In early May 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced the that they had finalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) describing roles in the cleanup of radium and other unlicensed radioactive materials at military sites. The MOU, which culminates several years of discussions between the parties, can be found on the NRC’s web site at www.nrc.gov.
Until the 1960’s, Luminescent radium paint was widely used in vehicle instrumentation and other military applications. Given that exposure to radium can increase the risk of adverse health effects, the military has a program to control or remediate legacy radium contamination and store and decontaminate equipment containing radium. The military is also cleaning up other unlicensed radiological material.
Pursuant to legislation that was passed in 2005, Congress gave the NRC jurisdiction over radium and radium contamination. In the addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees cleanup work at some military sites under Superfund, which is more formally known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). As documented in the MOU, the NRC also has an independent federal oversight role at the other sites where the military is cleaning up radioactive materials.
The MOU provides two ways in which the NRC will be involved in military cleanup projects.
The first way is to stay informed of remediation activities. At sites where the EPA has oversight under Superfund, NRC staff would limit its involvement to staying informed about remedial actions, oversight activities and issues. This approach could involve document reviews, site visits and meetings with the Army, Air Force, Navy, Defense Logistics Agency, EPA and state agencies.
The second way is to monitor remediation activities. At sites without EPA oversight, the NRC will monitor the cleanup of unlicensed radiological material, which could include document review and comment, site observations, and confirmatory radiological surveys. This monitoring will provide independent federal oversight to confirm the remediation adequately protects public health and safety and the environment.
For additional information, please contact Maureen Conley of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.