[Federal Register Volume 69, Number 73 (Thursday, April 15, 2004)]
[Notices]
[Pages 20075-20078]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 04-8550]


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NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION


U.S. Armed Forces: Environmental Assessment and Final Finding of 
No Significant Impact, Exemption to the Requirements in 10 CFR 20.1801, 
20.1802 and 20.2201

I. Summary

    The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has performed an 
Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate a license amendment that 
would add a license condition exempting the U.S. Armed Forces (Armed 
Forces) from certain requirements involving the use and storage of 
radioactive sealed source devices used for monitoring and detecting 
chemical warfare agents during military exercises and maneuvers. During 
these times, the Armed Forces would be specifically exempt from 
requirements contained in: (1) 10 CFR 20.1801, ``Security of stored 
material,'' when the Armed Forces store authorized radioactive sealed 
source devices that are used for monitoring and detecting chemical 
warfare agents during military exercises or maneuvers on U.S. 
Government-controlled property;\1\ (2) 10 CFR 20.1802, ``Control of 
material not in storage,'' when the Armed Forces employ these devices 
during exercises or maneuvers on U.S. Government-controlled property; 
and (3) 10 CFR 20.2201, ``Reports of theft or loss of licensed 
byproduct material,'' when these devices are lost when they are stored 
or used during military exercises or maneuvers on U.S. Government-
controlled property. The conclusion of the EA is a Finding of No 
Significant Impact (FONSI) for the proposed licensing action.
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    \1\ Government-controlled property refers to property that is 
permanently maintained by the U.S. Federal Government for planned 
training exercises or maneuvers by individual units, commands, and 
inter-commands of the U.S. Armed Forces, including friendly foreign 
military elements.
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II. Environmental Assessment

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background
    U.S. Department of the Army reported a number of lost licensed 
radioactive sealed source devices that are used for monitoring and 
detecting chemical warfare agents. In response to this, NRC performed a 
reactive inspection (Report No. 030-35349/2002-001). In an ``Exercise 
of Enforcement Discretion'' letter dated October 3, 2003, to the 
Director, Integrated Material Management Center, U.S. Department of the 
Army (Army), NRC stated that the NRC plans to amend the Army's license 
to exempt the licensee from the requirements in 10 CFR 20.1801, 
20.1802, and 20.2201 when the licensee is storing or using devices 
intended to monitor and detect chemical warfare agents during military 
exercises or maneuvers on U.S. Government-controlled property. The U.S. 
Navy and U.S. Air Force have also acquired these types of devices and 
are using them under Master Materials Licenses issued by the NRC. Thus, 
NRC plans to grant them the same license amendment.
    NRC staff has evaluated the environmental impacts of a license 
amendment that would exempt the Armed Forces from the requirement in: 
(1) 10 CFR 20.1801, ``Security of stored material,'' when the Armed 
Forces store authorized radioactive sealed source devices that are used 
for monitoring and detecting chemical warfare agents during military 
exercises or maneuvers on U.S. Government-controlled property; (2) 10 
CFR 20.1802, ``Control of material not in storage,'' when the Armed 
Forces employ these devices during exercises or maneuvers on U.S. 
Government-controlled property; and (3) 10 CFR 20.2201, ``Reports of 
theft or loss of licensed byproduct material,'' when these devices are 
lost when they are stored or used during military exercises or 
maneuvers on U.S. Government-controlled property.
    This EA has been prepared pursuant to the NRC regulations in 10 CFR 
part 51, which implement the requirements of the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. The purpose of this document is to assess 
the environmental consequences of the proposed action and the 
alternatives to the proposed action.
1.2 Review Scope
    In accordance with part 51, this EA: (1) Presents information and 
analysis for determining whether to issue a FONSI or to prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS); (2) fulfills NRC's compliance 
with NEPA when no EIS is necessary; and (3) facilitates preparation of 
an EIS if one is necessary. Should NRC issue a FONSI, no EIS would be 
prepared and NRC would issue a license condition to the Armed Forces 
exempting them from meeting the requirements in 10 CFR 20.1801, 
20.1802, and 20.2201, when the Armed Forces use authorized radioactive 
sealed source devices for monitoring and detecting chemical warfare 
agents during planned military exercises or maneuvers on U.S. 
Government-controlled property located in the United States, as 
described herein. This EA applies to consideration of amendments to 
licenses held by the Army, Navy and Air Force as discussed hereafter.
    The Army holds NRC Byproduct Material License No. 12-00722-16, 
(Ref. 2) (previously License No. 19-30563-01), pursuant to 10 CFR part 
30, which authorizes the possession and use of chemical agent detectors 
or chemical agent monitors containing small amounts of radioactive 
sealed source material.
    NRC has established a license category known as a Master Materials 
License (MML). An MML can be issued only to a Federal organization that 
successfully meets the criteria stated in 10 CFR 30.33 (and 10 CFR 
40.32 or 10 CFR 70.31, as appropriate), and can demonstrate to NRC, 
through its diverse licensing activities, experience of complex 
radiation-program centralized management, inspection, education, 
qualification, training, and experience as outlined in NRC NUREG-1556 
Volume 10, (Ref. 4) that it is able to administer effectively a 
licensing program.
    The U.S. Navy (Navy) holds MML No. 45-23645-01NA, (Ref. 3) from 
NRC, that allows the Navy to possess and use sealed sources as 
required. The Navy and Marine Corps use the Navy's license for chemical 
agent detectors in their possession. NRC issued MML No. 42-23539-01AF, 
(Ref. 1) to the U.S. Air Force (Air Force) for byproduct, source, and 
special nuclear material, as needed. The Air Force has acquired and 
uses chemical detectors under this license.
    Armed Forces licenses authorize possession and use of devices 
containing up to 300 microcuries of Americium-241 (Am-241) or up to 30 
millicuries of Nickel-63 (Ni-63). The U.S. Armed Forces use these 
chemical detecting and monitoring devices on Department of Defense 
(DOD) installations and temporary job sites, where NRC has 
jurisdiction.

