Need for Greater Regulatory Oversight of Commercial Low-Level Radioactive Waste

EMD-78-101: Published: Aug 16, 1978. Publicly Released: Aug 16, 1978.

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Nuclear power plant operations generate the greatest volume of low-level radioactive wastes. Because of a lack of adequate burial space on the east coast, there is a need for federal policy to encourage utilities to reduce waste volumes. Waste-treatment systems installed in nuclear power plants to handle low-level wastes have experienced operational difficulties resulting in increasing the potential for unnecessary exposures to nuclear power plant workers and unplanned releases to the environment.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) should: (1) require that waste-treatment-system performance, operability, operator training, and management control be assessed to a greater extent than is currently being done during its licensing and inspection efforts; (2) establish a system for monitoring the performance and reliability of waste-treatment systems in operation to ensure that poor performing systems are not used in new plants and that releases and exposures are kept to the lowest level reasonably achievable; (3) revise existing procedures to ensure that major changes to waste-treatment systems are reviewed and approved by NRC in a timely manner prior to implementation by the utilities; (4) determine on a priority basis the safety of the contractor mobile waste-solidification system currently being used to ensure that there are no unanswered safety questions; (5) consider the chemical composition of low-level waste when approving the design of waste systems and evaluate their effects on the performance of waste-treatment systems in operation; and (6) undertake a study aimed at minimizing waste volumes being generated at existing plants.

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