Environmental Protection

NRC to Webcast Meeting on LowLevel Waste Disposal Problems

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is asking hospitals, universities, and others who use radioactive materials for research to explain how they are affected by limited access to low-level waste disposal facilities.

If important research has been affected or stopped because disposal is limited, NRC wants to know and factor that into future decisions, according to its announcement of an Oct. 7 public meeting on this topic that appeared in the Federal Register. The meeting will take place at NRC's Rockville, Md., headquarters, and the public will be able to participate via a Webcast. NRC's public Web site will provide Webcast and meeting details starting in late September.

The questions NRC asked in its notice of the meeting included:

  • Have alternative technologies taken the place of radioactive materials because of LLW disposal access, and if so, what have been the impacts, both positive and negative?
  • In what state and LLW Compact is the research facility that you're addressing located?
  • What kind of licensee uses the radioactive sources or materials that are being addressed (university, hospital, private research, other)?
  • How do you or did you disposition the spent sources or radioactive materials (LLW disposal facility, store onsite, return to manufacturer, or other)?
  • Are you currently storing onsite radioactive sources or materials that would have been disposed of offsite had disposal access been available?
  • Has the lack of disposal access for either radioactive sources or materials caused you to re-evaluate research needs and techniques?
  • What adaptations have you made to reduce waste volume and improve the management of low-level radioactive waste disposal?
  • Has the cost of low-level radioactive waste disposal affected your research? If so, describe how.
Comments may be submitted until Oct. 20.

On Aug. 3, NRC proposed increased oversight of generally licensed devices. The proposed rule would require owners of approximately 1,800 devices to apply for specific licenses for those devices. This change applies primarily to fixed industrial gauges, according to the agency. "I believe this proposed rule is a positive step forward in increasing the accountability of these materials," NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko said. "I look forward to receiving input from the public on the agency's proposal." These devices usually contain radioactive material in a shielded, sealed housing, and they are designed with inherent radiation safety features to enable untrained individuals to use them safely.

Examples include gas chromatographs used in chemical analysis, static eliminators, ice detection devices, and in vitro kits used in clinical or laboratory testing, NRC said.

To view the proposed rule, go to http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-18438.pdf.

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