NRC publishes assessment of low-level radioactive waste
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has 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, South Carolina, 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
The strategic assessment concludes that current 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 w36
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 safety.
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 website at www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/secys/2007/