[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 94 (Thursday, May 15, 2014)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 27772-27774]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-11285]


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Proposed Rules
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains notices to the public of 
the proposed issuance of rules and regulations. The purpose of these 
notices is to give interested persons an opportunity to participate in 
the rule making prior to the adoption of the final rules.

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Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 94 / Thursday, May 15, 2014 / 
Proposed Rules

[[Page 27772]]



NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

10 CFR Part 61

[NRC-2014-0080]


Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program

AGENCY: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Strategic assessment update; request for comment.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is conducting an 
update to a Strategic Assessment of its Low-Level Radioactive Waste 
(LLRW) regulatory program. The objective of this assessment is to 
identify and prioritize activities that the staff can undertake to 
ensure a stable, reliable and adaptable regulatory framework for 
effective LLRW management, while also considering future needs and 
changes that may occur in the nation's LLRW management system. The 
staff is seeking comments on developments that would affect the LLRW 
regulatory program in the next several years that would affect 
licensees and sited States and actions that the NRC could take to 
ensure safety, security, and the protection of the environment.

DATES: Submit comments by July 14, 2014. Comments received after this 
date will be considered if it is practical to do so, but the Commission 
is able to ensure consideration only for comments received before this 
date.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods 
(unless this document describes a different method for submitting 
comments on a specific subject):
     Federal Rulemaking Web Site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2014-0080. Address 
questions about NRC dockets to Carol Gallagher; telephone: 301-287-
3422; email: Carol.Gallagher@nrc.gov. For technical questions, contact 
the individual listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of 
this document.
     Mail comments to: Cindy Bladey, Office of Administration, 
Mail Stop: 3WFN-06-44M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, 
DC 20555-0001.
    For additional direction on accessing information and submitting 
comments, see ``Accessing Information and Submitting Comments'' in the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Melanie C. Wong, Office of Federal and 
State Materials and Environmental Management Programs, U.S. Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001; telephone: 301-415-
2432; email: Melanie.Wong@nrc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Accessing Information and Submitting Comments

A. Accessing Information

    Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2014-0080 when contacting the NRC 
about the availability of information regarding this document. You may 
access publicly-available information related to this document by any 
of the following methods:
     Federal Rulemaking Web site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2014-0080.
     NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System 
(ADAMS): You may access publicly available documents online in the 
ADAMS Public Documents collection at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams.html. To begin the search, select ``ADAMS Public Documents'' and 
then select ``Begin Web-based ADAMS Search.'' For problems with ADAMS, 
please contact the NRC's Public Document Room (PDR) reference staff at 
1-800-397-4209, 301-415-4737, or by email to pdr.resource@nrc.gov. The 
``Strategic Assessment of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Regulatory 
Program'' and ``Transcript of Public Workshop on Low-Level Radioactive 
Waste Disposal Rulemaking and Strategic Assessment of Low-Level 
Radioactive Waste'' are available in ADAMS under Accession Nos. 
ML071350291 and ML14086A540.
     NRC's PDR: You may examine and purchase copies of public 
documents at the NRC's PDR, Room O1-F21, One White Flint North, 11555 
Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852.

B. Submitting Comments

    Please include Docket ID NRC-2014-0080 in the subject line of your 
comment submission, in order to ensure that the NRC is able to make 
your comment submission available to the public in this docket.
    The NRC cautions you not to include identifying or contact 
information that you do not want to be publicly disclosed in you 
comment submission. The NRC will post all comment submissions at http://www.regulations.gov as well as enter the comment submissions into 
ADAMS. The NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to remove 
identifying or contact information.
    If you are requesting or aggregating comments from other persons 
for submission to the NRC, then you should inform those persons not to 
include identifying or contact information that they do not want to be 
publicly disclosed in their comment submission. Your request should 
state that the NRC does not routinely edit comment submissions to 
remove such information before making the comment submissions available 
to the public or entering the comment submissions into ADAMS.

