United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Frequently Asked Questions on the Agreement State Program and The Vermont Agreement Application

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What is an Agreement State?

Congress authorized the NRC in Section 274b. of the Atomic Energy Act to enter into Agreements that allow States to assume, and the NRC to discontinue, regulatory authority over source, byproduct and small quantities of special nuclear material.  The State can then regulate byproduct, source and small quantities of special nuclear materials that are covered in the Agreement, using its own legislation, regulations or other legally binding provisions.  The Commission will enter into an Agreement, if the Commission finds the State program adequate to protect public health and safety and compatible with the NRC's regulatory program.  The NRC ensures that an Agreement State program remains adequate and compatible through periodic review and assessment under the Integrated Materials Performance Evaluation Program (IMPEP).

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How many states are currently in the Agreement State Program?

There are 37 Agreement States that regulate approximately 17,000 radioactive material licenses, or approximately 86% of all licenses nationally.

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What exactly would the Agreement with Vermont allow the State to regulate and what would the NRC continue to regulate?

The Agreement that Vermont has requested will only allow the State to assume regulatory authority byproduct, source and special nuclear materials of a certain quantity at any academic, commercial or medical facility within the State.  The NRC will retain regulatory authority over the disposal of low-level radioactive waste (currently no facility or one planned in the State), 11e.(2) byproduct material or uranium mill tailings (currently no facility or none planned in the State) and the evaluation of sealed sources and devices for commercial distribution.

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Will the NRC maintain any regulatory authority over byproduct, source and special nuclear materials of a certain quantities after it becomes an Agreement State?

Under Section 274 of the AEA, the NRC does not delegate its regulatory authority to the Agreement State.  The NRC relinquishes or discontinues its authority and the State assumes regulatory authority over matters of public health and safety.  The Agreement State administers an independent regulatory program and the NRC periodically assesses its adequacy to protect public health, safety and security and compatibility with NRC requirements under the agency's Integrated Materials Performance Evaluation Program.

Under Section 274b. of the AEA, the NRC does reserve authority that includes federal agencies, nuclear power plants, the commercial distribution of products containing exempt quantities of radioactive materials (such as smoke detectors), federally recognized tribal lands, import/export and matters of common defense and security.

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What are the steps in the process by which a State becomes an Agreement State?

The major steps are:

  • The Governor sends a letter to the NRC Chairman expressing the intent to become an Agreement State.
  • The State submits a draft application to the NRC for review and comment.
  • The Governor certifies that the State has an adequate program and submits a formal request that includes supporting legislation, regulations, program description and staffing.
  • The NRC assesses the request and after Commission approval publishes the staff's assessment and proposed Agreement for a 30-day comment period.
  • The NRC assesses public comments and prepares a final assessment
  • After Commission approval, the Chairman and the Governor sign the agreement.

How long is the proposal review process that results in a State becoming an Agreement State?

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The NRC's part of the process takes about a year to complete starting when the agency receives the formal request.  Adding the time it takes for the State to develop its program and regulations, after it sends in a letter of intent, the entire process typically requires
3-5 years.

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Where is Vermont's application within this timeline?

The NRC has been working with the State of Vermont since the spring of 2015.  The Governor of the State of Vermont submitted a letter of intent to the NRC Chairman on July 6, 2015.  The NRC anticipates receiving a draft Agreement application package from the State of Vermont shortly after August 19, 2017. Current projections are that the process will be complete and the Agreement signed in late 2018.

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What happens to current licensed facilities when the NRC relinquishes authority?

The State of Vermont will assume regulatory authority for any current licenses that have radioactive material covered under their agreement.  The NRC would retain regulatory authority over a few federal facilities that use byproduct, source or special nuclear material of a certain quantity within the State.  

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What opportunities are currently available or will be available in the future to comment on the State's program and the governing regulations?

Those interested in receiving notifications or information from the Vermont Department of Health on major developments in the Agreement process or comment on the State's proposed regulations can contact the Vermont Radiation Control Program Director, Dr. William Irwin at William.Irwin@vermont.gov or (802) 863-7238.

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If an individual has concerns about the Vermont agreement application or the impact of the NRC's acceptance of Vermont as an Agreement State, what are the channels for expressing these concerns? 

You can contact the NRC with any concerns or requests for additional information about the Agreement process or the Vermont agreement application. Direct your inquiries to Duncan White, Vermont Agreement project manager, Duncan.White@nrc.gov or (301) 415-2598 or Paul Michalak, Branch Chief, NRC Agreement State Programs Branch, Paul.Michalak@nrc.gov or (301) 415-5804.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, August 31, 2017