State and Local Government Organizations Seek Pause on Public Comments on Rulemaking Processes

March 20, 2020

President Donald J. Trump The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the nation’s states, cities, and counties, we write to request a formal pause, beginning on March 11, for all open public comment periods concerning both active rulemakings and nonrulemaking notices across every federal department or agency. State and local government policymakers’ thoughtful input into proposed federal agency actions is a vital component of our democratic system and provides federal agencies with much-needed perspectives and potential impacts of federal actions.

We recognize that our members are facing massive challenges in responding to, and as a result of, this global pandemic. At present, acknowledges nearly 700 open comment periods that will close in the next 30 days and more than 1000 over the next 90 days. stated vision of its eRulemaking Program is “to enable the public ease of access to participate in a high quality, efficient, and open rulemaking process.” The extreme impact on normal working and living conditions will impair the ability of not only state and local officials, but also the general public, issue experts and others to provide thoughtful and meaningful participation and involvement in potential federal government actions that directly affect millions of people.

Consistent and meaningful engagement and consultation between intergovernmental partners is vital in the development and implementation of effective policies, programs and regulations. Therefore, state and local governments urge you to extend agency comment periods for a reasonable period of time, which will allow our state and local policymakers to focus on addressing the nation’s immediate pandemic response needs and ensure their ability to devote proper consideration of agency regulations. Thank you for your consideration.

Most respectfully,

National Governors Association
National Conference of State Legislatures
The Council of State Governments
National Association of Counties
National League of Cities
The United States Conference of Mayors
Government Finance Officers Association
International City/County Management Association
National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers

NRC to Conduct Public Webinar on July 16 to Discuss Three Mile Island 1 Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning Topics

Contact: Diane Screnci, 610-337-5330 Neil Sheehan, 610-337-5331

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will present a webinar for interested members of the public on July 16 regarding the decommissioning of the Three Mile Island 1 nuclear power plant, located in Londonderry, Pa.

The purpose of the webinar is to provide key facts about the decommissioning process and how the NRC regulates such activities through on-site inspections and other reviews.

The webinar will begin at 1 p.m. Participants will be able to view slides prepared by NRC staff and ask questions in writing via a web page set up to host the session. Online registration is required to take part.

The NRC will also hold a public meeting in Hershey, Pa., on July 23 to discuss and accept public comments on Exelon’s Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report for Three Mile Island 1, which calls for placing the plant into long-term storage before dismantlement and decontamination work takes place. A copy of the report can be found on the NRC website.

Three Mile Island 1 is scheduled to permanently cease operations by Sept. 30, 2019.

The adjacent Three Mile Island 2 plant did not return to service following the March 1979 accident. It has a different owner and a PSDAR for that unit was submitted to the NRC in June 2013.

Limited Operations Authorized at US Ecology Waste Site Following Explosion

On February 7, 2019, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) authorized US Ecology to restart some operations at a waste facility following a November 2018 explosion that killed one worker and injured eight others.

The following day, US Ecology Idaho received a number of shipments.  According to the company, additional shipments are expected shortly.  In addition, some FUSRAP waste remains in rail cars awaiting disposal, while other waste is currently onsite that meets the disposal criteria, according to US Ecology officials.

US Ecology plans to resume drum processing, waste treatment and other waste management services in the future, although the dates therefore remain unspecified.


The incident originally occurred at US Ecology’s 328-acre hazardous waste disposal operation near the city of Grand View, Idaho on November 17, 2018.  The resultant blast blew holes in the roof of the facility that is used for processing waste barrels.  An equipment operator was killed and eight employees suffered non-life-threatening injuries.  The Idaho landfill, however, was not damaged in the incident.

US Ecology, Idaho DEQ, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) all continue to investigate the cause of the explosion.  According to a press release, US Ecology has made significant progress in understanding the event and is analyzing samples and other data collected in the wake of the explosion.


The Idaho DEQ authorization was issued in response to a request from US Ecology Idaho that was submitted on January 25 2019.  According to an Idaho DEQ press release, the state agency issued the authorization after “certification that the landfill cells are ready to receive waste and a subsequent letter certifying that necessary equipment is in place and can support the safe disposal of waste.”

Specifically, the authorization was issued after a professional engineer certified the state of the landfill cells and US Ecology demonstrated it had support equipment available.  The Idaho DEQ also performed several site visits and inspections, as well as reviewed the company’s temporary authorization request for operations.  The Idaho DEQ then determined that US Ecology could resume limited landfill disposal in a compliant and environmentally protective manner.

The Idaho DEQ approval will enable US Ecology Idaho to begin receiving off-site waste for direct disposal – i.e., the waste may go to the landfill without stopping for storage or treatment.  Idaho DEQ is allowing US Ecology to conduct acceptance and disposal of select bulk wastes, but has not yet authorized the company to resume waste treatment operations.  US Ecology was required to meet several safety requirements before issuance of the authorization.


Boise-based US Ecology operates facilities throughout the United States for disposal and treatment of radioactive and other waste types.  The US Ecology Idaho site is used for disposal and treatment of hazardous and nonhazardous wastes.

US Ecology sites may accept material designated as very low-activity radioactive waste by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and waste from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) cleanup sites.  US Ecology Idaho can also take in naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) and technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM).

For additional information, please contact Joe Weismann of US Ecology at (208) 319-1634 or at

Proto-Prompt Decommissioning Planned for Pilgrim and Palisades Sites

On August 1, 2018, an agreement was announced for Entergy Corporation to sell the subsidiaries that own the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts and the Palisades Power Plant in Covert, Michigan after their shutdowns and reactor defuelings to a Holtec International subsidiary for accelerated decommissioning.

The sales include the transfer of the licenses, spent fuel, and Nuclear Decommissioning Trusts (NDTs), as well as the site of the decommissioned Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant near Charlevoix, Michigan where only the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) remains.  The transactions are subject to conditions to closing, including approvals from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of the license transfers.


Assuming timely regulatory approvals, Holtec expects to initiate proto-prompt decommissioning of Pilgrim in 2020, with the expectation that all major decommissioning work will be completed in approximately eight years.  A timeline for the decommissioning of Palisades will be developed closer to its shutdown. For both Pilgrim and Palisades, Holtec expects to move all of the spent nuclear fuel out of their spent fuel pools and into dry cask storage within approximately three years after the plants’ respective shutdowns.

