GTCC Draft Regulatory Basis Decoupled from Part 61 Rulemaking

On October 23, 2018, a Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) was issued that directs U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff to “decouple to the extent practicable the issuance of the draft Regulatory Basis directed in SRM-SECY-15-0094, ‘Historical and Current Issues Related to Disposal of Greater-than-Class C Low-Level Radioactive Waste,’ from Commission action on Part 61.”

The SRM states, “This decoupling would allow for earlier public engagement on staff’s analysis of any potential regulatory barriers to the disposal of Greater-than-Class C waste.”  The SRM was issued following a staff briefing for the Commission on topics associated with the decommissioning and low-level radioactive waste, as well as spent fuel storage and transportation business lines.

Overview

In SRM–SECY–15–0094, which was issued on December 22, 2015, the Commission directed the NRC staff to develop a regulatory basis for disposal of Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) and transuranic waste through means other than a deep geologic disposal (including near surface disposal) within six months of the completion of the final rule for Part 61 of title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations, “Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal.”  (See LLW Notes, January/February 2017, p. 26.)  The Commission also directed the staff to conduct a public workshop during the development of the regulatory basis to receive input from stakeholders.  On September 8, 2017, in SRM–SECY–16–0106, “Final Rule: Low- Level Radioactive Waste Disposal,” the Commission revised its earlier directions regarding the development of the GTCC and transuranic waste regulatory basis.  (See LLW Notes, September/October 2017, pp. 1, 21-23.)  Specifically, the Commission directed the staff to develop the regulatory basis six months after the publication of the supplemental proposed rule for the 10 CFR Part 61 rulemaking.

The NRC staff is in the initial phase
of implementing the Commission’s directions in SRM–SECY–15–0094 and SRM–SECY–16–0106.  Accordingly, on February 14, 2018, NRC issued a Federal Register notice announcing that the agency is seeking stakeholder participation and involvement in identifying the various technical issues that should be considered in the development of a regulatory basis for the disposal of GTCC and transuranic radioactive waste through means other than a deep geologic disposal, including near surface disposal.  (See 83 Federal Register 6,475 dated February 14, 2018.)

According to the NRC, “[t]he process of potentially amending the NRC’s regulations is very thoughtful and deliberative because it can have significant impacts on members of the public, [s]tates, licensees and other stakeholders.”  The regulatory basis describes the various scientific, technical and legal issues associated with a potential rulemaking.  Therefore, as a part of the initial steps in implementing the Commission’s directions, the staff held a public meeting with stakeholders on February 22, 2018 to identify the various technical issues that should be considered in the development of a regulatory basis for the disposal of GTCC and transuranic waste.  The staff also requested that stakeholders respond to specific listed questions contained in the Federal Register notice that was issued on February 14, 2018.  Stakeholder comments were accepted through April 16, 2018.  (See LLW Notes, January/February 2018, pp. 29-33.)

When this initial phase is completed, staff plans to develop a regulatory basis, which will be provided for public review.  Staff plans to hold public meetings on the draft regulatory basis as well.  Once all of the foregoing is completed, the staff will develop a final regulatory basis.

Background

The NRC’s “Licensing Requirements for Land Disposal of Radioactive Waste” are provided in 10 CFR Part 61.  Section 10 CFR 61.2, “Definitions,” provides that waste as used in Part 61 means those low-level radioactive wastes containing source, special nuclear or byproduct material that are acceptable for disposal in a land disposal facility.  The definition also indicates that low- level radioactive waste means radioactive waste not classified as high-level radioactive waste, transuranic waste, spent nuclear fuel or byproduct material as defined in paragraphs (2), (3), and (4) of the definition of byproduct material in § 20.1003.

The Statements of Consideration (SOC) for the 10 CFR Part 61 proposed rule explained that not all waste may be suitable for disposal in the near surface.  Specifically, Section IV, “Purpose and Scope,” of the SOC indicates that, while 10 CFR Part 61 was intended to deal with the disposal of most low-level radioactive waste defined by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act, the 10 CFR Part 61 waste classification system identified some low-level radioactive wastes that are not suitable for disposal under its regulatory framework, and alternative methods would have to be used.

