[Federal Register Volume 61, Number 155 (Friday, August 9, 1996)]
[Pages 41597-41600]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 96-20313]



Board Policy on Board Oversight of Department of Energy 
Decommissioning Activities at Defense Nuclear Facilities

AGENCY: Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

ACTION: Notice of Board adoption of policy guidance.


SUMMARY: The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board has unanimously

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adopted a policy statement which establishes procedures that the Board 
will use in carrying out its oversight responsibilities for 
decommissioning activities at Department of Energy defense nuclear 

Robert M. Andersen, General Counsel, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety 
Board, 625 Indiana Avenue, NW., Suite 700, Washington, DC 20004-2901, 
(202) 208-6387.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This policy statement describes the 
decommissioning phase of a Department of Energy defense nuclear 
facility and identifies the Board's safety oversight responsibilities 
for decommissioning activities.

Policy Statement (PS-3)

    Congress directed the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board 
(Board) to oversee Department of Energy (DOE) practices at defense 
nuclear facilities that could adversely affect public health and safety 
during any stage in the life cycle of those facilities, from design, 
construction, and operation through decommissioning. The Board's 
objective during decommissioning is identical to its objective during 
any other phase of a facility's life cycle: to ensure that DOE provides 
adequate protection of worker and public health and safety at defense 
nuclear facilities. Congress specifically tasked the Board with 
reviewing and evaluating:

The content and implementation of the standards relating to the 
design, construction, operation, and decommissioning of defense 
nuclear facilities of the Department of Energy (including all 
applicable Department of Energy orders, regulations, and 
requirements) at each Department of Energy defense nuclear facility. 
The Board shall recommend to the Secretary of Energy those specific 
measures that should be adopted to ensure that public health and 
safety are adequately protected. 42 U.S.C. 2286a(a)(1) (emphasis 

    Thus, the Board's principal oversight function during the 
decommissioning phase of a facility is to ensure that appropriate 
nuclear safety rules, orders, and procedures are developed by DOE and 
then put in practice while the facility is being taken out of service.
    An unambiguous definition of ``decommissioning'' is essential to 
understanding the Board's responsibilities for safety oversight during 
this phase, and to establishing effective cooperation and/or processes 
for transition to external regulation by other federal and state 
agencies having statutory responsibilities for final cleanup and site 
restoration activities that the term decommissioning also encompasses. 
As used in the Board's enabling statute, decommissioning is a broad 
term that encompasses activities leading up to environmental 
restoration, including deactivation, decontamination, final process 
runs, removal of special nuclear material, residues, and wastes, and 
other activities necessary to ensure adequate protection of public 
health and safety. Under the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), decommissioning 
begins when operation ceases, and ends when source material, byproduct 
material, and special nuclear material (``AEA materials''), as well as 
radioactive materials related to the defense mission, such as tritium, 
have been adequately removed from a facility. When completed properly, 
these actions taken to remove radioactive materials obviate the need 
for continued Board oversight to ensure adequate protection of worker 
or public health and safety from radiological hazards.
    This definition of decommissioning is broader than that currently 
used administratively by DOE. DOE segments the period following 
operation into a deactivation phase and a decommissioning phase. The 
DOE Office of Environmental Management separates the deactivation phase 
from other functions commonly associated with operations, and defines 
it as:

    The process of placing a facility in a safe and stable condition 
to minimize the long-term cost of a surveillance and maintenance 
program that is protective of workers, the public, and the 
environment until decommissioning is complete. Actions include the 
removal of fuel, draining and/or de-energizing of nonessential 
systems, removal of stored radioactive and hazardous materials and 
related actions. As the bridge between operations and 
decommissioning, based upon facility-specific considerations and 
final disposition plans, deactivation can accomplish operations-like 
activities such as final process runs, and also decontamination 
activities aimed at placing the facility in a safe and stable 
condition. Decommissioning Resource Manual, DOE/EM-0246, Sec. 3.3.