[[Page 20076]]

    A chemical detector typically consists of a detector cell; 
electronic circuitry; a power source; an air pump (air or vapor sample 
ingress is much smaller than the human finger); a heater; and a robust 
outside case. The detector cells contain a radioactive source that is 
normally coiled into a cylindrical shape, with the radioactive side 
inward. Am-241 is extracted from Plutonium-241 generated during normal 
operations of nuclear reactors. The Ni-63 sources are made by 
electroplating the nickel onto a metallic foil, which then can be 
formed into a cylindrical source. NRC regulations require that 
generally licensed devices be tamper-resistant. Normally, tamper-
resistant screws are used to restrict unauthorized human access to the 
radioactive source or sources installed in the generally and exempt 
licensed chemical detector. There is a wide variety of devices; 
numerous U.S. and foreign-based organizations manufacture them.
    Devices that the Armed Forces acquire are intended for the soldiers 
to use in training and in the battlefield to monitor and detect 
chemical warfare agents. NRC regulations require that the manufactures, 
distributors, or maintenance providers of devices using radioactive 
sealed sources have a specific license. The regulations allow general 
licensees to use certain tamper-proofed certified radioactive sealed 
source devices. Individuals who would be responsible for conducting any 
maintenance on generally licensed sealed source devices that requires 
opening the device casing, housing, or modules must have a specific 
license. In real-time battlefield-simulated military exercises, the 
Armed Forces may have to conduct insitu maintenance. For dual specific-
general licenses to be used within the various branches of the Armed 
Forces, specific licenses would be necessary for maintenance 
activities, and replacement of radioactive sources and source safety 
features.
    The NRC staff believes that the current regulations addressing the 
accountability, tracking, and loss of control of these devices are not 
appropriate when the detectors are used during military exercises and 
maneuvers on U.S. Government-controlled property, because these areas 
are generally remote areas, with restricted or no access to the public 
or the private sector. Furthermore, the radioactive sealed sources used 
for the above activities are solid metallic fixed forms of radioactive 
material that are housed in robust structures; therefore, loss of 
control of these devices does not result in a release of radioactive 
material. The radiation dose rates associated with these devices are 
very low. Comparable devices with similar designs have been authorized 
by the NRC as exempt devices and distributed to public end users exempt 
from the loss, loss of control and security requirements mentioned 
herein. Because of the restricted access, harsh and hazardous 
environments associated with the military exercises, it is difficult 
for the Armed Forces to effectively enforce the regulations addressing 
the accountability, tracking and loss of control of these devices 
during maneuvers and exercises. However, the radiological and security 
risks associated with the use of these devices during Armed Forces 
maneuvers and exercises were evaluated in determining whether an 
exemption should be granted, so as to arrive at a balanced decision, 
without impacting the safety of the Armed Forces personnel or the 
members of the public.
    Currently, the Armed Forces possess approximately 65,000 of these 
detection and monitoring devices. The Army has reported a loss of 3 to 
4 devices per year, per 10,000 devices. Because the Armed Forces use 
detectors in both wartime and simulated military battlefield exercises, 
and ordered maneuvers, in the air, on land, and at sea, it is 
anticipated that the loss of these devices will continue at the current 
rate, or increase a small amount because of the increased deployment 
warranted by the current world political situation, and the associated 
wide-spread deployment of the Armed Forces.
1.3 Proposed Action
    Given the circumstances described above, the staff is considering 
granting a license amendment exempting the Armed Forces from certain 
control and reporting requirements during military exercises and 
maneuvers. During these times, the Armed Forces would be specifically 
exempt from requirements contained in: (1) 10 CFR 20.1801, ``Security 
of stored material,'' when the Armed Forces store these authorized 
radioactive sealed source devices for monitoring and detecting chemical 
warfare agents during military exercises or maneuvers on U.S. 
Government-controlled property; (2) 10 CFR 20.1802, ``Control of 
material not in storage,'' when the Armed Forces employ these devices 
during exercises or maneuvers on U.S. Government-controlled property; 
and (3) 10 CFR 20.2201, ``Reports of theft or loss of licensed 
byproduct material,'' when these devices are lost when they are stored 
or used during military exercises or maneuvers on U.S. Government-
controlled property.
    The exemption would not apply to: (1) Devices stored or used at 
other times, or lost under other conditions; (2) theft of the devices; 
or (3) devices lost in the U.S. public domain. Additionally, the Armed 
Forces licensees would continue to implement their established existing 
programs for tracking military assets and storage records of these 
devices. The Armed Forces would be required to keep records onsite of 
losses and loss of control of these devices and on request, make them 
available for review by the NRC Inspection staff.
1.4 Need for Proposed Action
    NRC has closely reviewed the Armed Forces control and tracking 
procedures.
    Although the Armed Forces have established an effective tracking 
and control program for these devices, losses have occurred and losses 
could still reasonably occur because of the unique circumstances 
associated with the use of such devices by the Armed Forces. The use of 
these detectors is critical for the safety of Armed Forces personnel, 
and, indirectly, critical to the safety of U.S. citizens. In addition, 
the use of these detectors (i.e., for military exercises and maneuvers 
to prepare soldiers for battlefield conditions) is outside the 
scenarios envisioned when NRC regulations and policies on the 
accountability, tracking, and loss of control of radioactive sealed 
sources were developed.
    Given the scope and nature of the U.S. military exercises, constant 
control and surveillance over such devices during military exercises 
and maneuvers may not always be possible or practical. For example, 
during these exercises and maneuvers, the devices are deliberately 
camouflaged to avoid detection by the enemy, and deployed manually or 
remotely from the air. To ensure constant control could be hazardous 
and may put some military personnel in harm's way. According to the 
Armed Forces reports, the majority of the losses have occurred during 
combat exercises and, with some exceptions, on U.S. Government-
controlled property. Additionally, current requirements to report each 
separate loss of a device or devices may interfere with, and may even 
hinder, smooth military maneuvers and exercises, since the current 
regulations may trigger reactive or augmented team inspections by NRC 
after the repeated reported losses of detection and monitoring devices.
1.5 Alternatives
    Available alternatives to NRC are:

[[Page 20077]]

    1. Continue the current mode of operations to ensure compliance 
with referenced NRC regulations at all times (See section 1.2 for 
details of the current mode of operations). This is a no-action 
alternative.
    2. Grant the exemption to the Armed Forces for the devices by 
issuing a license amendment (See section 1.3 for more details). This is 
the staff's preferred alternative.
    3. Modify regulatory provisions applicable to these devices through 
the rulemaking process. The effect of this alternative would be to 
grant the same exemptions discussed for the proposed action. This type 
of action takes about 2 to 3 years.

2.0 Affected Environment

    The affected environment for Alternatives 1, 2, and 3 is considered 
to be the immediate vicinity of the deployment of a device primarily on 
federally-controlled facilities and properties. Loss or loss of control 
of a device or devices would not lead to a release of radioactive 
material to the environment because the protective features (shielding 
and containment), as described in section 1.2, are robust and remain 
functional. Further, these devices contain small quantities of 
radioactive sealed sources (up to 300 microcuries of Americium-241 or 
up to 30 millicuries of Nickel-63).
    These devices are normally tracked from central locations under the 
supervision of the licensee's staff and are issued on request to armed 
services units that may be stationed throughout the world. However, 
this exemption is only applicable to devices used or stored during 
military exercises or maneuvers on U.S. Government-controlled property, 
e.g., DOD installations throughout the United States of America. The 
Armed Forces currently inform NRC of lost devices that occur both in 
the U.S. and overseas, including some losses that occur in areas 
outside NRC's jurisdiction.

