[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 112 (Monday, June 11, 2012)]
[Pages 34411-34414]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-14084]




Branch Technical Position on Concentration Averaging and 

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Draft Branch Technical Position; request for comment.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or the Commission) 
is soliciting public comments on a revised draft Revision 1 of its 
Branch Technical Position on Concentration Averaging and Encapsulation 
(CA BTP). An earlier draft was completed in August 2011 and made 
available to the public in September 2011 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML112061191). The NRC staff held a workshop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 
on October 20, 2011, to receive public comments. This revised draft 
addresses the stakeholder comments received at the workshop, and others 
received after the workshop. After receiving and addressing public 
comments on this revised draft, the staff will finalize the CA BTP to 
replace the 1995 version now in effect.

DATES: Submit comments by October 8, 2012. Comments received after this 
date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is 
able to assure consideration only for comments received on or before 
this date.

ADDRESSES: You may access information and comment submissions related 
to this document, which the NRC possesses and are publicly available, 
by searching on http://www.regulations.gov under Docket ID NRC-2011-
0022. You may submit comments by any of the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Web site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2011-0022. Address 
questions about NRC dockets to Carol Gallagher; telephone: (301) 492-
3668; email: [email protected].
     Mail comments to: Cindy Bladey, Chief, Rules, 
Announcements, and Directives Branch (RADB), Office of Administration, 
Mail Stop: TWB-05-B01M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, 
DC 20555-0001.
     Fax comments to: RADB at 301-492-3446.
    For additional direction on accessing information and submitting 
comments, see ``Accessing Information and Submitting Comments'' in the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: James Kennedy, Office of Federal and 
State Materials and Environmental Management Programs, U.S. Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001; telephone: 301-415-
6668; email: [email protected].


I. Accessing Information and Submitting Comments

A. Accessing Information

    Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2011-0022 when contacting the NRC 
about the availability of information regarding this document. You may 
access information related to this document, which the NRC possesses 
and are publicly available, by any of the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Web Site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2011-0022.
     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 document

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is provided the first time that a document is referenced.
     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.

B. Submitting Comments

    Please include Docket ID NRC-2011-0022 in the subject line of your 
comment submission, in order to ensure that the NRC is able to make 
your comment submission available to the public in this docket.
    The NRC cautions you not to include identifying or contact 
information that you do not want to be publicly disclosed in your 
comment submission. The NRC will post all comment submissions at http://www.regulations.gov, as well as enter the comment submissions into 
ADAMS, and the NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to 
remove identifying or contact information.
    If you are requesting or aggregating comments from other persons 
for submission to the NRC, then you should inform those persons not to 
include identifying or contact information that they do not want to be 
publicly disclosed in their comment submission. Your request should 
state that the NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to 
remove such information before making the comment submissions available 
to the public or entering the comment submissions into ADAMS.