In § 61.55, “Waste classification,” the NRC developed a classification system for waste for near surface disposal, which categorizes waste as Class A, B or C.  This provision also describes waste that is not generally acceptable for near-surface disposal, whose disposal methods must be more stringent than those specified for Class C waste.  This waste is referred to as GTCC waste.

Nuclear power reactors, facilities supporting the nuclear fuel cycle and other facilities and licensees outside of the nuclear fuel cycle generate the GTCC waste.  This class of wastes include:

  • plutonium- contaminated nuclear fuel cycle wastes;
  • activated metals;
  • sealed sources; and,
  • radioisotope product manufacturing wastes – i.e., wastes “occasionally generated as part of manufacture of sealed sources, radiopharmaceutical products and other materials used for industrial, education, and medical applications.”

Transuranic waste is not included in the § 61.2 definition of low-level radioactive waste.  In a 1988 amendment to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, a definition for transuranic was added.  Transuranic waste is defined as “material contaminated with elements that have an atomic number greater than 92, including neptunium, plutonium, americium, and curium, and that are in concentrations greater than 10 nanocuries per gram [(nCi/g)], or in such other concentrations as the [U.S.] Nuclear Regulatory Commission may prescribe to protect the public health and safety.”  Transuranic waste is a byproduct of nuclear research and power production and is primarily produced from spent fuel recycling, medical isotope production or nuclear weapons fabrication.  The waste may consist of rags, tools and laboratory equipment contaminated with organic and inorganic residues.

The identification and evaluation of regulatory concerns associated with land disposal of GTCC and transuranic waste will largely depend on the characteristics of the wastes – i.e., isotopes; concentrations and volumes of waste; and, physical and chemical properties.  The variable characteristics of the waste can influence the decision regarding the appropriate regulatory approach to use for management and disposal of these wastes.  Overly conservative assumptions for the inventory and characteristics could significantly limit disposal options, whereas, overly optimistic assumptions with respect to characteristics could lead to a disposal facility that may not provide adequate protection of public health and safety and security.

For additional information, please contact Cardelia Maupin of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) at (301) 415–4127 or at Cardelia.Maupin@nrc.gov.

The 2018 Radiation Source Protection and Security Task Force Report

In October 2018, The 2018 Radiation Source Protection and Security Task Force Report (2018 Task Force Report) was submitted to the President and the U.S. Congress by the Chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as required under Public Law 109-58, The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Energy Policy Act).

Overview

Like the reports that precede it, the 2018 Task Force Report includes a discussion of accomplishments of the Interagency Task Force on Radiation Source Protection and Security (Task Force) and its member agencies over the past four years, as well as the status of actions underway by the Task Force to provide further assurance of the security of sources in all stages of their life cycle.

In preparation for this report, the Task Force evaluated the specific topics identified in the Energy Policy Act, including the list of radioactive sources that warrant enhanced protection; mechanisms for the safe storage and ultimate disposal of radioactive sources; transportation security; source tracking; import and export; and, ways to facilitate the use of alternative technologies to replace radioactive sources, as appropriate.  Based on its evaluation, the Task Force concluded that there are no significant gaps in the area of radioactive source protection and security that are not already being addressed through continued attention by appropriate Task Force agencies. Nonetheless, the Task Force remains engaged in activities to address ongoing challenges involving end-of-life management of risk-significant sources.

During this report cycle, the Task Force completed four recommendations from previous reports, which leaves only seven ongoing recommendations from the 2006, 2010, and 2014 reports.  In addition, the Task Force stated that it has completed several important accomplishments over the course of the past 4 years.  These include:

  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) completed the “Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Disposal of Greater-Than-Class-C Low-Level Radioactive Waste and GTCC-Like Waste” (Final EIS) and submitted the Report to Congress identifying and describing the alternatives under consideration for the disposal of Greater-than-Class-C (GTCC) low-level radioactive waste, as required by Section 631 of the Energy Policy Act.  Although the Final EIS and Report to Congress do not constitute a final decision on disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste, their completion represents a major accomplishment in progress toward establishing a disposal pathway for certain risk-significant radioactive sources.
  • The NRC issued certificates of compliance to DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for two new transportation packages — the Model 435-B container in 2014 and the Model 380-B container in 2017.  Together, the new containers will help to enable shipment of nearly all commercially used devices containing high-activity cobalt-60 and cesium-137 radioactive sealed sources.
  • The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Interagency Working Group on Alternatives to High-Activity Radioactive Sources completed its best practices guide for federal agencies.  The guide provides measures that federal agencies can consider to facilitate the transition to alternative technologies in their long-term strategic planning in a way that meets technical, operational and cost requirements.
  • The United States continued to elevate the international radioactive source safety and security framework.  For example, the U.S. continues to support International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) efforts to encourage member states to make a political commitment to act in accordance with the IAEA “Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources” that was issued in March 2005 and updated in May 2012.  In addition, the U.S. was instrumental in finalizing supplementary guidance to the IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, “Guidance on the Management of Disused Radioactive Sources,” which was issued in April 2018.