    DOE distinguishes deactivation from decommissioning activities for 
administrative purposes including budget determinations and delineation 
of various responsibilities within DOE. The Board believes that DOE's 
functional description of what takes place during deactivation is 
useful, but also recognizes that deactivation is a continuation and 
completion of the operations which are necessary to accomplish 
decommissioning. The Board's inclusion of deactivation as a part of 
decommissioning is consistent with Nuclear Regulatory Commission and 
International Atomic Energy Agency policies on decommissioning.
    DOE defines decommissioning more narrowly as only those activities 
which take place:

    After deactivation and includes surveillance and maintenance, 
decontamination and/or dismantlement. These actions are taken at the 
end of life of the facility to retire it from service with adequate 
regard for the health and safety of workers and the public and 
protection of the environment. The ultimate goal of decommissioning 
is unrestricted release or restricted use of the site.
* * * * *
    Surveillance and Maintenance is a program established during 
deactivation and continuing until phased out during decommissioning 
to provide in a cost effective manner for satisfactory containment 
of contamination; physical safety and security controls; and 
maintenance of the facility in a manner that is protective of 
workers, the public, and the environment. Id. Sec. 3.3.

    To avoid confusion, the Board refers to surveillance and 
maintenance which occurs during decommissioning as ``decommissioning 
surveillance and maintenance'' to distinguish between the routine 
surveillance and maintenance activities that occur during normal 
operations. Nuclear safety organizations generally consider operations 
to be ended and decommissioning initiated once reactor fuel has been 
removed from a nuclear reactor, for nonreactor facilities, 
decommissioning begins with the removal of radioactive process 
    The Board's interest in decommissioning activities follows the risk 
to worker or public health and safety from exposure to radioactive 
materials at or near defense nuclear facilities. DOE's separation of 
activities into such categories as decontamination, surveillance and 
maintenance, and demolition may be descriptive and useful to DOE. 
However, labels or designation applied to the different activities 
within the decommissioning phase of a facility do not determine the 
scope of the Board's duties. The Board retains oversight responsibility 
and interest so long as residual quantities and states of radioactive 
materials are sufficient to require continued Board oversight in the 
interests of public and worker safety. Given this condition, the Board 
will continue to exercise its oversight jurisdiction to ensure that 
standards applicable to the DOE activity, including DOE safety orders, 
rules, and other requirements, are sufficient to provide adequate 
protection to the worker or public health and safety, and are 
implemented by DOE and its contractors in accordance with a safety 

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plan that does, in fact, provide such adequate protection.
    The Board's concern for safety at a facility diminishes as 
radioactive materials are withdrawn and the facility is removed from 
service. The Board is ready to work with the federal and state 
regulatory agencies also involved in these decommissioning activities 
to effect a coordinated, integrated decommissioning effort. Together 
with this policy statement, the Board is endorsing and issuing Board 
technical report, DNFSB/TECH-12, prepared by senior staff entitled, 
``Regulation and Oversight of Decommissioning Activities at Department 
of Energy Defense Nuclear Facilities.'' That document elaborates upon 
the issues discussed in this policy statement and fully describes the 
type of cooperative arrangement the Board envisions with other federal 
and state regulators.
    The Board's oversight responsibility for decommissioning activities 
focuses primarily on the health and safety aspects of the facility and 
materials within the facility. To a lesser extent, the Board involves 
itself with protection of the environment surrounding the facility 
which is subject to substantial regulation by other agencies. 
Specifically, the Board is concerned if the immediate environment 
contains or can be contaminated with radioactive materials from a 
facility under the Board's jurisdiction, and can possess a sufficient 
concentration of radionuclides to pose a potential threat to worker and 
public health and safety. Similarly, the Board is concerned if the 
environment poses a nonradiological hazard which can cause an undue 
risk to worker and public health and safety as a result of its 
proximity to a defense nuclear facility. The Board's environmental 
interest is greatest if the materials originated with DOE defense 
nuclear facility activities and exposure to the materials could result 
in undue harm to workers or the public. The Board's interest is shared 
with other regulatory agencies where the contaminants result (1) from a 
release, bringing Comprehensive Emergency Response, Compensation, and 
Liability Act (CERCLA) or Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) 
requirements into play, along with United States Environmental 
Protection Agency (EPA) or state regulation of removal and remediation 
activities, or (2) from activities under a RCRA permit. In such cases, 
the Board is prepared to work in an advisory or assist role with 
federal or state agencies having statutory responsibility for forcing 
corrective or remedial measures.
    The Board shares oversight responsibility with other regulatory 
agencies for other facilities containing or contaminated with 
radioactive materials mixed with RCRA hazardous waste. RCRA mixed waste 
has two components: a RCRA hazardous waste (which excludes AEA 
materials) and a radioactive waste. Such facilities are subject to 
regulation by EPA and state agencies with environmental 
responsibilities. Treatment, storage, and disposal of the hazardous 
waste component must meet RCRA requirements and is regulated by the 
EPA, or the state when authorized by EPA. Treatment, storage, and 
disposal of the radioactive component must meet AEA requirements and is 
regulated by DEO subject to Board oversight. Thus, the Board has a 
primary interest in the radioactive component, but must share its 
responsibility for oversight of the mixed waste with the regulator of 
the hazardous component. If the mixed waste is scheduled for treatment 
and disposal without separating the two components, the treatment and 
disposal facilities must meet both the hazardous waste laws and those 
pertaining to radioactive waste.
    Board oversight of public health and safety practices at a defense 
nuclear facility does not end until decommissioning has been completed. 
However, it does diminish as the inventory of radioactive materials is 
reduced. This policy statement is designed to provide guidance 
pertaining to the Board's interpretation of its statutory role in 
decommissioning activities. The Board will be structuring future Board 
reviews and oversight of the decommissioning process at defense nuclear 
facilities accordingly. The policy statement recognizes that the Board 
shares responsibility for public health, safety, and environmental 
issues with state agencies and EPA during decommissioning at defense 
nuclear facilities. In the delineation of the Board's responsibilities 
and interest, the Board's objective is to facilitate a smooth 
transition of Board oversight to state and federal regulation as a 
defense nuclear facility passes through operational and decommissioning 
phases to state and EPA-regulated final cleanup, demolition, and 
environmental restoration activities.
John T. Conway,