In previous announcements, Entergy has stated that it remains committed to the safe and reliable operation of Pilgrim and Palisades until their permanent shutdowns.  By selling these plants for decommissioning, Entergy continues to execute its strategy to exit Entergy Wholesale Commodities and move to a pure play utility.  Entergy is seeking regulatory approvals to sell its subsidiary that owns the shutdown Vermont Yankee site by the end of 2018.

Next Steps

Holtec and Entergy expect to file a license transfer request with the NRC in the fourth quarter of this year for Pilgrim, with transaction closing targeted by the end of 2019.  For Palisades, the license transfer request would take place closer to its planned shutdown in the spring of 2022, with transaction closing expected by the end of that year.

Holtec will utilize Comprehensive Decommissioning International, LLC (CDI), which is a newly-formed U.S.-based joint venture company between Holtec International and SNC-Lavalin to perform the decommissioning, including all required demolition and cleanup.

“Holtec will draw on its own and its partners’ safety commitment and decades of experience and expertise in decommissioning and site remediation to carry out decommissioning, which could benefit the local communities by returning these plant sites (excluding each site’s used fuel storage facility) to productive use at an early date,” states the press release.  “Holtec will transfer all of the used nuclear fuel to its cask systems to be stored at the respective sites which will remain under guard at the sites, monitored during shutdown and decommissioning and subject to the NRC’s oversight, until the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) removes it in accordance with its legal obligations.”


The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is the only nuclear power plant operating in Massachusetts.  It is located in the Manomet section of Plymouth on Cape Cod Bay, south of the tip of Rocky Point and north of Priscilla Beach.  Like many similar plants, it was constructed by Bechtel, and is powered by a General Electric BWR 3 boiling water reactor inside of a Mark 1 pressure suppression type containment and generator.  It has a 690 MW production capacity.  Pilgrim Station produces about 14% of the electricity generated in Massachusetts.  On October 13, 2015, plant owners announced that it would close by June 1, 2019.  Entergy cited “market conditions and increased costs,” which would have included tens of millions of dollars of necessary safety upgrades, as the basis for the decision to close the Pilgrim Station.

The Palisades Nuclear Generating Station is located on Lake Michigan in Van Buren County’s Covert Township, Michigan.  The plant is located on a 432-acre site that is five miles south of South Haven, Michigan. The Westinghouse Electric Company turbine generator can produce 725,000 kilowatts of electricity.  Built between 1967 and 1970, Palisades was approved to operate at full power in 1973.  The plant’s original licensee was due to expire on March 24, 2011.  An application for 20-year extension was filed in 2005 with the NRC.  It was granted on January 18, 2007. Therefore, the plant was then scheduled for decommissioning by 2031.  However, Entergy had made a decision to close the plant in October 2018.  Consumers Energy then attempted to buy its way out of a power purchase agreement it has with Entergy and the plant. The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) did not approve Consumer Energy’s full request of $172 million, however, so Entergy decided to keep the plant open three years longer than planned.  Entergy currently plans to close the Palisades plant in 2022.

For additional information about Holtec International, please see  For additional information about CDI, please see

For additional information about the Pilgrim and Plymouth projects, please contact Erika Grandrimo at (856) 797-0900, ext. 3920 or at

High Profile Letter Sent to DOE Secretary Rick Perry re National Security Attributes of U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

By letter dated June 26, 2018, a broad coalition of 75 former government officials, lawmakers and industry leaders — a quarter of whom are retired admirals or vice admirals — expressed concern to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE or Department) Secretary Rick Perry regarding the impact of the premature shutdown of nuclear power plants.

“We urge you to continue to take concrete steps to ensure the national security attributes of U.S. nuclear power plants are properly recognized by policymakers and are valued in U.S. electricity markets,” states the letter.


On June 1, 2018, President Donald Trump requested that DOE take measures to prevent further closures of nuclear power plants due to a national security interest in securing the national power grid’s resilience.  The recent letter appears to support that request, underscoring the key role of nuclear power toward the national security of the United States, particularly as an essential component of electric grid resilience and the largest source of emission-free generation.

Although the letter acknowledges that discussions concerning the general importance of nuclear energy are underway at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), grid operator and state regulator levels, the letter asserts that only DOE has the power to integrate nuclear power into the broader national security imperatives.  While recognizing that such integration will take time to consider, the letter requests that Secretary Perry take steps to ensure that no additional nuclear power plants are closed in the meantime.

In addition to admirals and vice admirals, signatories to the letter include former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz; former U.S. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Trent Lott (R-MS), Jim Talent (R-MO), and John Warner (R-VA); former New Jersey Governor and former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christine Todd Whitman; and, many former industry executives including former General Motors’ Chair and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Daniel Akerson, former AREVA CEO Thomas Christopher, retired Westinghouse Electric Co. and URENCO USA Chair Charles Pryor and former Battelle Memorial Institute President and CEO Jeffrey Wadsworth.  In addition, three former Chairs (Nils Diaz, Dale Klein and Richard Meserve) of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) signed the letter, as well as some former NRC Commissioners and several former Directors of national laboratories.

National Security Benefits

“The national security benefits of a strong domestic nuclear energy sector take many forms,” states the letter, “many of which overlap and together are woven into the nation’s greater strength and resilience.”  The letter continues by citing the following examples:

  • Our nation’s nuclear power plants are among the most robust elements of U.S. critical infrastructure, offering a level of protection against natural and adversarial threats that goes far beyond most other elements of our nation’s electrical grid. The Department of Defense depends on the nation’s grid to power 99 percent of its installations, meaning large scale disruptions affect the nation’s ability to defend itself.
  • Nuclear plants have up to two years’ worth of fuel on site, providing valuable fuel diversity and increasing the resilience of our electrical grid by eliminating the supply vulnerabilities that face some other forms of energy supply.
  • Several national security organizations, including our nuclear Navy and significant parts of the Department of Energy, benefit from a strong civil nuclear sector. Many of the companies that serve the civil nuclear sector also supply the nuclear Navy and major DOE programs.  For example, the Administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review noted that the United States is unable to produce enriched uranium for national security purposes.  Re-establishing this capability will be far easier and more economical with a strong, thriving civil nuclear sector.  Moreover, the nuclear industry is an important career destination for military veterans.
  • Nuclear energy is by far our nation’s largest source of emissions-free generation. Carbon dioxide emissions from other forms of electricity production contribute to changes in our climate, and a changing climate has been identified by the national security community as a national security risk.
  • Competitiveness internationally is inextricably linked to maintaining a strong domestic nuclear program. More than six decades ago, the United States developed what is today the commercial nuclear industry, which established and maintained a leadership role that transcends power generation.  However, we are in jeopardy of losing our edge and missing out on much of a global opportunity estimated at over half a trillion dollars.  Today, there are 56 reactors under construction in the world and this expansion is largely driven by China and Russia.
  • A strong civil nuclear export sector creates deep and long-lasting relationships between the U.S. and partner nations across important areas that advance America’s national security interests, including nonproliferation, nuclear safety, and physical and cyber security. If we do not continue to play a major role in the global market for nuclear reactors, technology and fuel, our influence over nonproliferation and nuclear safety standards will be greatly diminished.


By the end of 2021, twenty-four of the operating nuclear power plants in the United States are either set to close or will no longer be profitable according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) that was issued on May 15, 2018.  In addition, the report cautions that more plants are likely to close.  According to the BNEF study, the industry is increasingly challenged by sluggish power demand, inexpensive natural gas and the rise of renewable energy.  This is especially true in the Midwest, where the use of wind power and other renewable power options are being used increasingly.

In this regard, a February 2018 report from BNER and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy found that renewable power had reached 18 percent of the U.S. electricity generation capacity.  The expansion has been spurred, in part, by an increase in hyrdopower investments in the West.  Nuclear power recently contributed about 20 percent, but that figure is declining as operating facilities continue to shut down.

In addition, DOE is currently weighing a March 2018 request from the competitive power unit at FirstEnergy Corporation to declare that an emergency exists its PJM market.  The PJM Energy Market procures electricity to meet consumer’s demands both in real time and in the near term.  It includes the sale or purchase of energy in PJM’s Real-Time Energy Market (five minutes) and Day-Ahead Market (one day forward).  If Secretary Perry agrees to the request, it would mean the PJM would have to compensate both nuclear and coal generators in the at-risk market in order to protect the stability of the grid.

NRC Considering Wyoming’s Request to Become an Agreement State

On June 26, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency is considering a request from Wyoming Governor Matthew Mead to assume part of the NRC’s regulatory authority over certain radioactive materials in the state.

If the request is accepted, Wyoming will become the 38th state to sign such an agreement with the NRC.


Under the proposed agreement, the NRC would transfer to Wyoming the responsibility for licensing, rulemaking, inspection and enforcement activities related to the extraction and concentration of uranium and thorium milling and the management and disposal of milling waste, or mill tailings.

If the proposed Agreement were approved, the NRC would transfer 14 specific licenses for radioactive material to Wyoming’s jurisdiction.  By law, NRC would retain jurisdiction over commercial nuclear power plants (of which there are none in Wyoming), federal agencies using certain nuclear material in the state and uses of nuclear material currently regulated by the NRC other than uranium and thorium milling activities.

Before entering into the agreement, the NRC must determine that Wyoming’s radiation control program is adequate to protect public health and safety, and is compatible with the NRC’s regulations.


Thirty-seven other states have signed similar agreements with the NRC.  They include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Copies of the proposed agreement, the Governor’s request/supporting documents and the NRC draft staff assessment are available on the NRC website at For additional information, please contact David McIntyre at (301) 415-8200.

NRC To Review Its Administrative Regulations

On August 11, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced plans to initiate a retrospective review of its administrative regulations to identify those that are outdated or duplicative.  The review is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2017.

Overview  Any regulations that are identified during the review will be evaluated to determine if they can be eliminated without impacting the agency’s safety and security mission.  NRC anticipates that the review will result in improvements with regard to how applicants and licensees submit information, keep records, and report to the agency.

Process  NRC plans to develop a strategy to accomplish its retrospective review and will seek input from stakeholders through public meetings and a Federal Register notice.  In particular, the NRC plans to encourage its staff, its applicants, licensees and the public to provide input.

Background  Efficiency is one of five NRC principles of good regulation.  The retrospective review is an effort to improve the management and administration of regulatory activities and to ensure that the agency’s regulations remain current, appropriate, and effective.

For additional information, please contact the NRC’s Office of Public Affairs at (301) 415-8200.

Further Actions Approved re Yucca Mountain Licensing Process

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved further actions related to its review of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) application for authorization to construct a high-level radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

In particular, the next steps involve information-gathering activities related to the suspended adjudication on the application.  The activities are intended to enable efficient, informed decisions in support of executing any further appropriations of funds for the High-Level Waste Program.

Overview  The Commission has directed agency staff to hold a virtual meeting of the Licensing Support Network Advisory Review Panel to provide information to, and gather input from, advisory panel members and the public regarding reconstitution of the Licensing Support Network (LSN) or a suitable replacement system.  Agency staff will also gather preliminary information regarding potential hearing venues.

The Commission limited expenditures for the information-gathering activities to $110,000 from the Nuclear Waste Fund.  As of June 30, 2017, NRC had approximately $634,000 in remaining unobligated Nuclear Waste Fund appropriations.

Background  The LSN was an online database of nearly 4 million documents created to allow various parties and the public access to information needed for the hearing on DOE’s request for a construction authorization for the Yucca Mountain repository.  The NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Boards (ASLB) had admitted nearly 300 contentions from various parties challenging aspects of DOE’s application.

In September 2011, the Yucca Mountain hearing was suspended and the LSN was decommissioned after Congress reduced funding.  At the time, the Commission directed agency staff to preserve the documents from the LSN within ADAMS.

Subsequently, in August 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the NRC to resume its review of the application using the remaining previously appropriated funds.  In response, NRC staff completed the Safety Evaluation Report (SER) in January 2015 and a supplement to DOE’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in May 2016.