The Task Force continues to focus on actions to advance end-of-life management for risk- significant radioactive sources through efforts to establish expanded disposal capability and to identify opportunities to leverage best practices for the management of sources once they become disused.  The Task Force also continues to focus on efforts to advance the research, development and use of alternative technologies to replace radioactive sources, as appropriate, as well as to coordinate strategies to enhance the protection of radioactive sources from potential cyber security threats.  These actions will provide an enhanced level of protection and security for risk-significant sources, beyond the regulations currently in place.

Conclusion

During this report cycle, the 2018 Task Force completed four of the 11 recommendations and actions that remained in process at the start of this reporting period and concluded that there are no significant gaps in radioactive source protection and security that are not already being addressed.  However, the Task Force continues to focus on end-of-life management of risk-significant sources.  The Task Force will continue to advance its efforts to complete the remaining seven recommendations and actions and will coordinate routinely to identify and mitigate any gaps in source protection and security that may emerge in the future.

Consistent with the Energy Policy Act, the Task Force has continued its efforts to evaluate the security of radioactive sources and make related recommendations to the President and Congress.  The 2018 Task Force Report states that the Task Force has made substantial progress since the events of September 11, 2001 to enhance the protection of radioactive sources from terrorist threats and concludes that the United States is well positioned to continue to protect public health and safety and promote the common defense and security through the existing missions and activities of Task Force member agencies.

Background

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established the Task Force to evaluate and provide recommendations to the President and Congress relating to the security of radioactive sources in the United States from potential terrorist threats.  These threats include acts of sabotage, theft or use of a radioactive source in a radiological dispersal device or radiation exposure device.  The Task Force presented its initial report to the President and Congress in 2006 and has continued to provide reports every four years consistent with the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Fourteen federal agencies and one industry organization participate on the Task Force.  Members of the Task Force as mandated by the Energy Policy Act include the NRC Chair, Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Transportation, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Other invited departments, offices and organizations include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Organization of Agreement States (OAS) — the latter of which is a non-voting member.

The 2018 Task Force report is divided into three chapters that detail advances in the security and control of radioactive sources; the status of the recovery and disposition of radioactive sealed sources; and, progress in the area of alternative technologies. The 2018 Task Force Report states that, collectively, these chapters substantiate the Task Force’s conclusion that substantial progress has been made since the events of September 11, 2001 to enhance the protection of radioactive sources from terrorist threats, as well as that there are no significant gaps in the area of radioactive source protection and security that are not already being addressed through continued attention by the appropriate Task Force agencies.

In September 2011, at the request of the NNSA/GTRI, the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum (LLW Forum) Forum formed the Disused Sources Working Group (DSWG).  The working group, which was comprised of eight Directors of the LLW Forum, solicited input from a broad range of stakeholders at 19 meetings over a 30-month period.  In March 2014, the DSWG released its report identifying findings and recommendations related to the management and disposition of disused sealed sources that pose a threat to national security.

A PDF copy of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum’s Disused Sources Working Group report may be downloaded and printed from the organization’s web site at www.llwforum.org or the National Directory of Brokers and Processors web site at www.bpdirectory.com.

Background information on the Radiation Source Protection and Security Task Force report, as well as links to the 2006 and 2010 reports, can be found on the NRC’s web site at http://www.nrc.gov/security/byproduct/task-force.html.

Northwest Compact Commission Hosts Meeting

On June 8, 2017, the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management will host a meeting beginning at 9:00 a.m. PDT in Helena, Montana.  The meeting will be held at the Radisson Colonial Hotel, which is located at 2301 Colonial Drive in Helena, Montana.

