NRC Releases Assessment of Low-level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program
Nov. 2, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission published the staff's
strategic assessment of the agency's low-level radioactive waste (LLW)
regulatory program, proposing several initiatives to meet impending
challenges such as decreased disposal capacity and increased production
of LLW as new reactors and other nuclear facilities come online.
Those challenges include the anticipated closure to most of the
nation in 2008 of the Barnwell, S.C., LLW disposal facility. Barnwell
is currently the nation's only commercial disposal option for certain
wastes, and its closure could force licensees to store waste on-site
until other disposal options become available. In addition, operation
of new uranium enrichment facilities, potential nuclear fuel
reprocessing facilities and commercial nuclear power plants will create
additional demand for LLW disposal capacity.
According to the strategic assessment, NRC regulations on disposal
of low-level radioactive waste fully protect the health and safety of
workers and the public. However, the assessment identifies several
measures that could improve the effectiveness of low-level waste
management and regulation as disposal needs and circumstances change.
The strategic assessment identifies seven "high-priority" tasks the
NRC intends to carry out to strengthen the agency's ability to ensure
safe and secure LLW disposal, improve the effectiveness of its
regulations, and assure regulatory stability and predictability while
allowing flexibility in disposal options. These tasks include updating
guidance for extended storage of LLW; developing new guidance for
alternative disposal of low-activity waste; and developing guidance for
classifying LLW according to the risk it poses to public health and
Officials said the strategic assessment was developed with input
from the NRC's Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste and Materials as
well as external stakeholders such as industry, state agencies and
public interest groups. It is currently before the commission as an
information paper (SECY-07-0180) and will be available on the NRC's Web
site at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/secys/2007.