NRC to Host Public Meeting re VLLW Scoping Study and Disposal of GTCC and Transuranic Waste

On February 22, 2018, the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS) of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will host a public meeting to discuss the Very Low-Level Radioactive Waste (VLLW) Scoping Study and concerns associated with the disposal of Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) waste.

The public meeting will be held in the auditorium at the agency’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.  It is scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on February 22, 2018.

Interested stakeholders may participate via webinar or teleconference using the following information:


Interested stakeholders may participate in the public meeting via webinar using the following link:


Interested stakeholders may participate in the public meeting via teleconference using the following information:

  • Teleconference Number: (800) 857-9840
  • Teleconference Password: 4975456

This meeting will be transcribed and will have a facilitated bridgeline.

For additional information on the NRC public meeting, please contact Cardelia Maupin at (301) 415-2312 or Maurice Heath at (301) 415-3137.

NRC Seeks Public Comment re Development of Regulatory Basis for Alternative Means of Disposal of GTCC and Transuranic Waste

On February 14, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (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 Greater-than-Class C (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.)

As part of the process, the NRC is requesting that interested stakeholders respond to specific questions contained in the Federal Register notice.  Comments are due by April 16, 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 seeking stakeholder participation and involvement in identifying the various technical issues that should be considered in the development of a draft regulatory basis for the disposal of GTCC and transuranic radioactive waste through means other than a deep geologic disposal, including near surface disposal.  To assist in this process, the NRC staff is requesting that interested stakeholders respond to the questions below.  In addition, the NRC staff has conducted some initial technical analyses to assist its understanding of potential hazards with near surface disposal of GTCC and transuranic wastes, which are contained in draft “NRC Staff Analyses Identifying Potential Issues Associated with the Disposal of Greater-Than-Class C Low- Level Radioactive Waste.”  The draft analyses should assist in providing responses to the following questions:

  1. What are the important radionuclides that need to be considered for the disposal of the GTCC and transuranic wastes?

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has described three broad categories of GTCC wastes, including a range of transuranic radionuclides, in its “Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Disposal of Greater-than-Class C (GTCC) Low-Level Radioactive Waste and GTCC-Like Waste.”  (See LLW Notes, November/December 2017, pp. 1, 23-28.)  The three categories are entitled activated metals, sealed sources and other wastes.  The attributes (i.e., radionuclide concentrations, heat generation, and waste form) vary significantly between the three categories.  Certain waste streams represent a very specific waste form (i.e., stainless steel for most activated metals; very concentrated amounts in sealed sources) that may require specific treatment to mitigate potential safety, security and criticality concerns.  Some waste streams may contain sufficient quantities of specific radionuclides that will present a significant thermal output and/or gas generation through radiolysis.  Still other waste streams may contain a significant quantity of fissile radionuclides (i.e., some isotopes of uranium and plutonium).  The NRC is interested in identifying those radionuclides that could be important for evaluating the safety and security of storage associated with the operational period at a disposal facility and the post-closure period (including inadvertent intruder protection).  Additionally, the NRC is interested in obtaining available data and information to support the characteristics of GTCC and transuranic wastes.

  1. How might GTCC and transuranic wastes affect the safety and security of a disposal facility during operations (i.e., pre-closure period)?

The presence of sufficient quantities of high activity radionuclides and/or fissile radionuclides in GTCC and transuranic wastes may impact the design and operational activities associated with a disposal facility prior to disposal.  The NRC is interested in identifying those design and operational activities at a disposal facility that may be impacted by GTCC and transuranic wastes.  For example, the requirements in 10 CFR Part 73 would require licensees to develop safeguards systems to protect against acts of radiological sabotage and to prevent the theft or diversion of Special Nuclear Material (i.e., transuranic waste such as plutonium, uranium-233 or uranium enriched in the isotopes uranium-233 or uranium-235) if a sufficient amount of Special Nuclear Material were present above ground at the disposal facility. 

  1. How might GTCC and transuranic wastes affect disposal facility design for post-closure safety including protection of an inadvertent intruder?

The NRC is considering disposal units (i.e., a single trench, borehole, and vault) that would contain a single category of waste (i.e., sealed sources) as well as disposal units that contain a mixture of all three waste types.  However, the NRC believes the best approach for understanding the issues would be to assume that waste within a disposal unit would be separated by the waste category and not be co-mingled.  Such an approach could provide a clear understanding of the issues associated with how a specific waste category might affect disposal facility design.  Certain waste streams associated with GTCC and transuranic wastes have larger inventories and concentrations of radionuclides than was typically considered at low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities.  For example, certain GTCC and transuranic wastes in sufficient quantities have the potential for significant thermal output that could affect degradation processes within a disposal unit and hydrogen gas generation through radiolysis that could also affect degradation processes of the waste package and waste form.  Additionally, waste streams associated with GTCC and transuranic wastes may have fissile materials that require facilities to be designed to limit the potential for a criticality event or limit the amount of fissile material that can be disposed.  There is a potential balance between security/safety and economic feasibility of design, construction and operation.  The NRC would like to hear from the stakeholders on these aspects as well.  The information provided on economic feasibility would be in concert with the NRC’s strategies on examining the cumulative effects of potential regulatory actions.  The NRC is interested in identifying the various scenarios that should be considered in evaluating the post-closure safety for the disposal of GTCC and transuranic waste—especially scenarios associated with specific issues and concerns that may not have been previously considered for commercial disposal facilities (i.e., synergistic effects of the thermal output on geochemical processes affecting release of radionuclides).