The following topics, among others, are on the meeting agenda:

  • Welcome and Introductory Remarks (Earl Fordham, Chair)
    • Introductions
  • Compact Business (Kristen Schwab, Executive Director)
    • Approve Minutes of June 21, 2016 Committee Meeting
  • Party States Reports (Committee Members)
  • US Ecology – Activities Overview (Mike Ault, General Manager, US Ecology Inc.)
  • Disposal Volume Summary for 2016 and for 2017 through May
  • 2017 Revenue Requirement
  • MTCA Investigation
  • Other Issues
  • Utah – Activities Overview (Rusty Lundberg, Deputy Director, Utah Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control)
  • Legislation
    • EnergySolutions’ Activities Including Status of EnergySolutions’ Depleted Uranium Performance Assessment
  • Other Issues
  • Break
  • US Ecology MTCA Investigation (Ron Skinnarland, Washington State Department of Ecology)
    • Overview and Update
  • National and Regional Issues (Kristen Scwhab, Executive Director)
    • Import/Export License Applications
    • Texas Compact/Waste Control Specialists
    • Compact Updates
    • Other Issues
  • EnergySolutions – Activities Overview (Dan Shrum, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, EnergySolutions)
    • 2016 Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Volumes
    • Other Issues
  • Lunch
  • Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum’s Disused Sources Working Group (Gary Robertson, DSWG Technical Consultant)
    • Disused Sources Background
    • Disused Sources Current Status
    • Disused Sources Program Update
  • Transfer of Northwest Compact Activities (Earl Fordham, Chair)
    • Status Update
  • Update on Legal Issues (Kristen Mitchell, Compact Counsel, Washington State Attorney General’s Office)
    • Status Update
  • Break
  • Committee Business
  • Public Comment
  • Meeting Adjourned

For additional information, please contact Kristen Schwab, Executive Director of the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management, at (360) 236-3232 or at Kristen.schwab@doh.wa.gov.

Southwestern Commission Hosts Workshops re Use of Rad Materials

On May 10 and 12, 2017, the Southwestern Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission hosted two separate workshops in Northern and Southern California on the use and disposition of radioactive materials, including radioactive sealed sources and devices.

 

The following is the agenda for the workshops:

  •   Welcome and Introductions (9:00 – 9:20 a.m.)
  •   Southwestern Compact Vice Chair Donna Earley of Cedars Sinai (9:30 a.m. – 9:55 a.m.)
    • Earley will discuss medical uses of radioactive materials, including new therapeutic uses as well as experience with the disposal of Cs-137 irradiators and Co-60 gamma knife.
    • Earley has extensive knowledge and experience overseeing the Radiation Safety Programs and personnel of Cedars Sinai and the coordinating with local law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles for the safety and security of the Cedars Sinai Facility.
  •   Jeff Cromwell, Radioactive Waste Manager and Radioactive Shipment Manager, University of Berkeley
    • Cromwell will discuss waste management at the University of Berkeley along with some waste management challenges from some recent facility decommissioning projects.
    • What challenges have you had at your facility that you can share on decommissioning, shipments or closing out research projects-what are you doing with the waste?
  •   Morning Break (10:30 – 10:50 a.m.)
  •   Mike Albanese, Radiation Safety Officer for Qal-Tek (10:55 – 11:20 a.m.)
    • Albanese will discuss Qal-Tek’s U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Service License and its new Reutilization Program in a joint effort with the Southwestern Compact.
    • Outline of maximum time limits and requirements.
    • A petition will be required for disposal to Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS) in Andrews, Texas.
    • How will this affect me?
    • Can I qualify for this program?
  •   Lunch Break (11:25 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.)
  •   Sherry Frenette, Technical Services Project Manager, WCS (12:20 – 12:45 p.m.)
    • Frenette will discuss WCS’s capabilities for treatment, storage and disposal of waste and answer any questions you may have concerning those capabilities, or the process for getting waste to WCS.
    • Frenette will also provide an update on the status of the application for spent fuel storage at the WS facility.
    • Frenette works in the Technical Services Department at WCS.  She helps commercial customers navigate the process for sending waste to all of the facilities at WCS.
  •   Leigh Ing, Executive Director, Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact (12:50 – 1:15 p.m.)
    • Ing will share the need for Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact (Texas Compact) import agreements and WCS contracts—they are different!
    • Ing will discuss information on requirements, brokers, small generator’s limits, and the processing time frames for the Texas Compact.
    • What are the annual limits set by the Texas legislators for non-compact waste?
    • Does Texas want our waste?
    • Will this change?
    • Is there enough space for the future?
    • How long can you afford to store?
  •   Afternoon Break (1:20 – 1:55 p.m.)
  •   Vern Rogers, EnergySolutions of Utah (1:40 – 2:05 p.m.)
    • Video of Zion Decommissioning, SONGS schedule for decommissioning, new services to be offered—Class A sealed sources, depleted uranium (DU) options, mixed waste and various processing programs offered.
    • What can we expect for the future of EnergySolutions?
  •   [Northern California] John Fassell, Chief for Inspection, Compliance & Enforcement, California Radiological Health Branch and [Southern California] Robert Greger, Senior Health Physicist, California Radiological Health Branch (2:10 – 2:35 p.m.)
    • When the inspector is at your door.
    • A presentation on state audits, reporting requirements, renewing a state license—does location matter, and safety requirements at your site.   Come with your questions!  This is an important resource for you.
  •   Adjourn (3:15 p.m.)