3.0 Environmental Impacts of Proposed Action and Alternatives

3.1 Public Health
    Because of their portability (hand-held or capable of swift setup 
and dismantling in field) and potential radiological risk (if devices 
are taken apart), isolated lapses in control and accountability of 
these devices have continued to concern the Commission. However, the 
U.S. Armed Forces have established a safe operational record with these 
low-dose, robust radioactive devices, even when extensively deployed. 
Thus, taking into account the military's safety record with these 
devices and their need for these devices, the staff is assessing the 
need for this license amendment and its impact on public health.
    The three alternatives described in Section 1.5 represent the 
approaches that could be used in addressing the exemption request. The 
staff evaluated the three alternatives and their individual impact on 
public health. The impact of implementing any of these alternatives on 
public health will be the same because the alternatives address 
procedural and device loss, loss of control and accountability issues. 
Alternative 2 is being proposed since this alternative was found to be 
more efficient and practical compared to the other two alternatives. 
Also, this alternative reduces unnecessary regulatory burden on the 
licensees.
    Alternative 1 (No action): The impact of this alternative would be 
similar to the proposed action. NRC believes that these very low-risk 
detection devices are currently over-regulated for the uses discussed 
in this EA. Based on the review of the circumstances surrounding the 
loss of the detectors, NRC believes that both the burden to the 
licensee of frequent reporting and the expenditure of NRC and MMLs 
resources performing reactive inspections after reports of loss of 
control of these devices, do not enhance the safe use of these devices. 
In fact, continued application of the current approach requiring 
reporting of loss of control events could inadvertently provide 
information to United States adversaries and could adversely impact the 
purpose or the intended outcome of a military exercise.
    Alternative 2 (Proposed action): The principal users of chemical 
agent detectors and monitors are the Armed Forces. The devices are used 
to protect personnel when entering areas where the use of chemical 
warfare agents is likely. Other users could also include Federal, 
State, or local government agencies that support Emergency First 
Responders. These devices are portable (hand-held or able to be swiftly 
set up and dismantled in the field) and used by trained personnel, 
making them operable under dynamic or stressful situations and, at 
times, under very trying circumstances.
    NRC performed analysis to support and verify the allowed use of 
exempt radioactive quantities of Americium-241 and Nickel-63 in 
chemical monitoring. The model, computer codes used, and assumptions 
made in the exemption analysis for chemical monitoring devices are 
presented in section 2.15.5 of NUREG-1717 (Ref. 5). The analysis 
estimated maximum individual doses from chemical detectors containing 
160 microcuries of Americium-241 and 10 millicuries of Nickel-63 and 
compared them to the regulatory limits (shown in Table 2.15.6 and Table 
2.15.7 of NUREG-1717). The results of the NRC analysis indicate very 
small radiation doses which are an order of magnitude below the 
specified dose limits contained in 10 CFR sections 32.27 and 32.28.
    Armed Forces licenses authorize possession and use of devices 
containing up to 300 microcuries of Americium-241 (Am-241) or up to 30 
millicuries of Nickel-63 (Ni-63), which are two to three times higher 
than the radioactive source strength considered in NUREG-1717. However, 
the maximum doses associated with devices used by the U.S. Armed Forces 
would still be below the regulatory limits. Also, the radiation dose to 
a member of the public from a loss of control of a device would be 
extremely small. This is due, in part, to the fact that the U.S. Armed 
Forces use these chemical detection and monitoring devices on remote 
DOD installations and temporary job sites that are great distances from 
