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.

NRC to Conduct Very Low-Level Radioactive Waste Scoping Study

On February 14, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the agency’s plans to conduct a very low-level radioactive waste (VLLW) scoping study to identify possible options to improve and strengthen the NRC’s regulatory framework for the disposal of the anticipated large volumes of VLLW associated with the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and material sites, as well as waste that might be generated by alternative waste streams that may be created by operating reprocessing facilities or a radiological event.  (See 83 Federal Register 6,619 dated February 14, 2018.)

As part of the process, the NRC is seeking stakeholder input and perspectives.  Respondents are asked to consider specific questions posed by the NRC staff and other federal agencies in the Federal Register notice.  Comments are due by May 15, 2018.  Comments considered after this date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the NRC is only able to ensure consideration of comments received on or before the deadline.

Specific Request for Comment

The NRC is interested in receiving comments from a broad range of stakeholders including professional organizations, licensees, Agreement States and members of the public.  Likewise, interested stakeholders with insight into relevant international initiatives are invited to provide their perspectives regarding international best practices related to VLLW disposal or other experiences that the NRC staff should consider.  All comments will be considered and the results of the scoping study will be documented in a publicly available report, which will inform the Commission of the staff’s recommendation for addressing VLLW disposal.

All comments that are to receive consideration in the VLLW Scoping Study must be submitted electronically or in writing.  Respondents are asked to consider the background material (see below) when preparing their comments.  In responding, commenters are encouraged to provide specific suggestions and the basis for suggestions offered.  Specifically, the NRC staff requests comment on the following questions:

  1. The United States does not have a formal regulatory definition of VLLW. What should the NRC consider in developing its own regulatory definition for VLLW?  Is there another definition of VLLW that should be considered?  Provide a basis for your response.
  1. The existing regulatory framework within 10 CFR 61.55 divides low-level radioactive waste into four categories: Class A, Class B, Class C, and GTCC. Should the NRC revise the waste classification system to establish a new category for VLLW?  What criteria should NRC consider in establishing the boundary between Class A and VLLW categories?
  1. The NRC’s alternative disposal request guidance entitled, ‘‘Review, Approval, and Documentation of Low- Activity Waste Disposals in Accordance with 10 CFR 20.2002 and 10 CFR 40.13(a),’’ which is undergoing a revision, allows for alternative disposal methods that are different from those already defined in the regulations and is most often used for burial of waste in hazardous or solid waste landfills permitted under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Should the NRC expand the existing guidance to include VLLW disposal or consider the development of a new guidance for VLLW disposal?  Why or why not?
  1. If the NRC were to create a new waste category for VLLW in 10 CFR Part 61, what potential compatibility issues related to the approval of VLLW disposal by NRC Agreement States need to be considered and addressed? How might defining VLLW affect NRC Agreement State regulatory programs in terms of additional responsibilities or resources?
  1. Following the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985, states formed regional compacts for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste. If the NRC were to create a new waste category for VLLW, does it fall within regional compact authority to control VLLW management and disposal?  How might defining VLLW affect regional compacts in terms of additional responsibilities or resources?
  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-imposed waste analysis requirements for facilities that generate, treat, store and dispose of hazardous wastes are defined in 40 CFR Parts 264 through 270. How would NRC incorporate and apply waste analysis requirements for VLLW at RCRA Subtitle C and D facilities?  Should the NRC impose concentration limits and/or treatment standards for VLLW disposal?
  1. Are there any unintended consequences associated with developing a VLLW waste category?
  1. What analytical methods/tools should be used to assess the risk of disposing of VLLW at licensed low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities or RCRA Subtitle C and D facilities — i.e., generic or site- specific?
  1. How should economic factors be considered in the VLLW scoping study?

Submitting Comments

Interested stakeholders may submit comments by any of the following methods:

  •   Mail comments to:  May Ma, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN–2– A13, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555– 0001.