II. Background

    In 2007, due to developments in the national program for LLRW 
disposal, as well as changes in the regulatory environment, the NRC's 
LLRW program faced new challenges and issues. New technical issues 
related to protection of public health and the environment and security 
emerged. These challenges and issues included (1) the desire of 
industry for greater flexibility and reliability in LLRW disposal 
options; (2) increased storage capacity for Class B and Class C LLRW 
because of the limited access of the Barnwell, South Carolina, disposal 
facility in 2008 to out-of-compact waste generators; (3) the potential 
need to dispose of large quantities of power plant decommissioning 
waste, as well as depleted uranium from enrichment facilities; (4) the 
limited resources in the NRC LLRW program; (5) increased security 
concerns related to storing LLRW in general and sealed radioactive 
sources in particular as a result of the September 11, 2001, terrorist 
attack; and (6) new waste streams that may be generated (for example, 
by the next

[[Page 27773]]

generation of nuclear reactors and the potential reemergence of nuclear 
fuel reprocessing in the United States).
    Based on these challenges and issues, the NRC staff conducted a 
Strategic Assessment of the NRC's regulatory program for LLRW in 2007. 
The NRC staff provided a description of the results of the Strategic 
Assessment in SECY-07-0180, ``Strategic Assessment of Low-Level 
Radioactive Waste Regulatory Program'' (ADAMS Accession No. 
ML071350291). The objectives of the Strategic Assessment were to 
identify and prioritize the NRC staff's activities and continue to: (1) 
Ensure safe and secure LLRW disposal; (2) improve the effectiveness, 
efficiency, and adaptability of the NRC's LLRW regulatory program; and 
(3) ensure regulatory stability and predictability, while allowing 
flexibility in disposal options.
    After considering extensive stakeholder input suggesting a variety 
of activities to include in the Strategic Assessment, the NRC staff 
developed a list of 20 activities responsive to identified programmatic 
needs. The staff evaluated these activities and assigned them 
priorities of high, medium, or low. These ranged from narrowly focused 
activities such as updating LLRW storage guidance to broader activities 
such as suggesting legislative changes to Congress to improve the LLRW 
national program.
    In addition, the staff in the 2007 Strategic Assessment not only 
considered the LLRW system as it currently exists, but also considered 
how the LLRW regulatory program might change with time. The staff 
developed three scenarios, or ``alternative futures,'' categorized as 
optimistic, realistic, and pessimistic. These scenarios are described 
in Appendix B of SECY-07-0180. The ``optimistic future'' scenario was 
one in which the staff envisioned a continuous expansion of safe, 
secure and moderately priced disposal capacity for the entire spectrum 
of LLRW. The ``realistic future'' scenario was characterized by a 
significant curtailment of disposal capacity and continued cost 
escalation for much of the spectrum of LLRW, while the ``pessimistic 
future'' scenario presumed a virtual elimination of disposal capacity 
for LLRW in the not too distant future. Accordingly, when the staff 
analyzed the proposed activities to determine their priority, their 
responsiveness to each of the future scenarios was one of the factors 
considered.
    The NRC staff has completed two of its high priority activities 
identified in the 2007 Strategic Assessment; i.e., updating guidance 
for LLRW storage, and evaluating the disposal of depleted uranium and 
the measures needed to ensure its safe disposal. Regarding the activity 
related to the disposal of depleted uranium, the NRC staff analyzed the 
impacts of near-surface disposal of large quantities of depleted 
uranium to determine if Sec.  61.55(a) of Title 10 of the Code of 
Federal Regulations (10 CFR), needed to be changed to assure that large 
quantities of depleted uranium are disposed of in a manner that meets 
the performance objectives of 10 CFR Part 61. While the NRC staff 
concluded that large quantities of depleted uranium can be disposed of 
in a near-surface disposal facility under certain conditions and still 
meet the performance objectives of 10 CFR Part 61, the NRC staff 
proposed changing the existing regulations to incorporate those 
conditions. The NRC staff is proceeding with a rulemaking to amend 10 
CFR Part 61 to specify a requirement for a site-specific analysis for 
the disposal of large quantities of depleted uranium. A proposed rule 
is expected to be published in 2015. The NRC staff continues to work on 
three additional activities; i.e., finalizing a procedure for the 
review of low-activity waste disposal in Resource Conservation and 
Recovery Act facilities not licensed by the NRC, revising 10 CFR Part 
61, and revising the 1995 Concentration Averaging and Encapsulation 
Branch Technical Position.
    After 7 years, progress has been made in completing these 
activities. However, the national LLRW program continues to evolve. The 
staff has determined that as a result of that continued evolution, it 
will need to make changes to the 2007 Strategic Assessment before 
continuing completion of the other specified activities.
    In order to set the direction for the NRC's LLRW regulatory program 
in the next several years, the NRC staff will begin developing an 
updated Strategic Assessment of the NRC's LLRW program. As part of that 
effort, the staff is proposing to revise the alternative future 
disposal scenarios specified in the 2007 Strategic Assessment. The new 
assessment will provide opportunities for stakeholder engagement. The 
objectives of this updated Strategic Assessment remain the same as the 
2007 Strategic Assessment; i.e., to identify and prioritize activities 
that the staff can undertake to ensure a stable, reliable and adaptable 
regulatory framework for effective LLRW management, while also 
considering future needs and changes that may occur in the nation's 
commercial LLRW management system. As part of this assessment, the NRC 
staff is soliciting public comment on what changes, if any, should be 
made to the current LLRW program regulatory framework, as well as 
specific actions that the staff might undertake to facilitate such 
changes.

