Programmatic (Strategic) Assessment of the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program
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, 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, 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.
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 LLRW 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 several of the high priority activities identified in the 2007 Strategic Assessment. 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 developed a new assessment of the NRC's LLRW program. As with the 2007 assessment, the new assessment (now called a Programmatic Assessment) provided opportunities for stakeholder engagement.
On May 15, 2014, the 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 sought 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. More information on the public meeting and webinars can be found in the table below.
The NRC received 15 comment submissions to the Federal Register notices and also received numerous comments as the result of the public meeting and webinars. The comment submissions in response to the Federal Register notices are available on the Federal rulemaking Web site under Docket ID NRC-2014-0080. The comments pertained to the management of low activity waste, waste classification, clearance, disposal capacity, new waste streams, disused sealed sources, and waste attribution. These comments provided stakeholder insights on the state of the LLRW program nationally.
Based on stakeholder feedback, the update process resulted in deleting some of the remaining activities; and, adding, combining, and reprioritizing other activities. The tasks were prioritized based on the objective of the programmatic assessment (i.e., ensure a stable, reliable, and adaptable regulatory framework for effective LLRW management).
In late 2016, the NRC staff published the results of this assessment in SECY-16-0118, "Programmatic Assessment of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program." This programmatic assessment analyzed the progress of the regulatory program from 2007, identified new challenges, and will be used to optimize resources going forward. The results of this programmatic assessment include a prioritized list of ongoing and future staff activities.
For more specific information about past public meetings on this topic, see the chronological listing in the following table:
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