For additional information, please contact Kathy Davis, Executive Director of the Southwestern Compact Commission, at (916) 448-2390 or at swllrwcc@swllrwcc.org.

Disused Sources Working Group Holds Winter Meeting

On February 6-7, 2017, the Disused Sources Working Group (DSWG) of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum (LLW Forum) held a meeting in San Diego, California with organizational representatives of the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors (CRCPD), the Organization of Agreement States (OAS) and the Health Physics Society (HPS).

Agenda Items

The following items, among other things, were on the winter 2017 DSWG meeting agenda:

  • review and response to the recent Federal Register notice in which the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency is seeking input from licensees, Agreement States and the public to inform the staff’s assessment of potential revisions to regulations or processes requiring Category 3 source protection and accountability;
  • development and distribution of working group documents including educational materials for current and prospective licensees, source disposal costs and import/export authorities and requirements for the ten operating low-level radioactive waste compacts; and,
  • source calculation and methodology re number of sealed sources in the United States;
  • development of regional workshops for stakeholders interested in management and disposition of sealed sources and radioactive devices;
  • outreach by designated organizational liaisons and feedback received on the outstanding recommendations from the March 2014 DSWG report; and,
  • charting the next steps and a path forward.

For additional information and ongoing updates, interested stakeholders are encouraged to go to the DSWG web site at www.disusedsources.org.

Background

The LLW Forum is a non-profit organization of representatives appointed by Governors and compact commissions that seeks to facilitate state and compact implementation of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980 and its 1985 amendments, as well as to promote the objectives of regional low-level radioactive waste disposal compacts.

In September 2011, the LLW Forum formed the Disused Sources Working Group (DSWG) to develop recommendations from the states and compacts for improving the management and disposition of disused sources.

For additional information about the DSWG, please contact Project Director Todd D. Lovinger, Esq at (754) 779-7551 or at LLWForumInc@aol.com.

NRC Staff Seeks Commission Approval to Initiate Rulemaking to Require Financial Assurance for Category 1 and 2 Sealed Sources

In SECY-16-0115 dated October 7, 2016, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff seeks Commission approval to initiate a rulemaking to require financial assurance for the disposition of Category 1 and 2 byproduct material radioactive sealed sources.  The rulemaking would revise § 30.35 of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR), “Financial Assurance and Recordkeeping for Decommissioning.”

NRC staff ranks the proposed rulemaking in SECY-16-0115 as a high priority using the Common Prioritization of Rulemaking (CPR) methodology and offers the following estimated schedule:

  •   initiate regulatory basis phase – October 2017;
  •   complete regulatory basis – October 2018;
  •   publish proposed rule – October 2019; and,
  •   publish final rule – October 2020.

The NRC’s regulations in 10 CFR 30.35 require a fixed dollar amount of financial assurance or a Decommissioning Funding Plan (DFP) for licensees possessing byproduct material with a half-life greater than 120 days and at activity levels above certain thresholds.  However, the thresholds for sealed byproduct material are such that many licensees possessing Category 1 and 2 byproduct material radioactive sealed sources are not required to provide financial assurance for decommissioning.  Where financial assurance is required, it is to support decommissioning of the site, not necessarily to disposition an individual radioactive sealed source that has become disused or unwanted.