II. Background

    Revising the CA BTP was ranked as a high priority in the NRC 
staff's Commission paper, SECY-07-0180, ``Strategic Assessment of Low-
Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program,'' ADAMS Accession No. 
ML071350291. The existing version of the CA BTP, published in 1995, 
(ADAMS Accession No. ML033630732) is not fully risk-informed and 
performance-based, and does not always describe the bases for its 
concentration averaging positions. It also needs to be revised to 
incorporate new provisions related to blending of low-level waste 
(LLW), as directed by the Commission in its Staff Requirements 
Memorandum for SECY-10-0043, ``Blending of Low-Level Radioactive 
Waste,'' (ADAMS Accession No. ML102861764).
    The NRC's regulations at Title 10 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations (10 CFR) Part 61, ``Licensing Requirements for Land 
Disposal of Radioactive Waste,'' establishes a waste classification 
system based on the concentration of specific radionuclides contained 
in the waste. The regulations in 10 CFR 61.55(a)(8) state that ``[t]he 
concentration of a radionuclide [in waste] may be averaged over the 
volume of the waste, or weight of the waste if the units [on the values 
tabulated in the concentration tables] are expressed as nanocuries per 
gram.'' The purpose of the waste classification system is to contribute 
to protection of individuals that inadvertently intrude into a waste 
disposal facility, a requirement in the NRC's disposal regulations at 
10 CFR 61.42. Waste is classified according to the hazard it presents 
to an inadvertent intruder, and risk to the intruder is managed by 
having increased disposal facility control measures, such as depth of 
disposal, as the hazard increases. The concentration averaging 
provisions of the 1995 CA BTP were specifically developed to ensure 
that individual items (e.g., disused sealed sources or other 
radiological ``hot spots'') with significantly greater radioactivity 
than the average activity in a package are safely disposed. Constraints 
on radiological hot spots are needed to ensure intruder protection, and 
the CA BTP identifies these constraints.
    The NRC staff initially developed a technical position on 
radioactive waste classification in May 1983 (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML033630755). That technical position paper described overall 
procedures acceptable to NRC staff which could be used by licensees to 
determine the presence and concentrations of the radionuclides listed 
in 10 CFR 61.55, and thereby classify waste for near-surface disposal. 
In 1995, the NRC staff published the CA BTP, expanding on Section C.3, 
``Concentration Volumes and Masses,'' (i.e., concentration averaging) 
of the 1983 Technical Position. The 1995 CA BTP recommended constraints 
on averaging of homogeneous waste types \1\ (e.g., ion exchange resins, 
soil, ash), mixtures of discrete items (such as irradiated reactor 
hardware) and sealed sources for the purposes of ensuring intruder 
protection against hot spots, as well as constraining the amount of 
averaging that licensees could perform that would lower the 
classification of wastes.

    \1\ Waste in which the concentrations of radionuclides of 
concern are likely to approach uniformity in the context of 
reasonably foreseeable intruder scenarios.

    There have been a number of changes in the LLW program since the 
1995 CA BTP was published; these changes were drivers for the current 
revision. First, the Commission reviewed the CA BTP's position on 
blending of LLW. The 1995 version constrained the concentration of 
input waste streams to mixtures of mixable wastes (i.e., waste that is 
not composed of discrete items) to within a factor of 10 of the average 
concentration of the final mixture. Also, the 1995 version does not 
constrain mixing of these wastes if operational efficiency or worker 
exposures were affected by the blending. The Commission directed the 
staff to implement a risk-informed, performance-based approach for LLW 
blending that made the hazard (i.e., the radioactivity concentration) 
of the final mixture, the primary consideration for averaging 
constraints. Second, the NRC adopted a risk-informed, performance-based 
regulatory approach for its programs in the late 1990's, after the 1995 
CA BTP was published. This new revision of the CA BTP more fully 
reflects that regulatory approach, not just for the blending positions, 
but for all of the other topics it addresses as well. Finally, the 1995 
CA BTP significantly constrained disposal of encapsulated sealed 
sources below the Class B and C limits in the 10 CFR 61.55 waste 
classification tables. The threat of a radiological dispersal device 
using sealed radioactive sources caused the staff to re-examine the 
1995 assumptions underlying the radioactivity constraints on sealed 
source disposal, and to better balance the risk associated with 
inadvertent intrusion with national security and safety issues 
associated with sealed sources that have no disposal pathway. Licensees 
must store sealed sources for potentially long periods of time if there 
is no disposal option, and the sources are subject to loss or 
abandonment. The CA BTP's revised positions will allow for disposal of 
more sealed sources than the 1995 CA BTP which will enhance national 
security by ensuring that the safest and most secure method to manage 
them is available to licensees.