each other, and the time spent by individuals near or close to a lost 
device is estimated to be about one hour. It is expected that the 
individual dose from normal use or the potential dose from a loss of 
control, a temporarily displaced device, or a lost device, would not 
result in radiation exposure to the workers or the public significantly 
above the background radiation.
    Although the Armed Forces have established an effective tracking 
and control program, losses could still reasonably occur because of the 
unique circumstances associated with the use of such devices. This use 
is critical for the safety of U.S. Armed Forces personnel, and is 
certainly outside the scenarios envisioned when NRC regulations and 
policies on the loss of sources were developed. Given the scope and 
nature of military activities, constant control and surveillance over 
such devices may not always be practical or possible. According to the 
Armed Forces reports, the majority of the losses have occurred during 
combat exercises and, with one exception, on U.S. Government-controlled 
property (one loss occurred when a device, which was believed to be in 
use on U.S. Government-controlled property, was later discovered in the 
U.S. public domain).
    We conclude that no significant impacts on the public health under 
normal and accident conditions are expected as a result of granting 
this exemption to the Armed Forces.

[[Page 20078]]

Further, implementation of this alterative will reduce unnecessary 
burden on the Armed Forces and enable them to more efficiently use 
these devices when conducting exercises and maneuvers. Additionally, 
this license exemption should improve staff efficiency and 
effectiveness by reducing the work load of NRC and MMLs inspectors, who 
are required to conduct a reactive inspection each time a device is 
reported lost.
    Alternative 3 (Rulemaking): It is expected that the impact from the 
rulemaking alternative would be similar to the impact of the proposed 
action; however, a lengthy time frame and large expenditures of 
resources are associated with the rulemaking process. A long-term 
reliable impact assessment that would support a rulemaking may not be 
available for more than five years. A rulemaking would not, in this 
case, provide a timely response to the current need. By the time a rule 
making could be completed, the Armed Forces may have shifted to using 
non-radioactive detection devices or other emerging technologies. NRC 
anticipates that, with the passage of time, the use of sealed sources 
in detection and monitoring devices for chemical agents is likely to 
diminish.
3.2 Water, Geology, Soils, Air Quality, Demography, Biota, and Cultural 
and Historic Resources
    The NRC staff has determined that the proposed licensing exemption 
(Alternative 2) will not impact the quality of water resources, since 
the radioactive source quantities are very small and are not soluble in 
water. The staff has determined that the proposed exemption will not 
significantly impact geology, soils, air quality, demography, biota, 
and cultural and historic resources, under normal and accident use 
scenarios. NRC staff has reviewed the historical performance of this 
type of detection device and the potential for future deployment and 
concluded that no significant cumulative impacts are anticipated.
    NRC staff has determined that the proposed action will not affect 
listed or proposed threatened or endangered species or critical 
habitat. NRC staff has determined that the proposed action is not the 
type that has the potential to cause effects on historic properties. 
Therefore, no further consultation with the regulatory authority 
responsible for overseeing section 106 of the National Historic 
Preservation Act was found necessary.
    Impacts on water, geology, soils, air quality, demography, biota, 
and historic resources of implementing Alternatives 1 and 3 (described 
in section 1.5) are expected to be similar to those in the proposed 
action. As discussed in section 3.1, Alternative 2 is being proposed 
because it is the more efficient and practical alternative, and reduces 
unnecessary regulatory burden on the concerned licensees.

