Transfer of Very Low-Level Waste to Exempt Persons for Disposal
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Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Part 20, Subpart K, "Waste Disposal," governs the disposal of licensed material by NRC licensees. Section 20.2001 provides the general requirements for disposal, and paragraph (a) requires that a licensee only dispose of licensed material using the methods listed in that paragraph. The authorized method of disposal listed in paragraph (a)(1) is "transfer to an authorized recipient as provided in § 20.2006 or in the regulations in parts 30, 40, 60, 61, 63, 70, and 72 of this chapter." Parts 30, 40, and 70 of 10 CFR contain provisions that authorize the transfer of material to exempt persons. Specifically, §§ 30.41(b)(3)-(b)(4), 40.51(b)(3)-(b)(4), and 70.42(b)(3)-(b)(4) each provide that "[e]xcept as otherwise provided in his license…any licensee may transfer [byproduct, source, or special nuclear] material: [t]o any person exempt from the licensing requirements of the Act and regulations in this part, to the extent permitted under such exemption; [or] [t]o any person in an Agreement State, subject to the jurisdiction of that State, who has been exempted from the licensing requirements and regulations of that State, to the extent permitted under such exemption."
The NRC's guidance on § 20.2001 states that the transfer of material to exempt persons is not an authorized method of disposal. This guidance is contained in NUREG-1736, "Consolidated Guidance: 10 CFR Part 20 – Standards for Protection Against Radiation," Section 3.20.2001. This guidance explains that an "authorized recipient is a person or an organization licensed to possess the material being transferred." With respect to exemptions, the guidance explains that "[e]xemption of certain types, quantities, or concentrations of materials from the licensing requirements applies to the initial decision of whether or not the material should be licensed. However, once licensed, no quantity of that material, however small, is exempt from the applicable regulations in this section."
Proposed Interpretive Rule
On March 6, 2020, the NRC issued a proposed interpretation of its low-level radioactive waste disposal regulations in 10 CFR 20.2001 that would permit licensees to dispose of waste by transfer to persons who hold specific exemptions for the purpose of disposal (85 FR 13076). In the proposed interpretation, the NRC would consider approval of requests for specific exemptions for the purpose of disposal if they are for the disposal of VLLW by land burial. Therefore, the NRC's intent is that this interpretive rule would allow licensees to transfer VLLW to exempt persons for the purpose of disposal by land burial. The exemptions for non-licensed facilities would only be granted after a rigorous technical and regulatory review by the agency with jurisdiction over the facility (i.e., the NRC or appropriate Agreement State regulator) to ensure that public health and safety will be maintained. A fact sheet containing additional information on the proposal can be found in ADAMS (ML20120A048).
The NRC requested public feedback and comments on this proposed interpretive rule via the March 6, 2020 Federal Register Notice (FRN). The comment period for the proposal ended on October 21, 2020. All comments received on the proposed interpretive rule can be located in ADAMS by searching for Docket ID No. NRC-2020-0065. On December 17, 2020, the NRC withdrew the proposed interpretation (85 FR 81849). The proposal was withdrawn based on the NRC staff’s assessment that the proposed changes may not benefit the regulatory framework for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste..
The NRC has a long-standing practice of conducting its regulatory responsibilities in an open manner. For that reason, the NRC is committed to informing the public about its regulatory, licensing, and oversight activities, and providing opportunities for the public to participate in the agency's decision-making process. For general information about the available opportunities for public involvement in NRC activities, see Public Meetings and Involvement, and NUREG/BR-0215, "Public Involvement in the Regulatory Process."
The staff conducted two public meetings during the development of the 10 CFR 20.2001 proposed interpretive rule to engage interested stakeholders.
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, June 10, 2021