The Commission’s Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM), Commission voting records and the staff’s proposal (COMSECY-17-0019) are available on the NRC website at

For additional information, please contact David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

President Trump Announces Intent to Nominate NRC Commissioners

On May 22, 2017, U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate Annie Caputo and David Wright as Commissioners  for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), as well as to nominate current NRC Chair Kristine Svinicki as Commissioner and Chair for a new five-year term.

Annie Caputo   According to the White House news release dated May 22, 2017, President Trump intends to nominate Annie Caputo of Virginia to be an NRC Commissioner for the remainder of a five-year term expiring June 30, 2021.  Caputo currently serves as Senior Policy Advisor for Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  She also held this position for previous Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) from 2007 to 2012.  From 2005 to 2006 and from 2012 to 2015, Caputo worked for the House Committee on Energy & Commerce handling nuclear energy issues.  Prior to working for the Congress, Caputo worked as an Executive Assistant and Congressional Affairs Manager for Exelon Corporation.  Caputo has more than 20 years of experience advising the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, as well as the nuclear industry, on nuclear energy regulation, policy development, legislation, and communications.  Caputo graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering.  Caputo, her husband and two children reside in McLean, Virginia.

Kristine L. Svinicki  President Trump also plans to nominate Kristine L. Svinicki of Virginia to be an NRC Commissioner for a five-year term expiring June 30, 2022, as well to designate her as Chair.  Svinicki currently serves as an NRC Commissioner, having been originally confirmed in 2008, re-nominated to a second term in 2012 and designated as the Commission’s Chair by President Trump in January of 2017.  Prior to being confirmed as an NRC Commissioner, Svinicki served in various staff positions in the U.S. Senate, including as a Professional Staff Member for the Committee on Armed Services, with a concentration on defense science and technology policy and the atomic energy defense activities of the U.S. Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DoD).  Previously, Svinicki worked as a Nuclear Engineer in DOE’s Washington headquarters and the Department’s Idaho Operations Office.  Earlier in her career, she was an Energy Engineer with the State of Wisconsin, Public Service Commission in Madison, Wisconsin.  Svinicki graduated from the University of Michigan and currently resides in Falls Church, Virginia.

David Wright  The May 22 press release states that President Trump also plans to nominate David Wright of South Carolina to be an NRC Commissioner for the remainder of a five-year term expiring June 30, 2020. Wright is currently the President of Wright Directions, LLC—a strategic consulting and communications business in the energy sector.  Wright previously served as a Member and Chair of the South Carolina Public Service Commission (SCPSC) from 2004 – 2013.  He was elected to serve as President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) for 2011 – 2012.  Wright has owned and operated several different businesses, and served as a Councilman, Mayor and a Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives.  A colon cancer survivor, Wright is active as an advocate for colon cancer awareness and education and is frequently asked to share his message with groups around the country.  Wright received his Bachelor’s Degree from Clemson University.  He has four children and three grandchildren and currently resides in Columbia, South Carolina.

Background  Five Commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms head the NRC.  One of them is designated by the President to be the Chairman and official spokesperson of the Commission.  The Chair is the Principal Executive Officer of and the Official Spokesperson for the NRC.  As Principal Executive Officer, the Chair is responsible for conducting the administrative, organizational, long-range planning, budgetary and certain personnel functions of the agency.  The Chair has ultimate authority for all NRC functions pertaining to an emergency involving an NRC license.  The Chair’s actions are governed by the general policies of the Commission.  The Commission operates as a collegial body to formulate policies, develop regulations governing nuclear reactor and nuclear material safety, issue orders to licensees, and adjudicate legal matters.  In addition to Chair Kristine L. Svinicki, the NRC currently has two other Commissioners including Jeff Baran and Stephen G. Burns.

For additional information related to Commission business, please contact Annette L. Vietti-Cook, Secretary of the Commission, at (301) 415-1969 or at  For additional information related to Federal Intergovernmental Matters, please contact Darrell Adams, Congressional/External Affairs Officer, at (301) 415-1776 or at

Alert Declared at Hanford Site

At 8:26 a.m. on May 9, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Richland Operations Office activated the Hanford Emergency Operations Center after an alert was declared.  In particular, officials responded to reports of a cave-in of a 20-foot section of a tunnel that is hundreds of feet long that is used to store contaminated materials.  The tunnel is located next to the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility, also known as PUREX, which is located in the center of the Hanford Site in an area known as the 200 East Area.

Overview  During a routine surveillance of the area in the morning, a 20-foot-wide hole in the roof of one of the tunnels was observed, leading to the precautionary sheltering of employees and notifications to area counties and states.  After no contamination was detected, the shelter in place order was lifted and employees were sent home from work early as a precaution.  Workers continue to monitor the area for contamination as a crew prepares to fill the hole with clean soil.

Actions taken to protect site employees included the following:

  •   As a precaution, workers in the vicinity of the PUREX facility—as well as the Hanford Site north of the Wye Barricade (southern entrance to the site)—were told to shelter in-place.
  •   Access to the 200 East Area of the Hanford Site, which is located in the center of the Hanford Site, has been restricted to protect employees.

All personnel in the vicinity of the PUREX facility were accounted for and there were no reports of injuries.

Background  In the 1950s and 1960s, two tunnels were constructed next to the PUREX former chemical processing plant.  The tunnels were constructed of wood and concrete and covered with approximately 8 feet of soil.  The tunnels were constructed to hold rail cars that were loaded with contaminated equipment and moved into the tunnels during the Cold War.

The approximately 360-foot-long tunnel where the partial collapse occurred contains 8 rail cars loaded with contaminated equipment.  That tunnel feeds into a longer tunnel that extends hundreds more feet and contains 28 rail cars loaded with contaminated equipment.  The hole opened up in the shorter tunnel near where it joins the longer tunnel.  The tunnels were sealed in the mid-1990s and are checked periodically.