The NRC staff conducted a scoping study to determine whether additional financial planning requirements for end-of-life management for some radioactive byproduct material (particularly radioactive sealed sources) were needed.  Based on the scoping study, which is documented in SECY-16-0046, “Radioactive Byproduct Material Financial Scoping Study,” the NRC staff recommends that the financial assurance requirements in 10 CFR 30.35 be expanded to include all Category 1 and 2 byproduct material radioactive sealed sources tracked in the National Source Tracking System (NSTS).

NRC staff identified three main reasons for proceeding with the rulemaking.  Specifically, requiring financial assurance for disposition of Category 1 and 2 byproduct material radioactive sealed sources would:

  •   ensure that licensees possessing these risk-significant radioactive sealed sources are financially prepared for the costs of end-of-life dispositioning;
  •   complement the existing regulatory framework to ensure safe and secure management of Category 1 and 2 byproduct material radioactive sealed sources by facilitating timely disposition when these radioactive sealed sources become disused or unwanted; and,
  •   help ensure that dispositioning costs are borne by those who receive the associated economic benefits from the use of these sources.

In SECY-16-0115, NRC staff state that the proposed rulemaking would result in increased regulatory costs and that its implementation would require additional NRC and Agreement State resources.  Accordingly, NRC staff asserts that engagement with Agreement States and other stakeholders early in the rulemaking process would be prudent to ensure that the benefits of the rule and resource impacts are well understood and that the new requirements can be implemented effectively and efficiently.

For additional information, please contact Ryan Whited, NMSS/DUWP, at (301) 415-1154, or Robert MacDougall, NMSS/MSTR, at (301) 415-5175.

Senators Express Concern in Response to GAO Audit on Source Security

By letter dated August 22, 2016, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein expressed concern to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chair Stephen Burns regarding the findings in a July 2016 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report titled, “Nuclear Security:  NRC Has Enhanced the Controls of Dangerous Radioactive Materials, but Vulnerabilities Remain.”  NRC Chair Burns responded by letter dated October 7, 2016.  In his letter, Chair Burns provides assurances that NRC takes its obligations related to the licensing of radioactive materials seriously and outlines actions that the agency has taken in response to the GAO audit report.

Senator Charles Schumer expressed similar concerns to NRC Chair Burns in a letter dated October 2, 2016.  Senator Schumer also issued a press release titled, “Explosion that Shook NYC Highlights Real Risk of a ‘Dirty Bomb’ in NYC; Shocking Fed Report Shows How Almost Anyone Can Use Loophole to Purchase Radioactive Material Required to Carry Out Attack in Major City; Senator Urges Nuke Agency to Overhaul Check System Putting NY’ers at Risk.”

The GAO report, which was issued on July 15, 2016, concludes that NRC and Agreement States have taken several steps to help ensure that radioactive materials licenses are granted only to legitimate organizations and that licensees can only obtain such materials in quantities allowed by their licenses.  However, GAO also determined that NRC and Agreement States have not taken some measures for better controlling Category 3 quantities of radioactive material—such as tracking and agency license verification—that leave vulnerabilities.

GAO-16-330 recommends that NRC take the following three actions: (1) take the steps needed to include Category 3 sources in the NSTS and add Agreement State Category 3 licenses to the WBL as quickly as reasonably possible;
(2) at least until such time that Category 3 licenses can be verified using the LVS, require that transferors of Category 3 quantities of radioactive materials confirm the validity of a would-be purchaser’s radioactive materials license with the appropriate regulatory authority before transferring any Category 3 quantities of licensed materials; and, (3) as part of the ongoing efforts of NRC working groups meeting to develop enhancements to the pre-licensing requirements for Category 3 licenses, consider requiring that an on-site security review be conducted for all unknown applicants of Category 3 licenses to verify that each applicant is prepared to implement the required security measures before taking possession of licensed radioactive materials.

