NRC Proposal Seeks to Avoid Future Legacy Sites
Regulatory Commission seeks public comment on a proposed rule designed
to prevent future "legacy sites" with insufficient funds for
decommissioning by requiring licensees to minimize the introduction of
residual radioactivity at their sites during operations.
The proposed rule, published Jan. 22 in the Federal Register,
would require licensees to keep survey records of residual
radioactivity, including in the subsurface soil and groundwater, with
records important for decommissioning. The proposed rule would require
certain licensees to report additional details in their decommissioning
cost estimates and amend some financial assurance mechanisms for
Facilities that process large quantities of material, especially in
liquid form, have the potential for significant environmental
contamination due to the scale of their operations. Leaks from these
facilities can lead to significant radioactive contamination of the
subsurface soil and groundwater even though the radiation doses from
these releases are well below annual regulatory limits for public and
In addition, the high costs of disposing radioactive material
offsite may lead licensees to store more waste onsite, increasing the
potential for subsurface radioactive contamination and significantly
higher decommissioning costs.
Licensees must perform surveys to verify that radioactive effluent
releases are below regulatory requirements and do not pose public
health hazards. However, the NRC believes these regulations are not
clear enough concerning subsurface contamination and require
interpretation to apply to long-term environmental conditions. Surveys
rarely have been performed to assess the radiological hazard of chronic
releases and subsurface contamination because these are not considered
effluent releases and do not cause immediate exposure either to workers
or the public approaching regulatory limits.
Proposed changes to financial assurance requirements would require
more detailed reporting by licensees and would place tighter NRC
control over certain financial instruments set aside to cover eventual
Comments on the proposed rule should be submitted by April 7.
Comments may be mailed to the Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission, Washington, D.C., 20555-0001, ATTN: Rulemaking and
Adjudications Staff. They may also be e-mailed to SECY@nrc.gov or faxed to 301-415-1101. Please note "RIN 3150-AH45" in the subject line.