DOE hosted a briefing on its Hanford Site Facebook channel.  Interested stakeholders can view the briefing on the Hanford Site Facebook page at

2018 Hodes Award Nominations Sought

The Southeast Compact Commission for Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management is accepting nominations for the 2018 Richard S. Hodes, M.D. Honor Lecture Award—a program that recognizes an individual, company, or organization that contributed in a significant way to improving the technology, policy, or practices of low-level radioactive waste management in the United States.  The award recipient will present the innovation being recognized at a lecture during the Waste Management ’18 Symposium in Phoenix, Arizona.  The award recipient will receive a $5,000 honorarium and all travel expenses will be paid.
Criteria  The criteria for selection include:

  1. Innovation.  Is the improvement unique? Is it a fresh approach to a standard problem? Is it a visionary approach to an anticipated problem?
  2. Safety.  Does the practice enhance radiation protection?
  3. Economics.  Does the approach produce significant cost savings to government, industry or the public?
  4. Transferability.  Is this new practice applicable in other settings and can it be replicated?  Does it increase the body of technical knowledge across the industry?

Eligibility  To be eligible for the award, the individual/group must consent to being nominated and must be willing to prepare and present a lecture about the innovation being recognized at the Waste Management Symposium.  Individuals or organizations can nominate themselves or another individual, company, institution, or organization.

Nominations  To nominate yourself or another individual, company, or organization for this distinguished award, please contact:

Awards Committee
c/o Ted Buckner

Executive Director
Southeast Compact Commission
Post Office Box 5427
Cary, NC 27512
(919) 380-7780
(919) 380-7710 – FAX

or visit the Southeast Compact Commission’s website at

Nominations must be received by August 31, 2017.

Texas Compact Activity, Disposal Reporting and Pending Legislation

At the spring 2017 meeting of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum (LLW Forum) in Denver, Colorado on April 24-25, 2017, the Executive Director of the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (TLLRWDCC or Commission) provided the following information and overview related to Commission activities and operations.


The Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact (Texas Compact) includes the State of Vermont and is not an agency of the State of Texas.  The TLLRWDCC is a “legal entity separate and distinct from the party states…”  The Commission must comply with its federal compact law and is charged with protecting the capacity of the compact facility for Texas and Vermont generators.

Limitations to Jurisdiction and Purview

The Texas Compact does not own or operate the compact facility, which is owned by the State of Texas and operated by Waste Control Specialists (WCS).  The Texas Compact does not set surcharges or charge fees of any type, nor does it determine licensing requirements or license the facility.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) licenses the compact facility and approves waste streams.  The following matters are outside of the TLLRWDCC’s purview:  high-level waste, transuranic waste, Greater-than-Class C waste, spent fuel storage, NORM or TENORM, site operations at the compact waste facility (TCEQ), and waste shipments (TCEQ and DSHS).

Imports and Exports

The TLLRWDCC authorizes imports and exports in alignment with Texas policy and law and ensures protection of capacity.  For imports, the Commission has developed an approach based on:  a policy to ensure maximum disposal of allowed curies; the need for flexibility based on the regulatory and industry hurdles generators/brokers encounter; and, a need for a fair and unbiased allocation of curie availability.  The TLLRWDCC supports exports for good cause.  As such, it will be conducting an analysis of exported quantities.

Irradiated Hardware

Given that irradiated hardware can have a significant impact on the amount of curies disposed at the compact facility, the TLLRWDCC will continue to approve import applications as it always has with the exception of irradiated hardware.  Under the Commission’s policies, irradiated hardware must be submitted as a separate import application.  All requests over 15,000 curies, if approved, will be issued conditionally.  Once the generator submits documentation that substantiates volume, curies and shipment date, the Commission will release conditionally authorized curies, if available on a first come, first served basis.  This approach has been adopted as policy that can be found on the Commission’s website.

Forms and Automation

The TLLRWDCC rules require the use of an Import Application Form—a.k.a. “Annex A.”  The form is currently available as a pdf on the Commission’s website.  In addition, the Export Application Form and Generator Authorization Form are also available on the website.  The Commission is beginning work to automate import and export processing.  This will require the import and export forms to be fillable.

Annual Reporting and Disposal Numbers

Annual Reports are available at  The 2016 Annual Report is more robust and includes:  listing of import agreements, volume and curies; listing of export agreements; and, fees generated.  Disposal numbers in volume and curies for imported waste and in-compact waste are available at

Legislative Activities

Because the Texas Compact receives funding through the State of Texas appropriation process, the status of the Compact as an agency presents confusion.  The Texas Compact is with working with the legislature to provide clarification to State of Texas employees that the Texas Compact is a “legal entity separate and distinct from the party states …”  During the current legislative session, two items—SB 1667 by Senator Seliger and HB 3946 by Representative Landgraf—have been filed as companion bills.  SB 1667 and HB 3946 relate to the nature, funding, and functions of the TLLRWDCC.

Management Rule

TLLRWDCC Commissioner Linda Morris chairs a committee that is charged with drafting rules for management of low-level radioactive waste in the Texas Compact.  These rules will have applicability in Vermont.  The scope of the rule will likely include only reporting requirements.  The rulemaking will include an informal comment period before instituting the formal process.


In September 2016, the Texas Compact conducted its first workshop in Burlington, Vermont.  The workshop was geared toward Vermont generators.  The Texas Compact is considering doing a similar workshop for Texas generators, particularly small generators.  The compact will also consider workshops for larger generators, as may be needed.

For additional information, please contact Texas Compact Commission Executive Director Leigh Ing at (512) 305-8941 or at

NRC Issues Annual Assessments for Nation’s Nuclear Plants

On March 3, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has issued annual letters to the nation’s 99 commercial nuclear power plants operating in 2016 regarding their performance throughout the year.  All but three were in the two highest performance categories.


Of the 96 highest-performing reactors, 83 fully met all safety and security performance objectives and were inspected by the NRC using the normal “baseline” inspection program.

Thirteen reactors were assessed as needing to resolve one or two items of low safety significance.  For this performance level, regulatory oversight includes additional inspection and follow- up of corrective actions.  Plants in this level include:  Davis Besse (Ohio); Diablo Canyon 2 (California); Dresden 3 (Illinois); Ginna (New York); Grand Gulf (Mississippi); Hope Creek 1 (New Jersey); Monticello (Minnesota); Oyster Creek (New Jersey); Salem 2 (New Jersey); South Texas Project 1 and 2 (Texas); and, Vogtle 1 and 2 (Georgia).  Oyster Creek, as well as Vogtle 1 and 2, have resolved their identified issues since the reporting period ended and have transitioned to the highest performing level.