III. Stakeholder Comments on the August 2011 Draft CA BTP

    The draft Revision 1 of the CA BTP that is being made available for 
public comment is a revision to an August 2011 draft that was provided 
to the NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) for review 
and comment. The NRC staff briefed the ACRS on October 4 and December 
1, 2011, and the ACRS provided their views to the Commission in a 
December 13, 2011, letter (ADAMS Accession No. ML11354A407). The NRC 
staff also held a public meeting to solicit comments on the August 2011 
draft in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on October 20, 2011. The meeting 
summary is in ADAMS Accession No. ML113330167. At that meeting, 
stakeholders requested that

[[Page 34413]]

NRC staff revise the existing version to address their comments before 
publishing it for public comment again. The staff agreed to that 
    In addition, the staff met with the Low-Level Radioactive Waste 
Forum's (LLW Forum) Disused Source Working Group on February 9, 2012, 
in Dallas, Texas, to explain the bases for the revised CA BTP and to 
answer questions. The Agreement States that regulate the four active 
LLW disposal sites (Texas, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington) and 
that are members of the Disused Source Working Group provided formal 
comments on the August 2011 draft.\2\ The LLW Forum also provided 
written comments (ADAMS Accession No. ML120530573).

    \2\ Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, ADAMS Accession 
No. ML120530077; South Carolina Department of Health and 
Environmental Control, ADAMS Accession No. ML120520496; Utah 
Department of Environmental Conservation, ADAMS Accession No. 
ML120520498; Washington Office of Radiation Protection, ADAMS 
Accession No. ML120520505)

    All of these comments, from the ACRS; stakeholders at the October 
20, 2011, workshop; and the members of the Disused Source Working 
Group--have been considered in the revised draft that is being made 
available in this document. Appendices D, E, and H of draft Revision 1 
contain the staff's analysis and responses to comments from 
stakeholders at the October 20, 2011, workshop; from members of the LLW 
Forum's Disused Source Working Group; and from the ACRS, respectively. 
Several other stakeholders also provided additional comments in 
February and April 2012 (ADAMS Accession Nos. ML120520558, ML120890046, 
and ML121220126), and these were considered to the extent possible in 
developing this revised draft. The staff did not document responses to 
their comments because of schedule constraints. For any of these 
comments that the staff has not fully responded to, the staff will 
address them in preparing the final version of the CA BTP. A redline-
strikeout comparison between the May 2012 draft and the August 2011 
draft is contained in ADAMS Accession No. ML12137A262.
    The staff is interested in stakeholder views on all responses to 
issues that were raised in the above comments, but is particularly 
interested in stakeholder views on the following topics:
    Selection of inadvertent intruder exposure scenarios: In the 
original and revised CA BTP, the staff postulated generic exposure 
scenarios to evaluate the doses to an inadvertent intruder exposed to 
radiological hot spots in mixable wastes and in individual items to 
establish concentration averaging constraints. Because it is not 
possible to predict human behavior with complete accuracy over the time 
frames associated with the hazard from LLW, the staff has used what it 
believes to be reasonable, yet conservative scenarios, such as well 
drilling into waste. The ACRS and others have commented on the 
selection of scenarios. The staff is interested in receiving public 
input on the specific scenarios used for this revised draft, as well as 
factors to be considered in selection of generic radiation exposure 
scenarios for an inadvertent intruder. Information on the selection of 
scenarios is provided in the CA BTP in Appendix B; Appendix D 
(responses to comments 1(c) and 6(a); and the staff's February 3, 2012, 
response (ADAMS Accession No. ML120090314) \3\ to the ACRS letter 
(ADAMS Accession No. ML11354A407).\4\ An important impact of scenario 
selection is the constraint on the activity of sealed sources for 
disposal under the CA BTP. The revised CA BTP uses a new scenario that 
would allow for disposal of higher activity sources to be disposed of 
in commercial LLW disposal sites that would result in these sources no 
longer posing a threat to national security. Some stakeholders, 
including ACRS, have argued for the use of scenarios that would result 
in fewer constraints on sources, and higher activities for disposal 
than what the staff has proposed.

    \3\ The February 3, 2012, staff response is contained in 
Appendix H of the CA BTP.
    \4\ The December 13, 2011, ACRS letter is contained in Appendix 
G of the CA BTP.