In a memo dated July 29, 2016, in response to the GAO audit report, NRC Commissioner Jeff Baran proposed that NRC staff revisit the question of whether and how to track Category 3 sources.  On October 18, 2016, NRC issued a Staff Requirements Memorandum (SRM) that directs agency staff to submit a notation vote paper to the Commission that includes the following seven items: (1) an evaluation of the pros and cons of different methods of requiring transferors of Category 3 sources to verify the validity of a transferee’s license prior to transfer; 
(2) an evaluation of the pros and cons of including Category 3 sources in the NSTS; 
(3) an assessment, based on these evaluations, of these and any additional options that the staff identifies for addressing the source accountability recommendations made by the GAO; (4) a vulnerability assessment which identifies changes in the threat environment between 2009 and today that argue in favor of or against expansion of the NSTS to include Category 3 sources; (5) a regulatory impact analysis of the accrued benefit and costs of the change, to include impacts to the NRC, Agreement States, non-Agreement States, and regulated entities; (6) a discussion of potential regulatory actions that would not require changes to NRC regulations that arose from or were considered by the staff working groups—including changes to guidance, training, and other program improvements such as more closely monitoring the implementation of the staff recommendations using the Integrated Materials Performance Evaluation Program (IMPEP) process; and, (7) any other factors arising from the staff’s currently ongoing assessment that the staff concludes would bear on the Commission’s deliberation on the proposed change.

Links to GAO-16-330, Commissioner Baran’s memo and the SRM in response thereto can be found on the Resources Page of the DSWG web site at www.disusedsources.org.

Nuclear Gauge Reported Stolen in West Virginia

A West Virginia company has notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that a portable moisture-density gauge containing sealed sources of radioactive material has been stolen.  Thrasher Engineering of Bridgeport, West Virginia reported that the device was stolen early on September 10, 2016 from a technician’s truck while it was parked in Beaver, West Virginia.

Surveillance video acquired by local police shows an individual parking a white pickup truck next to the truck holding the gauge and then transferring the device to his or her vehicle.  The gauge was apparently locked by two different means, as required by NRC regulations.

The gauge holds small amounts of cesium-137 and americium-241.  It is used to make measurements by projecting the radiation from the two radioactive sources into the ground and then displaying the reflected radiation on a dial on its top.

Stored in a robust, yellow transportation case when not in use, the gauge consists of a shielding container with a plunger-type handle protruding from the top.  As long as the radioactive sources are in the shielded position, the gauge would present no hazard to the public.  However, any attempt to tamper with the radioactive sources in the device could subject the person to radiation exposure.

Anyone seeing the gauge should leave it alone and report its location to the NRC’s Operations Center at (301) 816-5100 or the Raleigh County, West Virginia Sheriff’s Office at (304) 255-9300.  The NRC Operations Center is staffed 24 hours a day and accepts collect calls.

For additional information, please contact Diane Screnci at (610) 337-5330 or Neil Sheehan at (610) 337-5331.

Missing Portable Nuclear Gauge Recovered in Connecticut

On July 27, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has been notified by a Connecticut company that a portable moisture-density gauge containing sealed sources of radioactive material that was reported stolen a day earlier has been recovered.  The gauge—which was located by police on the afternoon of July 26, 2016 at a pawnshop in Bridgeport, Connecticut—was not damaged.

On July 26, 2016, HAKS Material Testing Group—which is located in Bridgeport, Connecticut—reported that the device was stolen from a technician’s vehicle while it was parked in Bridgeport.  According to the NRC press release, the vehicle’s trunk was broken into, chains securing the gauge in place were cut and the gauge was removed.

The device contains small amounts of Cesium-137 and Americium-241.  The gauge is used to make measurements by projecting the radiation from the two radioactive sources into the ground and then displaying the reflected radiation on a dial on its top.

Upon notification of the theft, an NRC inspector was sent to the company’s offices to gather more information on the loss of the gauge.  In addition, law-enforcement authorities opened an investigation into the theft.

On July 27, 2016, an inspector from Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) traveled to the shop to inspect the recovered gauge.  Once the inspector confirmed the device was undamaged, it was returned to its owner.

According to NRC’s press release announcing recovery of the gauge, the NRC is following up on the event.  This includes an NRC inspection being conducted at the offices of HAKS Material Testing Group in Bridgeport.

For additional information, please contact Diane Screnci at (610) 337-5330 or Neil Sheehan at (610) 337-5331.