There were no reactors in the third performance category with a degraded level of performance.

Three reactors are in the fourth performance category.  Arkansas Nuclear One 1 and 2 require increased oversight because of two safety findings of substantial significance.  Pilgrim (Massachusetts) is in the fourth performance category because of long-standing issues of low-to-moderate safety significance.  Reactors in this category receive additional inspections to confirm the performance issues are being addressed.

Later this spring and summer, the NRC will host a public meeting or other event for each plant to discuss the details of the annual assessment results.  Details for each event will be announced separately.  In addition to the annual assessment letters, plants also receive an NRC inspection plan for the coming year.


“These assessment letters are the result of a holistic review of operating performance at each domestic power reactor facility,” said Bill Dean, Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.  “In addition to inspecting U.S. nuclear plants to verify that they are operating safely, the NRC continuously assesses their performance.  The letters help our stakeholders understand our plant performance assessments and how we address any identified performance deficiencies.”

Information on the NRC’s oversight of commercial nuclear power plants is available through the NRC’s webpage on the Reactor Oversight Process.  The NRC routinely updates information on each plant’s current performance and posts the latest information as it becomes available to the action matrix summary.

For additional information, please contact David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

LLW Forum Launches New Website with Enhanced Features

The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum (LLW Forum) is pleased to announce the launch of our new website with enhanced features including

  • an interactive calendar that allows stakeholders to keep track of relevant meetings and events, including a new feature that allows you to add them to your personal calendar;
  • news briefs providing the most recent and up-to-date information on significant industry topics such as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) Part 61 rulemaking initiative, tracking of and financial assurance for byproduct material radioactive sealed sources, and implementation of the Branch Technical Position on Concentration Averaging and Encapsulation (CA BTP);
  • a dedicated page to provide information about upcoming LLW Forum meetings, including a new option for online registration;
  • updated contact information for designated representatives of low-level radioactive waste compacts, host states, unaffiliated states, federal agencies, waste facility operators, brokers and processors, industry associations and other stakeholders; and,
  • up-to-date information regarding activities of the LLW Forum’s Disused Sources and Part 61 Working Groups (DSWG/P61WG).

As with the prior website, the new site has a restricted-access, member-only section that provides LLW Forum members and subscribers with exclusive access to dedicated pages providing links to

  • LLW Forum publications including the LLW Notes (our highly acclaimed bi-monthly publication), meeting presentations, annual contact list, working group reports, maps and charts, and other state and compact documents;
  • all ten operating low-level radioactive waste compacts, unaffiliated states and state organizations;
  • federal agencies and offices including the executive branch, legislative branch, judicial branch and political analysis; and,
  • other industry stakeholders including associations, international groups, radioactive waste businesses, newspapers, general interest, universities and citizens groups.

We invite everyone to review the new website, which can be found at

If you have questions or require additional information, please contact Todd D. Lovinger, Esq.—Executive Director of the LLW Forum and Project Director of the Disused Sources and Part 61 Working Groups (DSWG/P61WG)—at (754) 779-7551 or at

Federal and State Officials Attend WIPP Reopening Ceremony

On January 9, 2017, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz and DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM) Assistant Secretary Monica Regalbuto joined New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and others to mark the reopening and resumption of waste operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), which is located approximately 40 miles southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico.  U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, U.S. Reps. Steve Pearce and Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway also attended the celebration.

Waste emplacement activities were suspended at WIPP following a waste drum rupture in an underground storage panel and a separate underground fire in early 2014. “The tireless efforts by the workforce, the contractor and federal management and the community to make WIPP a safer place to fulfill its critical mission is a remarkable feat,” said Energy Secretary Moniz.


On December 23, 2016, DOE and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) authorized WIPP to reopen following almost three years of recovery operations due the early 2014 underground fire and subsequent unrelated fire.  Twelve days later, on January 4, 2017, the Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) began moving waste underground from the Waste Handling Building.

The Waste Handling Building, which contains approximately 40,000 square meters of storage space, was originally intended to store waste before underground disposal at the WIPP facility.  However, it began being used for indefinite storage following the suspension of disposal operations in early 2014.  NMED, which serves as the WIPP facility’s primary state regulator, has set a deadline to clear out the Waste Handling Building by June 30, 2017—although DOE is considering a more ambitious timeframe according to various news outlets.  Transuranic waste stored at the Waste Handling Building must be disposed below ground before WIPP can resume accepting new shipments of nuclear waste from across the DOE nuclear complex.

According to DOE, the WIPP facility is expected to accept approximately five shipments per week once shipments are resumed to the mine.  Prior to the 2014 accidents, the WIPP facility was accepting more than 15 shipments per week.  According to the Department’s 2016 Annual Transuranic Waste Inventory Report, there was approximately 45,000 cubic meters of contact-handled transuranic waste destined for the WIPP facility across 14 sites in the DOE’s nuclear complex.  In addition, there was approximately 2,500 cubic meters of remote-handled transuranic waste at 11 sites. These figures, according to the report, do not include transuranic waste that DOE expects to generate from ongoing and future Department cleanup operations.

In July 2016, DOE approved strict new waste acceptance criteria for the WIPP facility.  DOE sites will not be able to ship waste to the facility unless it meets the new criteria, which has created some challenges in cases where waste was packaged under the old criteria, but will now need to be certified to meet the new criteria.  DOE has not yet announced which sites will ship waste to WIPP first.


Transuranic waste began accumulating in the 1940s with the beginning of the nation’s nuclear defense program.  As early as the 1950’s, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommended deep disposal of long-lived transuranic radioactive wastes in geologically stable formations, such as deep salt beds.  Sound environmental practices and strict regulations require such wastes to be isolated to protect human health and the environment.

Bedded salt is free of fresh flowing water, easily mined, impermeable and geologically stable—an ideal medium for permanently isolating long-lived radioactive wastes from the environment.  However, its most important quality in this application is the way salt rock seals all fractures and naturally closes all openings.

Throughout the 1960’s, government scientists searched for an appropriate site for radioactive waste disposal, eventually testing a remote desert area of southeastern New Mexico where, 250 million years earlier, evaporation cycles of the ancient Permian Sea had created a 2,000-foot-thick salt bed.