Submitting Comments

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

  •   Email Comments to:  Email comments to  If you do not receive an automatic email reply confirming receipt, then contact the NRC at (301) 415-1677.
  •   Fax comments to:  Fax comments to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at (301) 415-1101.
  •   Mail comments to:  Mail comments to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555– 0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff.
  •   Hand deliver comments to:  Comments may be hand delivered to the NRC at 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852 between 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Interested stakeholders are reminded to please include Docket ID NRC 2017-0081 in the subject line of any comment submission.



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

NAS Releases LLW Workshop Proceedings

On June 6, 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) released the final publication, Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management and Disposition: Proceedings of a Workshop.  The publication documents the proceedings from a workshop that was organized by the NAS Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board, Division on Earth and Life Studies, at the request of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE or Department).  The workshop was held in Washington, DC on October 24-25, 2016.

During the workshop, presenters and attendees provided perspectives from academia, industry, federal agencies (including those outside of DOE), state governments, international organizations, public interest groups, and national laboratories.  The proceedings provide a factual description of the workshop presentations and discussions and are limited to the views and opinions of those participating in the event.  The proceedings do not contain consensus findings or recommendations.

Overview  DOE asked NAS to organize this workshop to discuss approaches for the management and disposition of low-level radioactive waste.  The workshop considered similarities between successful case studies, in which unique disposition pathways have been developed to address low-level radioactive wastes, and explored ways to extend these similar characteristics to problematic wastes—i.e., low-level radioactive wastes currently without a clear disposition pathway.  Specifically, the workshop explored the key physical, chemical, and radiological characteristics of low-level radioactive waste that govern its safe and secure management (i.e., packaging, transport, storage) and disposition, in aggregate and for individual waste-streams; and, how key characteristics of low-level waste are incorporated into standards, orders, and regulations that govern the management and disposition of low-level radioactive waste in the United States and in other major waste-producing countries.

Workshop Structure  The workshop began by defining the “universe” of low-level radioactive waste within the United States and elsewhere—first by introducing the types of waste that exist and then by exploring the standards, orders, regulations, and laws that define and control their disposal.  Case studies were then presented to highlight the successful disposal of a variety of wastes that previously lacked a clear disposition pathway—these case studies are referred to as “success stories.”  The studies were selected from within and outside of the United States.  The participants explored common themes that led to success within the case studies such as: the use of existing regulations and standards (i.e., waste classification) to provide an anchor for disposal decisions; the identification of lessons learned from similar or analogous problems such as Canada’s or France’s approach to managing and disposing of very low-level waste (VLLW); and, the importance of site characteristics for disposal decisions.  These themes were organized into an approach to guide future discussions and disposition decisions for challenging low-level radioactive waste streams—referred to in the proceedings as a “common themes approach.”

Waste Streams  The common themes approach was applied to a set of five pre-selected challenging low-level radioactive waste streams that spanned a variety of waste characteristics including Greater-Than-Class C (GTCC) and commercial transuranic waste (TRU) waste in excess of 100 nCi/g; sealed sources; VLLW and very low-activity waste; incident waste; and, depleted uranium.  One leader from each breakout group introduced a specific challenging low-level radioactive waste stream to the full workshop and later summarized the breakout group’s results of applying the common themes approach to the issues associated with the disposal of this waste stream.  Several participants identified short-term actions or next steps that could be taken to show progress in addressing each challenging waste stream in the final session of the workshop.

Challenges  Each of the waste streams discussed at the workshop presents a unique set of challenges for disposal.  For example, GTCC waste and commercial TRU waste in excess of 100 nCi/g lack a clear disposition pathway, while VLLW and very low-activity waste have a disposition pathway in which the level of protection may be considered incommensurate with the hazard, or a potentially non-optimal disposition pathway.  According to NAS, the application of the common themes approach to these diverse waste streams was intended to explore how adaptable this approach would be as a tool in discussing or presenting a variety of disposal options.

Background  The Department’s Office of Environmental Management (DOE-EM) is responsible for the cleanup of the sites used by the federal government for nuclear weapons development and nuclear energy research.  DOE-EM cleanup involves retrieval, treatment, storage, transportation, and disposition of hundreds of different radioactive and hazardous solid and liquid wastes.  Low-level radioactive waste—which is defined by exclusion as waste that does not meet the statutory definitions for spent nuclear fuel, high-level radioactive waste, or transuranic waste—is physically and chemically diverse, ranging from lightly contaminated soils and building materials to highly irradiated nuclear reactor components.  It is the most volumetrically significant waste stream (millions of cubic meters) being generated by the cleanup program.

The NAS proceedings are available to interested stakeholders for free download at  For additional information, please contact Jennifer Heimberg, Senior Program Officer, Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board (NRSB), Board on Life Sciences (BLS), Board on Environmental Change and Society (BECS), NAS at (202) 334-3293 or at