RIS 01-013: 10 CFR Part 40 Exemptions for Uranium Contained in Aircraft Counterweights

July 20, 2001


All holders of licenses authorized to manufacture aircraft counterweights containing uranium, and organizations and end users who may possess such counterweights.


The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this regulatory issue summary (RIS) to emphasize restrictions, applicable to counterweights, and other products containing uranium, which are exempt from licensing requirements. This RIS does not transmit any new requirements or new staff positions. No specific action or written response is required.

Background Information

NRC has received a petition (see Federal Register 65 FR 3394, January 21, 2000) which requests additional rulemaking to define and clarify the responsibilities associated with certain depleted uranium counterweights. Currently, NRC is considering rulemaking to revise 10 CFR Part 40, in its entirety, and will consider the petition as part of that rulemaking. Individuals interested in the latest developments in rulemaking can access this information at http://ruleforum.llnl.gov/index.html. In the interim, this RIS emphasizes the requirements of 10 CFR 40.13(c)(5), which specifies the exemption for aircraft counterweights.

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Summary of Issue

Source material includes natural or depleted uranium or thorium, or any combination thereof, in any physical or chemical form. 10 CFR 40.13 describes unimportant quantities of source material, and provides exemptions from the requirements for a license, and from the regulations in Part 40, subject to certain restrictions. One provision, 10 CFR 40.13(c)(5), exempts persons receiving, possessing, using, or transferring the uranium contained in counterweights installed in aircraft, rockets, projectiles, and missiles. These counterweights may also be stored or handled in connection with the installation or removal from such vehicles. The restrictions associated with this exemption are: 1) the counterweights must have been manufactured in accordance with a specific license to manufacture and distribute such items; 2) each counterweight must be impressed, legibly, through any plating or covering, with the words "Depleted Uranium;" 3) the counterweight must have durable and legible markings or labels with the identification of the manufacturer, and a statement, "Unauthorized Alteration Prohibited;" and 4) the exemption does not authorize any chemical, physical, or metallurgical treatment or processing of the counterweight, other than repair or restoration of any plating or other covering. Cutting, grinding, or smelting of uranium counterweights would therefore violate the conditions of the exemption, and are activities that require an NRC license.

When the counterweights are no longer to be used for their intended purposes, the end user, exempt from the regulations for these purposes, may transfer the counterweights as follows:

  (1) Return the counterweights to the manufacturer or other facility licensed to process source material;

  (2) Transfer the counterweights to another organization that will also use devices as aircraft counterweights;

  (3) Transfer the counterweights for disposal at a facility licensed for disposal of radioactive material; or

  (4) Transfer the counterweights to an unlicensed disposal facility that accepts exempt radioactive material. Note that other regulatory restrictions (Federal, State and local) may apply. In this regard, many disposal facilities that do not accept such material have radiation alarms, and will reject any material that sets off the alarms.

Note that the counterweights should not be transferred to scrap dealers or recyclers who are likely to physically, chemically, or metallurgically process the counterweights. Such processing would violate the restrictions of the exemption.

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Paperwork Reduction Act Statement

This RIS does not request any information collection.

This RIS requires no specific action nor written response. If you have any questions about this summary, please get in touch with the contact person listed below, or the appropriate regional office.

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Donald A. Cool, Director
Division of Industrial and Medical Nuclear Safety
Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards

Technical contact: Joe DeCicco
E-mail: jxd1@nrc.gov
Attachment: List of Recently Issued NRC Regulatory Issue Summaries

(ADAMS Accession Number ML011930535)

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