    Dated: August 5, 1996.
Robert M. Andersen,
General Counsel.

Appendix--Transmittal Letter to the Secretary of Energy


625 Indiana Avenue, NW, Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20004, (202) 208-

August 1, 1996.
The Honorable Hazel R. O'Leary,
Secretary of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 
    Dear Secretary O'Leary: Enclosed for your consideration are two 
documents just issued by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board 
(Board) related to safety oversight of decommissioning activities at 
Department of Energy (DOE) defense nuclear facilities: Board Policy 
Statement No. 3, entitled ``Policy Statement on Board Oversight of 
Department of Energy Decommissioning Activities at Defense Nuclear 
Facilities'' and a Board technical report, DNFSB/TECH-12, 
``Regulation and Oversight of Decommissioning Activities at 
Department of Energy Defense Nuclear Facilities.'' Together these 
documents examine the various definitions of decommissioning in use 
by nuclear organizations, delineate the Board's oversight 
responsibilities for decommissioning activities at defense nuclear 
facilities, and review the roles of federal and state regulators for 
aspects of decommissioning, including environmental cleanup and 
final restoration.
    The Board believes these documents are important because they 
provide structure and guidance for continuing Board safety oversight 
of the decommissioning phase, which encompasses an expanding number 
of activities throughout the defense nuclear complex. As DOE's 
mission continues to evolve, and an emphasis is placed on 
decommissioning, waste processing, and environmental restoration, it 
becomes increasingly important that the Board and other federal and 
state regulators cooperate to provide a smooth transition from 
oversight of Atomic Energy Act nuclear materials to regulation of 
environmental restoration and cleanup. DNFSB/TECH-12 outlines the 
principles for cooperation and efficient, nonduplicative, oversight 
and regulation of decommissioning activities. These principles were 
incorporated in the 1996 Memorandum of Understanding entered into by 
DOE, the Board, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 
and the State of Colorado for decommissioning activities at the 
Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, near Denver, Colorado. As 
recently acknowledged by the Senate Armed Services Committee, 
similar arrangements could result in efficient and effective 
oversight and regulation of the decommissioning phase at other 
defense nuclear facilities throughout the complex.

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John T. Conway,
c: Mr. Mark B. Whitaker, Jr.

[FR Doc. 96-20313 Filed 8-8-96; 8:45 am]