[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 84 (Tuesday, May 1, 2012)]
[Pages 25760-25761]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-10433]




Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management and Volume Reduction

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Policy statement; issuance.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or the Commission) 
is revising its 1981 Policy Statement on Low-Level Radioactive Waste 
(LLRW) Volume Reduction (Policy Statement). This statement encouraged 
licensees to take steps to reduce the amount of waste generated and to 
reduce the volume of waste once generated. The purpose of this revised 
statement is to recognize that progress in reducing waste volume has 
been achieved since the 1981 Policy Statement was published, and to 
acknowledge that factors other than volume reduction may be considered 
by licensees to determine how best to manage their LLRW.

DATES: This Policy Statement is effective on May 1, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2011-0183 when contacting the 
NRC about the availability of information for this policy statement. 
You may access information and comment submissions related to this 
policy statement, which the NRC possesses and are publicly available, 
by the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Web site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2011-0183. Address 
questions about NRC dockets to Carol Gallagher; telephone: 301-492-
3668; email: [email protected].
     NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System 
(ADAMS): You may access publicly available documents online in the NRC 
Library at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. To begin the 
search, select ``ADAMS Public Documents'' and then select ``Begin Web-
based ADAMS Search.'' For problems with ADAMS, please contact the NRC's 
Public Document Room (PDR) reference staff at 1-800-397-4209, 301-415-
4737, or by email to [email protected]. The ADAMS accession number 
for each document referenced in this notice (if that document is 
available in ADAMS) is provided the first time that a document is 
     NRC's PDR: You may examine and purchase copies of public 
documents at the NRC's PDR, Room O1-F21, One White Flint North, 11555 
Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Donald Lowman, Office of Federal and 
State Materials and Environmental Management Programs, U.S. Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001; telephone: 301-415-
5452, email: [email protected].


I. Background

    In 1981, the NRC published a Policy Statement (46 FR 51100; October 
16, 1981) regarding the volume reduction of LLRW. The Policy Statement 
     The need for a volume reduction policy; and
     The need for waste generators to minimize the quantity of 
waste produced.
    For 30 years, this Policy Statement has conveyed the Commission's 
expectations that generators of LLRW

[[Page 25761]]

should reduce the volume of waste shipped for disposal at licensed 
commercial waste disposal facilities. The Commission uses policy 
statements to communicate expectations about matters relating to 
activities that are within NRC jurisdiction and of importance to the 
Commission. Policy statements help to guide the activities of the NRC 
staff and licensees. However, they are not regulations and are not 
accorded the status of a regulation within the meaning of the 
Administrative Procedure Act. The Agreement States, which are 
responsible for overseeing their material licensees, cannot be required 
to implement the elements of a policy statement because such 
statements, unlike NRC regulations, are not a matter of compatibility. 
Additionally, policy statements cannot be considered binding upon, or 
enforceable against, NRC or Agreement State licensees or certificate 
    On April 7, 2010, the NRC staff issued SECY-10-0043, ``Blending of 
Low-Level Radioactive Waste'' (ADAMS Accession No. ML090410531), and 
referenced the Policy Statement in response to stakeholder comments 
that large-scale blending might not be consistent with the Policy 
Statement goal of achieving reduced waste volumes and might actually 
increase waste volumes. Although the Commission disagreed that blending 
would necessarily increase the volume of waste, it recognized the need 
to clarify the Policy Statement to better explain the role of volume 
reduction in the context of LLRW management. Therefore, the Commission 
directed the staff to update the Policy Statement to recognize the 
progress that has been achieved in waste reduction since 1981, and to 
acknowledge that volume reduction continues to be important, and that 
other risk-informed, performance-based approaches to managing waste are 
also appropriate for managing LLRW safely.
    A revised draft of the Policy Statement, ``Volume Reduction and 
Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management,'' was published in the Federal 
Register for comment on August 15, 2011 (76 FR 50500), with the comment 
period ending on October 14, 2011.
    The NRC received written comments on the draft Policy Statement and 
considered these comments when finalizing the Policy Statement. None of 
the comments resulted in changes to the basic principles of the Policy 
Statement and the changes made to the draft Policy Statement were 
limited. Responses to these comments can be found in ADAMS (Accession 
No. ML120090117).

II. Congressional Review Act

    In accordance with the Congressional Review Act of 1996, the NRC 
has determined that this action is not a major rule and has verified 
this determination with the Office of Information and Regulatory 
Affairs of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

III. Policy Statement of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Low-
Level Radioactive Waste Management and Volume Reduction


    In 1981, the Commission published a Policy Statement (46 FR 51100; 
October 16, 1981) regarding the volume reduction of LLRW. In October 
2010, the Commission directed the NRC staff to revise the Policy 
Statement (ADAMS Accession No. ML102861764) including updating to 
acknowledge that volume reduction continues to be important and adding 
that risk-informed, performance-based approaches to managing waste are 
also needed to safely manage LLRW.

Policy Statement

    The focus of any LLRW management program should be public health 
and safety. Such programs often include waste minimization efforts and 
the Commission recognizes the substantial progress made by licensees in 
reducing volumes of LLRW shipped for disposal since the publication of 
the 1981 Policy Statement. The Congress, States, LLRW Compacts and 
nuclear industry groups have also played a central part in this effort 
by encouraging waste minimization and volume reduction practices. 
Widespread use of these practices has resulted in a significant 
reduction in the amount of LLRW generated by licensees and the volume 
shipped for disposal. The Commission recognizes that the high cost of 
LLRW disposal has also been a factor, along with limitations on LLRW 
disposal access, which has resulted in increased use of volume 
reduction and waste minimization techniques.
    The Commission continues to believe that volume reduction is 
important to the management of LLRW. A continued focus on volume 
reduction will extend the operational lifetime of the existing 
commercial LLRW disposal sites and will reduce the number of waste 
shipments to disposal facilities. Therefore, the Commission encourages 
licensees to continue to adopt procedures that will minimize the volume 
of waste being transferred to disposal facilities.
    The Commission also recognizes that volume reduction is only one 
aspect of an effective LLRW management program. Although the Commission 
continues to favor the disposal of LLRW over storage, it recognizes 
that licensees may safely manage waste in a variety of ways, consistent 
with NRC regulations and guidance. As part of ensuring public health 
and safety, licensees should consider reductions in occupational 
exposures and security in determining how best to manage LLRW. As part 
of their LLRW management strategies, licensees may consider operational 
efficiency and cost. Although the Commission continues to favor 
disposal in a licensed disposal facility, licensees should consider 
additional means available to manage waste in a manner that is secure 
and protects public health and safety, such as (in no particular order 
and thus not indicating any NRC preference):
     Waste minimization;
     Short-term storage and decay;
     Long-term storage;
     Use of the alternate disposal provision in Title 10 of the 
Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) 20.2002, ``Method for obtaining 
approval of proposed disposal procedures;'' and
     Use of waste processing technologies.
    The Commission understands that limited LLRW disposal access means 
that many licensees will need to store at least some of their LLRW. 
Agreement States and NRC licensees must continue to ensure that waste 
is safely and securely managed. However, waste disposal is still 
considered the safest and most secure long-term LLRW management 

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 25th day of April 2012.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Annette L. Vietti-Cook,
Secretary of the Commission.
[FR Doc. 2012-10433 Filed 4-30-12; 8:45 am]