4.0 Conclusion

    The NRC staff has determined that granting of this exemption will 
have no significant adverse effect on the public health and safety, or 
the environment. Based on its review, the NRC staff has determined that 
the environmental impacts associated with the proposed action do not 
warrant the preparation of an EIS.

5.0 Agencies and Persons Contacted

    NRC contacted the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force MML National 
Radiation Program Oversight Committees and the Appropriate U.S. Army 
Commands. The need to contact State government officials was 
considered; however, it was concluded that such consultation was not 
necessary, since the proposed limited exemption is limited to 
federally-controlled facilities and properties.

6.0 References

    1. U.S. Air Force Master Materials License No. 42-23539-01AF.
    2. U.S. Department of Army License No. 12-00722-16.
    3. U.S. Navy Master Materials License No. 45-23645-01NA.
    4. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Program-Specific Guidance 
About Master Materials Licenses, December 2000, NUREG-1556, Vol. 10.
    5. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Systematic Radiological 
Assessment of Exemptions for Source and Byproduct Materials, June 2001, 
NUREG-1717.

III. Finding of No Significant Impact

    The action that NRC is considering is to issue an exemption to the 
Armed Forces in the form of a license condition that would exempt them 
from the requirements contained in: (1) 10 CFR 20.1801, ``Security of 
stored material,'' when the Armed Forces store these authorized 
radioactive sealed source devices for monitoring and detecting chemical 
warfare agents during military exercises or maneuvers on U.S. 
Government-controlled property; (2) 10 CFR 20.1802, ``Control of 
material not in storage,'' when the Armed Forces employs these devices 
during exercises or maneuvers on U.S. Government-controlled property; 
and (3) 10 CFR 20.2201, ``Reports of theft or loss of licensed 
byproduct material,'' when these devices are lost when they are stored 
or used during military exercises or maneuvers on U.S. Government-
controlled property.
    The exemption would not apply to: (1) Devices stored or used at 
other times, or lost under other conditions; (2) theft of the devices; 
or (3) devices lost in the U.S. public domain. Additionally, under this 
exemption, the Armed Forces licensees would continue to implement their 
established existing programs for tracking and controlling these 
devices, and would be required to keep records of losses and loss of 
control available onsite for review by the NRC Inspectors.
    The Commission has prepared this EA in light of the proposed 
action. In the assessment, the Commission has concluded that 
environmental impacts associated with the proposed action would not be 
significant and do not warrant the preparation of an EIS. Accordingly, 
based on the environment impacts described in section II, the 
Commission is issuing a FONSI for this licensing action.

IV. Further Information

    Any questions about this action can be directed to Ujagar S. Bhachu 
at (301) 415-7894, or by e-mail at usb@nrc.gov.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 8th day of April, 2004.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Thomas H. Essig,
Chief, Materials Safety and Inspection Branch, Division of Industrial 
and Medical Nuclear Safety, NMSS.
[FR Doc. 04-8550 Filed 4-14-04; 8:45 am]
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