    Other ACRS recommendations and issues: The ACRS and staff were in 
agreement on a number of positions in the revised CA BTP, such as 
blending of LLW, and the new Alternative Approaches section. However, 
the ACRS had a number of recommendations that could potentially 
significantly change the CA BTP, including allowing for reliance on 
perpetual care funds for institutional controls to prevent or mitigate 
the impacts of inadvertent intrusion and using probability of intrusion 
in developing averaging positions. The staff is interested in 
stakeholder views on the pros and cons of the ACRS recommendations, 
given their potentially significant impacts on current practices. The 
ACRS letter to the Commission (ADAMS Accession No. ML11354A407) is 
contained in Appendix G of the revised CA BTP.
    Classification of cartridge filters as a homogeneous waste: 
Cartridge filters are used to remove radioactive solids from various 
systems in a nuclear power plant. Filters are typically composed of 
thin metal or plastic frames with a corrugated or wound paper or 
synthetic filter media enclosed within the frame. Although the frames 
and filter media are contained in fairly robust metal housings, the 
housing is perforated so that radioactivity from the filters could be 
dislodged during handling by an inadvertent intruder. In addition, 
although filters may contain high levels of non-gamma emitting 
radionuclides, they typically contain low amounts of long-lived gamma 
radionuclides that would pose a hazard to an intruder handling a 
discrete item. The current CA BTP classifies cartridge filters as 
discrete wastes, so that each filter must be individually characterized 
for the concentrations and amounts of radionuclides that may affect 
waste classification. Several stakeholders have argued that the 
characteristics of cartridge filters previously described are 
significantly different from discrete items such as sealed sources or 
activated metal and justify their treatment as homogeneous wastes. 
Homogeneous wastes are subject to less stringent averaging constraints. 
The revised CA BTP continues to classify filters as discrete wastes, 
but provides an option for licensees to document justifications for 
treatment of them as homogeneous wastes. Section 4.3.4, ``Cartridge 
Filters as Homogeneous Waste,'' and the staff's response to comment 
3(a) in Appendix D describes the revised position on cartridge filters 
and its basis. The staff is specifically seeking stakeholder views on 
this revision to the previous draft.
    Homogeneity Test for Mixable Wastes: The staff received significant 
comments on the proposed testing for homogeneity of blended waste in 
the August 2011 draft Revision 1 of CA BTP. The staff has addressed 
these comments and made significant revisions. See Section 4.2.2 of the 
revised CA BTP, ``Homogeneity of Mixable Waste,'' as well as Section 
4.9, ``Alternative Approaches.'' See also responses to comments 1(c) 
and 1(g) in Appendix D.
    Specification of Waste to Binder Ratio and Not Container Size for 
Encapsulation of LLW: The 1995 CA BTP provided for encapsulation of 
discrete, higher-activity items in a non-radioactive medium such as 
concrete, and averaging the activity in the discrete item over a 55 
gallon drum volume. The amount of non-radioactive material over which 
averaging could take place was constrained to 55 gallons, so that 
extreme averaging measures would not be employed. Several stakeholders

[[Page 34414]]

requested that the waste-to-binder ratio be specified so that larger 
volumes could be employed. The constraints would be based on the 
average activity of the encapsulated package, and the ratio of the 
volume of the radioactive item to the volume of the encapsulating 
media. Such an approach would still constrain the use of non-
radioactive materials in averaging. This approach had been approved by 
the NRC in a topical report for encapsulating and averaging cartridge 
filters. The staff has addressed this comment in revisions to Section 
4.5, ``Encapsulation of Sealed Sources and Other Solid Low-Level 
Radioactive Wastes,'' and in response to comment 7(a) in Appendix D.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 30th day of May, 2012.
    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Andrew Persinko,
Acting Director, Division of Waste Management and Environmental 
Protection, Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental 
Management Programs.
[FR Doc. 2012-14084 Filed 6-8-12; 8:45 am]