III. Specific Requests for Comments

    The NRC staff is requesting that persons consider and address the 
following questions as they develop and provide their remarks:

Regarding the Current National LLRW Disposal Landscape

    1. What changes are anticipated in the LLRW area with regard to 
safety, security, and the protection of the environment?
    2. As a result of those changes, what activities should remain on 
the list of proposed activities developed during the 2007 Strategic 
Assessment, and are these activities appropriately prioritized in order 
to ensure safe and secure LLRW disposal, improve the effectiveness of 
NRC's regulations, and assure regulatory stability and predictability 
while allowing flexibility in disposal options? What new activities 
should be added?

Regarding the Current LLRW Disposal Regulatory System

    1. As a result of the new national landscape, what are your key 
safety concerns relative to LLRW disposal?
    2. What vulnerabilities or impediments, if any, are in the current 
regulatory approach toward LLRW disposal in the U.S. that need to be 
addressed in order to strengthen the NRC's ability to ensure safe and 
secure LLRW disposal, improve the effectiveness of its regulations, and 
assure regulatory stability and predictability while allowing 
flexibility in disposal options?
    3. What actions could be taken by the NRC and other Federal and 
State authorities, as well as by private industry and national 
scientific and technical organizations, to optimize management of LLRW? 
Which of the following actions are most likely to yield benefits?
    a. Changes in regulations;
    b. Changes in regulatory guidance;
    c. Changes in industry practices; and
    d. Other (name).
    4. Are there additional actions (regulatory and/or industry 
initiated) that can/should be taken regarding specific issues such as:
    a. Storage, disposal, tracking and security of Greater-than-class-C 
(GTCC) waste (particularly sealed sources);
    b. Extended storage of LLRW;

[[Page 27774]]

    c. Disposal options for low-activity waste/very low level waste;
    d. On-site disposal of LLRW; and
    e. Other (name).
    5. What unintended consequences might result from the potential 
changes identified in response to questions 3 and 4?