Background

In 2007, following developments in the national program for low-level radioactive waste disposal, as well as changes in the regulatory environment, the NRC conducted a strategic assessment of its regulatory program for low-level radioactive waste.  The results of this assessment were published in late 2007 in SECY–07–0180, “Strategic Assessment of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program.”  The strategic assessment identified the need to coordinate with other agencies on consistency in regulating low activity waste (LAW) disposal and to develop guidance that summarizes disposition options for low-end materials and waste.

In 2016, the NRC staff conducted a programmatic assessment of the low-level radioactive waste program to identify and prioritize tasks that the NRC could undertake to ensure a stable, reliable and adaptable regulatory framework for effective low-level radioactive waste management.  The results of this assessment were published in October 2016 in SECY–16–0118, “Programmatic Assessment of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program.”  The programmatic assessment identified the need to perform a LAW scoping study as a medium priority.

In International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safety Guide No. GSG– 1, “Classification of Radioactive Waste,” the IAEA defines VLLW as waste that does not meet the criteria of exempt waste, but does not need a high level of containment and isolation and is therefore suitable for disposal in a near surface landfill type facility with limited regulatory control.  The NRC currently does not have a formal regulatory definition for VLLW, nor has it adopted the IAEA definition.  However, the NRC uses the term VLLW consistent with the international regulatory structure.  In general, the NRC considers VLLW as material containing some residual radioactivity, including naturally occurring radionuclides that may be safely disposed of in hazardous or municipal solid waste landfills.

The LAW scoping study, which was later renamed the VLLW scoping study, will combine several tasks initially defined in the 2007 strategic assessment into one. These tasks include:

  • coordinating with other agencies on consistency in regulating LAW;
  • developing guidance that summarizes disposition options for low-end materials and waste; and,
  • promulgating a rule for disposal of LAW.

As part of the scoping study, the NRC will also evaluate regulatory options that would define the conditions under which LAW, including mixed waste, could be disposed of in Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C hazardous waste facilities.

Consistent with SECY–16–0118, the NRC is conducting this VLLW Scoping Study, which will consider disposal of waste as defined by 10 CFR Part 61 as the isolation, by emplacement in a land disposal facility, of radioactive wastes from the biosphere that is inhabited by man and that contains his food chains.  As such, the scoping study will not address non-disposal related disposition pathways including unrestricted release, clearance, reuse or recycle of materials.

The purpose of the VLLW scoping study is to identify possible options to improve and strengthen the NRC’s regulatory framework for the disposal of the anticipated large volumes of VLLW associated with the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and waste that might be generated by alternative waste streams that may be created by fuel reprocessing or a radiological event.  Additionally, the NRC plans to evaluate regulatory options that could define the conditions under which VLLW, including mixed waste, could be disposed of in RCRA hazardous waste facilities.

For additional information, please contact Maurice Heath of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) at (301) 415–3137 or at Maurice.Heath@nrc.gov.

Waste Management Accepting Abstracts & Fellow Award Nominations

Abstracts are now being accepted for the Waste Management 2018 Conference, which will be held at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona on March 18-22, 2018.  This year’s conference theme is Nuclear and Industrial Robotics, Remote Systems and Other Emerging Technologies.

Background  The annual Waste Management Conference, presented by WM Symposia (WMS), is an international symposium concerning the safe and secure management of radioactive wastes arising from nuclear operations, facility decommissioning and environmental remediation, as well as storage, transportation and disposal and associated activates.  WMS was founded to provide a forum for discussing and seeking cost-effective and environmentally responsible solutions for the safe management and disposition of radioactive waste and radioactive materials.  WM2018 marks the 44th year of the conference and is expected to attract over 2,000 nuclear specialists from over 35 countries, presenting more than 500 papers in over 130 technical sessions.

Supporting Organizations  Supporting organizations include the American Nuclear Society (ANS), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development/Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA).  The conference is also organized in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

Abstract Submissions  WMS welcomes abstracts in nine topic areas related to nuclear waste management.  The submission site became available in mid-June 2017. To submit an abstract, interested parties will need to visit the WMS website at www.wmsym.org and login using a registered username and password.  The deadline for submission is Friday, August 11, 2017.  Please note, there is a limit of abstract submissions to two (2) per presenter, but no limit on the number of abstracts that may be co-authored.

