LLRW Toolbox: Interim or Long-Term Storage at a Licensed Facility

Sometimes licensees have Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) or radioactive sources for disposal whose physical half-lives are too long to allow for decay-in-storage. In these cases, rather than dispose of the material at a licensed facility, licensees often find it easier to just place the items in interim or long-term storage at their facilies.

The NRC does not consider interim or long-term storage as a substitute for final disposal of low-level radioactive waste (LLRW). However, some licensees do not have an LLRW waste disposal facility available to them for disposal and therefore must use on-site interim storage until such time that a facility becomes available. Licensees should exhaust all possible alternatives for disposal of waste and rely upon on-site extended interim storage of waste only as a last resort. The protection of workers and the public is enhanced by disposal rather than storage of waste. Licensees may also find it more economical to dispose of radioactive waste than to store it on-site because as the available capacity of LLRW disposal facilities decreases, the cost of disposal of radioactive waste may continue to increase. Other than decay-in-storage, low-level waste should be stored only when disposal capacity is unavailable and for no longer than is necessary.

Further information about this subject can be found in NRC Regulatory Issue Summary (RIS) 2008-12, "Considerations for Extended Interim Storage of Low-Level Radioactive Waste by Fuel Cycle and Materials Licensees," and NRC Information Notice (IN) 90-09, "Extended Interim Storage of Low-Level Radioactive Waste by Fuel Cycle and Materials Licensees," dated February 1990, which provides guidance to licensees for requesting an amendment to authorize extended interim storage of LLRW.