In 1979, Congress authorized the WIPP facility, which was constructed during the 1980’s.  Congress limited WIPP to the disposal of defense-generated transuranic wastes.  In 1998, EPA certified WIPP for safe, long-term disposal of TRU wastes.

In February 2014, DOE suspended operations at WIPP following an accidental radiation release and unrelated underground fire.  DOE spent nearly three years on recovery operations at an estimated cost of approximately $1.5 billion, including NWP’s management and operations contract.  DOE is still working to return the underground ventilation back up to pre-accident levels, which is expected to push the total bill for the recovery closer to $2 billion.

Additional information is available on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website at

San Onofre Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Contract Awarded

In late-December 2016, following a ten-month competitive bid process, Southern California Edison announced that it has selected a joint venture of AECOM and EnergySolutions as the Decommissioning General Contractor for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).  This is one of the country’s largest commercial nuclear plant decommissioning projects.  The joint venture will be known as SONGS Decommissioning Solutions.


The major SONGS dismantlement work will not begin before 2018 when, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act, state regulators are expected to complete their environmental review.  The project is expected to create about 600 jobs during the 10-year dismantlement phase, including workers from local companies.

AECOM, a fully integrated global infrastructure firm, was named one of Fortune magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Companies” in 2016.  AECOM designs, builds, finances and operates assets in more than 150 countries.  EnergySolutions, which specializes in nuclear plant decommissioning and waste management, is currently in the demolition phase of decommissioning both the Zion and Dairyland nuclear power stations.

The $4.4 billion nuclear plant decommissioning is financed through existing trust funds, including SCE’s share of the project as majority owner.  The total cost includes the dismantlement work awarded to SONGS Decommissioning Solutions and continued on-site storage of San Onofre’s used nuclear fuel until the federal government provides a required repository and restoration activities.

SCE shares responsibility for decommissioning with San Onofre co-owners San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside, as well as former co-owner the city of Anaheim.


When operational, San Onofre Units 2 and 3 generated 2,200 megawatts of electricity.  In June 2013, SCE announced that it would retire San Onofre Units 2 and 3 and that it had begun the preparations to decommission the facility.  SCE has established core principles of safety, stewardship and engagement to guide decommissioning.

An Edison International company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of nearly 15 million via 5 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.

For additional information, please visit or contact Liese Mosher, Principal Manager, Decommissioning Communications, at Southern California Edison, at (949) 368-9750 or at; Kathy Davis, Executive Director, Southwestern Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission at (916) 448-2390 or at; or, Stephen Woods, Chief, Division of Food, Drug and Safety, California Department of Public Health, at (916) 440-7883 or at

Kristen Schwab Begins Role as Northwest Compact’s New Executive Director

On December 16, 2016, Kristen Schwab started her new role as the Executive Director of the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management.  Schwab succeeds Mike Garner, who retired at the end of June 2016.  She will serve as the designated Director for the Northwest Compact to the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum, Inc. (LLW Forum).

Staff work on the Northwest Compact is being transitioned from the Washington Department of Ecology to the Washington Department of Health.  State officials will be proposing the required legislation in January 2017.

The Northwest Compact was created in 1981 and consists of the member states of Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.  The U.S. Congress ratified the Northwest Compact in 1985.  The eighth state, Wyoming, joined the Compact in March of 1992.

For additional information, please contact Kristen Schwab at (360) 236-3232 or at or go to

Central Interstate Compact Relocates Offices to Oklahoma

Effective February 1, 2017, the offices of the Central Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission were relocated from Lincoln, Nebraska to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  In addition, Kristie Valtierra is now serving as the new Administrator of the Commission, following the retirement of Rita Houskie.

The Central Interstate Commission’s new address and contact information are as follows:

Central Interstate LLRW Commission
707 North Robinson Avenue
P.O. Box 1042
Oklahoma City, OK 73101
(405) 702-5220 – phone
(405) 702-5101 – facsimile – email

The Commission’s webpage address remains the same at

The Central Interstate Compact is comprised of the member states of Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

For additional information, please contact Central Interstate Commission Chair Jon Roberts at (405) 702-7111 or at

NRC Seeks to Fill Open Reactor Safeguards Advisory Committee Position

On November 28, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency is seeking a qualified candidate for appointment to its Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS).

The ACRS is an advisory group that provides independent technical review of, and advice on, matters related to the safety of existing and proposed nuclear facilities, as well as on the adequacy of proposed reactor safety standards.  It also advises the Commission on issues in health physics and radiation protection.


The ACRS’s primary focus is on safety issues associated with the operation of 99 U.S. commercial nuclear power plants and regulatory initiatives including risk-informed and performance-based regulations, license renewal, power uprates, new reactor applications and the use of mixed oxide and high burn up fuels.  In addition, the ACRS may be asked to provide advice on radiation protection, radioactive waste management and earth sciences in the agency’s licensing reviews for fuel fabrication, enrichment and waste disposal facilities.


The Commission is seeking an individual with extensive experience in nuclear power plant probabilistic risk assessment and risk management.  The best-qualified candidates will have at least 20 years of specific experience in those areas, as well as considerable broad experience and a distinguished record of achievement in one or more areas of nuclear science and technology or a related engineering discipline.


Interested individuals should find candidate criteria and details in the corresponding Federal Register notice published on November 28, 2016.  The notice is available on the NRC website.  Resumes will be accepted until December 30, 2016.  Resumes may be submitted via

  •   mail to Jamila Perry and Alesha Ballinger, ACRS, Mail Stop T2E-26, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001; or,
  •   e-mail to and

For additional information on the ACRS go the NRC website at or contact Maureen Conley of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.

Department of Justice Files Civil Antitrust Lawsuit to Block Proposed EnergySolutions’ Acquisition of Waste Control Specialists

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it has filed a civil antitrust lawsuit seeking to block the proposed $367 million acquisition of Waste Control Specialists LLC by EnergySolutions.  The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on November 16, 2016.

According to DOJ’s press release, the proposed transaction “would combine the two most significant competitors for the disposal of low level radioactive waste … available to commercial customers in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.”

DOJ argues that the proposed transaction “would deny commercial generators of … [low-level radioactive waste] – from universities and hospitals working on life-saving treatments to nuclear facilities producing 20 percent of the electricity in the United States – the benefits of vigorous competition that has led to significantly lower prices, better service and innovation in recent years.”