Fellow Award Nominations  WMS is also accepting nominations for the conference Fellow Award.  Nominations must be submitted no later than August 11, 2017.  Nomination forms should be submitted to awards@wmarizona.org.  All questions related to the WMS Fellowship should be directed to Fred Sheil, Chair of the WM Board of Directors Honors & Awards Committee.  Sheil can be reached by phone at +44-19-46-813342 or by email at Fred@Sheil.myzen.co.uk.

The Call for Abstracts and the detailed Topic Listing are available online at www.wmsym.org.  For additional information on the Waste Management Conference, please call (480) 557-0263 or email to shelley@wmarizona.org.

Seventh U.S. National Report Issued for Convention on Nuclear Safety

On October 27, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has published its Seventh National Report for the Convention on Nuclear Safety.  The report describes the U.S. government’s actions under the convention to achieve and maintain a high level of safety for its nuclear power plants.

The Convention on Nuclear Safety entered into force in 1996 and was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1999.  It establishes legally binding obligations for signatory states regarding national regulation and safety at commercial nuclear power facilities.

The Seventh National Report for the Convention on Nuclear Safety addresses issues identified through the peer review conducted during the sixth review meeting in 2014, as well as challenges and issues that have arisen since that time.  The sixth review meeting identified the following six U.S. challenges:

  • Fukushima-related activities;
  • transition to risk-informed fire protection regulations;
  • ensuring continuity during the oversight transition from plant construction to operation;
  • nuclear industry strategy;
  • report on status of periodic safety reviews pilot program; and,
  • status of NRC’s work on subsequent license renewal for plant operation beyond 60 years.

Countries that are parties to the convention meet every three years to discuss their reports.  The NRC has submitted the Seventh National Report for the Convention on Nuclear Safety for peer review by other countries.

NRC officials will discuss the report and respond to peer review questions at the seventh review meeting of the Convention on Nuclear Safety at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, in March 2017.

The Seventh National Report for the Convention on Nuclear Safety demonstrates how the United States implements a high level of nuclear safety by enhancing national measures and international cooperation, and by meeting the obligations of all the articles established by the convention.

Some of the additional challenges discussed in the new report include:

  • digital instrumentation and control systems;
  • open-phase conditions in electric power systems;
  • spent fuel pool neutron-absorbing materials; and,
  • plant transition from operation to decommissioning status.

The report includes a section developed by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) describing the U.S. industry’s work to ensure safety.  INPO officials will also be part of the U.S. delegation to the convention review meeting.

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

World Institute of Nuclear Security Issues Special Report re Alternative Technologies to Replace Radioactive Sources

In May 2016, the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) issued a special report titled, “Considerations for the Adoption of Alternative Technologies to Replace Radioactive Sources.”

The WINS report describes the advantages and disadvantages of several alternative technologies used in medicine, industry, research and academia to help interested stakeholders consider whether it would be appropriate to replace some or all of the radioactive source technologies that are currently being used with an alternative—particularly if the replacement is more effective, less burdensome, and less costly.  In addition, the report presents a process that will help stakeholders decide whether to adopt an alternate technology, suggests several issues to consider when assessing the viability of such changes, discusses some of the challenges others have faced when making this decision, and provides references to support stakeholder considerations.  Finally, Appendix A of the report provides a set of questions that will help stakeholders determine whether or not the use of alternative technologies would be viable in their individual circumstances.

In preparing the special report, the WINS considered the experience of medical, industrial and academic practitioners and regulators.  The WINS also considered guidance material published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), selected national regulators and two WINS workshops focused on the international community’s experience with alternative technologies.

For additional information and a link to a copy of the WINS report, please go to the resources page of the DSWG web site at http://www.disusedsources.org/resources/.

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