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.

NRC Releases Results of Byproduct Material Financial Scoping Study

On April 27, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released SECY-16-0046, Results of the Byproduct Material Financial Scoping Study.  The purpose of SECY-16-0046 is to provide the Commission with the results of the staff’s byproduct material financial scoping study and recommendations for next steps.

In SECY-16-0046, NRC staff recommends that the financial assurance requirements in 10 CFR 30.35 should be expanded to include all byproduct material Category 1 and 2 radioactive sealed sources that are tracked in the National Source Tracking System (NSTS).  In making this recommendation, staff notes as follows:

The thresholds in 10 CFR 30.35 that require financial assurance for sealed radioactive material are seven orders of magnitude higher than for unsealed material.  As a result, many licensees that possess byproduct material Radioactive Sealed Sources (RSS), including many Category 1 and 2 RSSs, are not required to provide financial assurance for decommissioning.  If financial assurance is required, it is intended to support site decommissioning, not necessarily the disposition of an individual RSS that has become disused or unwanted.  Adequacy of financial planning for disposition of disused RSSs has been raised in a number of external reports issued over the past decade.

SECY-16-0046 further states that, per recent Commission direction, the staff plans to develop a rulemaking plan SECY paper to propose initiating rulemaking, which will also include a discussion of other regulatory options.  The staff plans to provide the SECY paper to the Commission in the fourth quarter of FY 2016.

NRC also released an accompanying document titled, Financial Planning for Radioactive Byproduct Material—Scoping Report, that provides background information; reviews key reports and recommendations; analyzes technical considerations; discusses decommissioning financial assurance requirements and funding plans; considers financial assurance methods and funding mechanisms, disposition paths other than disposal, and establishing funding requirements for disposition; reviews life-cycle issues, orphan sources, timeliness in declaring and dispositioning disused sources, and tracking; considers applicability to General Licenses, compatibility with Agreement State requirements, and security considerations; provides an overview of disposal access, DOE/NNSA source recovery and disposal programs, and transportation considerations; and, so forth.

SECY-16-0046 may be found on the NRC’s web site at under Accession Number ML16068A202.  Enclosure 1 may be found on the web site under Accession Number ML16068A205.