“Since opening its … [low-level radioactive waste] disposal facility in 2012, Waste Control Specialists has provided EnergySolutions the only real competition it has ever faced,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division.  “This competition has allowed customers to extract better prices and to receive better and more innovative service in the … [low-level radioactive waste] disposal industry.  If consummated, EnergySolutions’ proposed acquisition of Waste Control Specialists would make EnergySolutions the only option for customers in nearly 40 states.  And this at a time when projects worth billions of dollars are set to be awarded in the coming years.”

DOJ’s press release asserts that Waste Control Specialists provides the “only true competition” for EnergySolutions.  “That competition has led to increased innovation and lower prices for customers,” contends DOJ.  “EnergySolutions’ acquisition of Waste Control Specialists would eliminate that competition, with no likelihood of new entry to fill the void.”

Low-level radioactive waste is the radioactive byproduct of nuclear power generation, scientific research and certain medical treatments.  Low-level radioactive waste includes such items as personal protective clothing, tools, water purification filters and resins, hardware from nuclear power plants, and equipment from medical and research institutions.  Low-level radioactive waste may only be disposed of in a facility licensed by, or pursuant to an exemption provided by, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) or a state acting under an agreement with the NRC.  Low-level radioactive waste disposal is an essential service for operating nuclear reactors, research laboratories and medical facilities.  Additionally, low-level radioactive waste disposal is a requirement for the safe decommissioning of such facilities when they reach the end of their useful lives.

EnergySolutions offers customers a full range of integrated services and solutions, including nuclear operations, characterization, decommissioning, decontamination, site closure, transportation, nuclear materials management, processing, recycling, and disposition of nuclear waste, and research and engineering services across the nuclear fuel cycle.

Waste Control Specialists operates a West Texas facility for the processing, treatment, storage and disposal of a broad range of low-level radioactive and hazardous wastes.

For additional information about EnergySolutions, please contact Dan Shrum at (801) 649-2000 or at or go to the company’s web site at  For additional information about WCS, please contact Rodney Baltzer at (972) 450-4235 or at or visit the company’s web site at  For additional information about the proposed acquisition, please contact Mark Walker at or at (801) 231-9194.

Pennsylvania DEP Finds Record Level of Radon in Home

By press release dated November 17, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that it has detected a new record-high level of radon and is once again encouraging state residents to test their homes for this radioactive gas, a leading cause of lung cancer.

In particular, in October 2016, a home in southern Lehigh County showed a radon level of 6,176 picocuries per liter (pCi/L)—the highest recorded in the state.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set an action level for radon concentration in homes at 4 pCi/L.  Homes testing above this level should have a radon reduction system installed.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally through the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks.  It can enter a home through cracks in the foundation or other openings.

The National Toxicology Program—comprising the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—classifies radon as a known human carcinogen.  Scientists estimate that about 20,000 lung cancer deaths yearly are related to radon.  It’s the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and second leading cause in smokers.

Because of its geology, Pennsylvania is prone to high radon levels.  Radon has been detected in all 67 counties.  Approximately 40 percent of homes in the state have levels above EPA’s action level.  In 2014, a number of homes in the southern Lehigh County area were found to have radon levels over 1,000 pCi/L.  That area is near the Reading Prong, a geological section of granite rock that historically has generated high levels of radon.

Testing is the only way to know if a home, school, workplace or other structure has elevated levels of radon.  An easy home test kit can be purchased at hardware or home improvement stores for about $20 to $30.  People may also hire a state-certified testing company.

If a level above 4 pCi/L is found, a radon mitigation, or reduction, system should be installed.  This is essentially a pipe with a fan to suction the gas from the ground and discharge it above the roofline, where the radon is dispersed.  DEP recommends that homebuilders install radon reduction systems during construction.  DEP certifies all radon testers, mitigators and laboratories doing business in the state, to ensure reliable results.

For additional news, including information on interpreting radon test results and finding a Pennsylvania-certified radon contractor, visit the DEP Radon Division website at or call (800) 237-2366.

TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 2 Achieves Commercial Operation

First New U.S. Nuclear Reactor in 20 Years

On October 19, 2016, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) Watts Bar Unit 2 officially entered commercial operation after successfully completing an extensive series of power ascension tests and reliably operating at full power for more than three weeks, becoming the nation’s first new nuclear generation in 20 years.

“TVA’s mission is to make life better in the Valley by providing reliable, low-cost energy, protecting our area’s natural resources and working to attract business and growth—all priorities simultaneously supported by the completion of Watts Bar Unit 2,” said Bill Johnson, TVA President and CEO.  “Watts Bar Unit 2 is a key part of our commitment to produce cleaner energy without sacrificing the reliability and low cost that draws both industry and residents to our area.”

According to TVA, the $4.7 billion capital construction project was completed on budget.  The unit now moves to working asset status.

In announcing the milestone, TVA notes that the Watts Bar Unit 2 has already provided consumers across the Valley with more than 500 million kilowatt/hours of carbon-free energy during testing.  It now joins six other operating TVA nuclear units to supply more than one third of the region’s generating capacity and meeting the electric needs of more than 4.5 million homes.

Watts Bar, Sequoyah and Browns Ferry nuclear stations have also contributed to reducing TVA’s carbon emissions by 30 percent since 2005.  According to TVA, the reduction will rise to 60 percent by 2020.

“Nuclear power remains the only source of carbon-free energy that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Joe Grimes, TVA Executive Vice President of Generation and Chief Nuclear Officer.  “TVA believes that Watts Bar Unit 2, and other nuclear units like it across the Valley and the nation, represents a vital investment in our clean energy future.”

New Mailing Address for the Southeast Compact Commission

On July 31, 2016, the Southeast Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission closed its physical office in Cary, North Carolina.  Starting on August 1, 2016, the compact commission’s two employees will be working out of their homes.

The Southeast Compact Commission’s telephone number and email addresses remain the same.  However, its new mailing address is as follows:

P.O. Box 5427

Cary, NC  27512

For additional information, please contact the Southeast Compact Commission at (919) 380-7780 or at or go to the compact commission’s website at