Information Notice No. 85-92: Surveys of Wastes Before Disposal from Nuclear Reactor Facilities
SSINS No.: 6835
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
OFFICE OF INSPECTION AND ENFORCEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555
December 2, 1985
Information Notice No. 85-92: SURVEYS OF WASTES BEFORE DISPOSAL FROM
NUCLEAR REACTOR FACILITIES
All production and utilization facilities, including nuclear power reactors
and research and test reactors, holding an operating license (OL) or
construction permit (CP).
The purpose of this information notice is to supplement the guidance of IE
circular 81-07 as it applies to surveys of solid waste materials before
disposal from nuclear reactor facilities. It is expected that recipients
will review the information for applicability to their facilities. However,
this information notice does not constitute NRC requirements; therefore, no
specific action or licensee response is required.
Description of Circumstance:
Some questions have arisen concerning appropriate methods of surveying solid
waste materials for surface contamination before releasing them as
nonradioactive (i.e., as wastes that do not contain NRC-licensed material).
The need to minimize the volume of radioactive waste generated and shipped
to commercial waste burial sites is recognized by the NRC and industry. Some
nuclear power plants have initiated programs to segregate waste generated in
radiologically controlled areas. Such programs can contribute to the
reduction in volume of radioactive waste; however, care should be taken to
ensure that no licensed radioactive material is released contrary to the
provisions of 10 CFR Section 20.301. In practice, no radioactive (licensed)
material means no detectable radioactive material.
In 1981, IE Circular 81-07 was issued by the NRC. That circular provided
guidance on the control of radioactively contaminated material and
identified the extent to which licensees should survey for contamination. It
did not establish release limits. The criteria in the circular that
addressed surface contamination levels were based on the best information
available at the time and were related to the detection capability of
portable survey instruments
December 2, 1985
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equipped with thin-window "pancake" Geiger-Mueller (G.M.) probes, which
respond primarily to beta radiation. Monitoring of aggregated, packaged
material was not addressed. In 1981, there was no major emphasis on
segregating waste from designated contamination areas. As a consequence,
large volumes of monitored wastes were not being released for unrestricted
disposal. However, because of recent emphasis on minimizing the volume of
radioactive waste, current practices at many nuclear power facilities result
in large volumes of segregated, monitored wastes, containing large total
surface areas, being released as "clean" waste.
When scanning surfaces with a hand-held pancake probe, there is a chance
that some contamination will not be detected. (See the papers by Sommers,1
for example.) There is the chance also that the total surface area will not
be scanned completely. Thus, when numerous items of "clean" material (e.g.,
paper and plastic items) are combined, the accumulation of small amounts of
contamination that have escaped detection with the pancake probe may be
detected using a detector that is sensitive to gamma radiation (e.g., by
using a sensitive scintillation detector in a low-background area). Such
measurements of packaged clean waste before disposal can reduce the
likelihood that contaminated waste will be disposed of as clean waste, then
found to be contaminated after disposal. (Some operators of sanitary
landfills have begun to survey incoming waste for radioactivity using
scintillation survey meters which in some cases are supplemented by portable
In order to preclude the unintentional release of radioactive materials, a
good monitoring program likely would include the following:
1. Careful surveys, using methods (equipment and techniques) for detecting
very low levels of radioactivity, are made of materials that may be
contaminated and that are to be disposed of as clean waste. These
survey methods should provide licensees with reasonable assurance that
licensed material is not being released from their control.
2. Surveys conducted with portable survey instruments using pancake G.M.
probes are generally more appropriate for small items and small areas
because of the loss of detection sensitivity created by moving the
probe and the difficulties in completely scanning large areas. This
does not preclude their use for larger items and areas, if supplemented
by other survey equipment or techniques.
3. Final measurements of each package (e.g., bag or drum) of aggregated
wastes are performed to ensure that there has hot been an accumulation
of licensed material resulting from a buildup of multiple,
nondetectable quantities (e.g., final measurements using sensitive
scintillation detectors in low-background areas).
December 2, 1985
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The foregoing does not constitute NRC requirements; therefore, no specific
action or written response is required by this information notice. If you
have any questions about this matter, please contact the Regional
Administrator of the appropriate NRC regional office or this office.
Edward L. Jordan Director
Division of Emergency Preparedness
and Engineering Response
Office of Inspection and Enforcement
Technical Contact: John D. Buchanan, IE
LeMoine J. Cunningham, IE
2. List of Recently Issued IE Information Notices
December 2, 1985
1 Sommers, J. F., (a) "Sensitivity of Portable Beta-Gamma Survey
Instruments," Nuclear Safe 16 (No. 4), 452-457, July - August 1975, (b)
"Sensitivity of GM and Ion-Chamber Beta Gamma Survey Instruments,"
Health Physics 28 (No. 6), pp. 775-761, June 1975.
2 Anonymous, "LA Nuclear Medicine Community Improves Radiation Monitoring
at Landfills, " J. Nuclear Medicine 26 (#4), 336-337, April 1985.
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