the next several years, the NRC staff will begin developing a new Strategic Assessment of the NRC's LLRW program. The new assessment will provide opportunities for stakeholder engagement.

On May15th, staff published a Federal Register Notice and held webinars on June 17, 2014 and July 8, 2014 soliciting public comments on the proposed update to the Strategic Assessment.  On July 9, 2014, staff extended the comment period to September 15, 2014. The staff is seeking comments on developments that would affect the LLRW regulatory program over the next several years that would affect licensees and sited States and actions that the NRC could take to ensure safety, security, and the protection of the environment.

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Public Involvement

The NRC considers public involvement to be a cornerstone of strong, fair regulation.

Public Meetings

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has a long-standing practice of conducting its regulatory responsibilities in an open manner, and keeping the public informed of the agency's regulatory, licensing, and oversight activities.

See Public Meetings and Involvement, Hearing Opportunities and License Applications, and NUREG/BR-0215, "Public Involvement in the Regulatory Process," for general information about the available opportunities for public involvement in NRC activities.

For more specific information about past public meetings on this topic, see the chronological listing in the following table:

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Date Description
03/07/2014

The objective of this meeting is to gather information on the update to the 2007 Strategic Assessment of the NRC's LLRW regulatory program from interested members of the public.

06/17/2014

The objective of this webinar is to gather information on the update to the 2007 Strategic Assessment of the NRC's LLRW regulatory program from interested members of the public.

07/08/2014

The objective of this webinar is to gather information on the update to the 2007 Strategic Assessment of the NRC's LLRW regulatory program from interested members of the public.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, July 21, 2014