Potential Alternative Futures

    The following revised disposal scenarios are proposed for 
incorporation in the updated Strategic Assessment. Are there 
recommendations to improve the proposed disposal scenarios?
    ``Optimistic'' Scenario Assumptions:
    All aspects for management of waste from the back end of the fuel 
cycle are continuously available, including uninterrupted commercial 
disposal capacity for all Class A, B, and C LLRW and from all waste 
generators. Some limited competition results in disposal costs that are 
considered reasonable for most waste generators. Though most waste that 
arise from 11e.(3) and 11e.(4) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as 
amended, byproduct material is disposed at the Richland, WA, disposal 
facility, some are disposed elsewhere. Greater-than-class-C LLRW 
disposal is available at a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facility 
licensed by the NRC. There is a regulatory framework and process in 
place for low-activity waste that enables safe disposal in an efficient 
manner. A variety of low activity waste disposal options keeps the 
average cost of disposal low for this type of waste. There is little 
need for extended storage of LLRW or for new innovations regarding 
treatment of LLRW, including volume reduction or use of nonradioactive 
surrogates. There are no significant events involving safety, security, 
or protection of the environment, and therefore little or no negative 
press. Implementation of the 10 CFR Part 61 limited rulemaking has 
occurred with the appropriate compatibility designation.
    ``Realistic'' Scenario Assumptions:
    Class A, B, and C LLRW have clear paths forward for disposal. Small 
quantities of relatively high activity LLRW are stored at industrial, 
medical, and research facilities and at Nuclear Power Plants (NPP's). 
Limited quantities of waste that arise from 11e.(3) and 11e.(4) of the 
Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, byproduct material can be 
disposed at the Richland, WA disposal facility. A small percentage of 
GTCC--mainly sealed sources--continues to be moved out of the 
commercial sector into DOE storage, but a disposal facility for GTCC 
waste is still many years away. Orphan waste is identified in an ad hoc 
fashion, and a path forward for disposition/disposal becomes more 
limited. Disposal options for low-activity waste are few, and approvals 
continue to be on a case-by-case basis that takes significant time to 
obtain approval. The LLRW regulatory framework is relatively stable, 
but necessarily reactive to certain circumstances, such as development 
of new technology, external events and innovations in waste processing, 
stabilization, and storage technology. The 10 CFR Part 61 limited 
rulemaking has been promulgated.
    ``Pessimistic'' Scenario Assumptions:
    Disposal capacity for all types of LLRW is severely constrained and 
costs of disposal are prohibitively high for many generators. 
Consequently, there are significant increases in both the volume and 
activity of LLRW held in long-term storage. Disposal options for low-
activity waste are severely constrained, and there are no prospects for 
development of a GTCC disposal facility in the near-to-medium term. 
Beneficial uses of radioactive material in research, medical care and 
industrial applications decrease because of escalating uncertainties 
(both in disposal options as well as costs). Escalating costs become 
the driver for significant innovations in processing and storage 
technology. The public becomes concerned about potential safety impacts 
of LLRW storage as it becomes increasingly aware of its widespread use 
by licensees. Decommissioning of some NPP's is postponed, or different 
decommissioning strategies are used due to high disposal costs, 
uncertain disposal availability and conflicting public and/or political 
pressures. The promulgation and/or implementation of the 10 CFR Part 61 
limited rulemaking has been significantly delayed.

Interagency Communication and Cooperation

    1. Based on your observations of what works well and not-so-well, 
domestically and/or internationally, with regard to the management of 
radioactive and/or hazardous waste, what actions can the NRC and other 
Federal regulatory agencies take to improve their communication with 
affected and interested stakeholders?
    2. What specific actions can NRC take to improve coordination with 
other Federal agencies so as to obtain a more consistent treatment of 
radioactive wastes that possess similar or equivalent levels of 
biological hazard?

IV. Workshop

    On March 7, 2014, the NRC held a workshop to gather information on 
the update to the NRC's 2007 Strategic Assessment of the LLRW 
regulatory program in Phoenix, Arizona. The transcript of the workshop 
is publicly available in ADAMS under accession no. ML14086A540. The NRC 
staff intends to utilize the information gathered from the workshop, as 
well as the comments received in response to this notice, to update its 
Strategic Assessment of the NRC's LLRW regulatory program.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 7th day of May 2014.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Aby Mohseni,
Deputy Director, Environmental Protection and Performance Assessment 
Directorate, Division of Waste Management and Environmental Protection, 
Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management 
Programs.
[FR Doc. 2014-11285 Filed 5-14-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 7590-01-P