[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 243 (Thursday, December 17, 2020)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 81849-81850]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-27565]



10 CFR Chapter I


Transfer of Very Low-Level Waste To Exempt Persons for Disposal

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Proposed interpretive rule; withdrawal.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is withdrawing a 
proposed interpretation of its low-level radioactive waste disposal 
regulations that would permit licensees to dispose of waste by transfer 
to persons who hold specific exemptions for the purpose of disposal by 
burial. The proposal is being withdrawn based on the NRC staff's 
assessment that the proposed changes may not benefit the regulatory 
framework for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste.

DATES: The proposed interpretive rule is withdrawn as of December 17, 

ADDRESSES: Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2020-0065 when contacting the 
NRC about the availability of information for this action. You may 
obtain publicly available information related to this action by any of 
the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2020-0065. Address 
questions about Docket IDs in Regulations.gov to Jennifer Borges; 
telephone: 301-287-9127; email: [email protected]. For technical 
questions, contact the individuals listed in the FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document.
     NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System 
(ADAMS): You may obtain publicly

[[Page 81850]]

available documents online in the ADAMS Public Documents collection at 
https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. To begin the search, 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 (if it is available in 
ADAMS) is provided the first time that it is mentioned in this 
     Attention: The PDR, where you may examine and order copies 
of public documents is currently closed. You may submit your request to 
the PDR via email at [email protected] or call 1-800-397-4209 
between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday, except 
Federal holidays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Maurice Heath, telephone: 301-415-
3137, email: [email protected] and Stephen Dembek, telephone: 301-
415-2343, email: [email protected]. Both are staff of the Office 
of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On March 6, 2020, the NRC issued a proposed 
interpretation of paragraph 20.2001(a)(1) of title 10 of the Code of 
Federal Regulations in the Federal Register (85 FR 13076). The proposed 
interpretation would have expanded, in guidance, the meaning of 
``authorized recipient'' in Sec.  20.2001, allowing for the disposal of 
very low-level radioactive waste (VLLW) at approved non-licensed 
disposal sites in accordance with technical and regulatory requirements 
established by the NRC or Agreement States for granting such an 
    This change would have had the effect of providing a regulatory 
approach that, in addition to that specified by Sec.  20.2002, allowed 
the transfer and disposal of certain VLLW in hazardous and solid waste 
disposal facilities having explicit approval to dispose of VLLW. In 
cases where the waste disposal site had an approval (exemption) for 
disposing of VLLW, the use of Sec.  20.2001 by the licensee would not 
have required additional, specific approval to transfer VLLW to that 
disposal site under certain circumstances.
    The NRC sought comments on the proposed interpretive rule in order 
to engage stakeholders on the merits of the idea and collect feedback 
prior to making a decision on whether or not to move forward with the 
proposed interpretation. The comment period was extended in response to 
requests related to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and closed on 
October 21, 2020 (85 FR 45809).
    The NRC received approximately 200 individual comment submissions 
and approximately 15,000 form letter submissions. The vast majority of 
these comments opposed the proposed interpretive rule. The major 
comment themes included:
    The NRC should complete the 2018 VLLW Scoping Study, address the 
comments already submitted, and publicize the results instead of 
pursuing the proposed interpretive rule.
    The current regulations for the disposal of VLLW are sufficient and 
already allow for an alternate method of disposal on a case-by-case 
basis under the provisions of Sec.  20.2002.
    The NRC should pursue rulemaking to provide a definition of VLLW 
that can be used across the industry if a regulatory change is pursued. 
Changes to LLW regulations, including the definitions of authorized 
recipient and VLLW, should be pursued via the formal rulemaking process 
and not as an interpretation to an existing regulation. This approach 
would be more in keeping with the provisions of the Administrative 
Procedures Act.
    The NRC and/or Agreement State should provide opportunities for 
public involvement during the exemption review process that evaluates a 
disposal facility request to become an authorized recipient for the 
disposal of VLLW.
    The approval process should consider the need for an NRC or 
Agreement State environmental review related to the proposed VLLW 
disposal sites.
    The NRC should provide an explanation of the implementation of the 
proposed interpretation. Specific comments questioned how 
implementation would be managed across various Agreement State 
programs, the methods for verifying that VLLW disposals were conducted 
as intended, and requested clarification of oversight responsibilities 
in the event that provisions of an exemption for disposal were 
challenged or found not to have been met.
    Implementation of the proposed interpretive rule should consider 
potential impacts on existing state and LLW compact requirements, 
including additional burdens on state agencies that would be the 
primary regulatory body involved in the review, approval, and oversight 
of disposal sites wishing to obtain an exemption for VLLW disposal. 
Specific comments questioned how the proposed change could affect the 
LLW disposal agreements already in place amongst various states 
involved in the LLW compact system.
    In addition, the Organization of Agreement States Board and 10 
individual Agreement States provided comments that did not support the 
NRC's expanded definition of ``authorized recipient.'' Most Agreement 
State comments also cited the restrictions in individual states that 
would prevent them from implementing the expanded definition.
    The NRC staff assesses that the potential main benefit of the 
proposed interpretive rule--the potential for fewer regulatory 
approvals related to disposal at an authorized disposal site--would not 
outweigh the costs of implementing the proposed interpretive rule, 
especially given the lack of Agreement State support and a limited 
number of potential users. Therefore, the NRC has decided to withdraw 
its proposed interpretation of ``authorized recipient'' related to the 
requirements in Sec.  20.2001 based on the conclusion that the proposed 
changes would not benefit the current regulatory framework for the 
disposal of VLLW.
    The information obtained through the public comments on this effort 
will be considered in other ongoing low-level waste program 
initiatives, including the staff's Very Low-Level Waste Scoping Study. 
The scoping study is an ongoing action from SECY-16-0118, 
``Programmatic Assessment of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory 
Program'' (ADAMS Package Accession No. ML15208A305). The staff will 
continue to monitor the external environment and seek innovations in 
the low-level waste regulatory program.

    Dated: December 10, 2020.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Patricia K. Holahan,
Director, Division of Decommissioning, Uranium Recovery, and Waste 
Programs, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.
[FR Doc. 2020-27565 Filed 12-16-20; 8:45 am]