Nuclear Regulation:

Action Needed to Control Radioactive Contamination at Sewage Treatment Plants

T-RCED-94-247: Published: Jun 21, 1994. Publicly Released: Jun 21, 1994.

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GAO discussed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) regulation of radioactive wastes at sewage treatment plants, focusing on: (1) the extent of radioactive contamination resulting from discharges by NRC licensees; (2) what NRC and others are doing to limit and monitor the radioactive material at treatment plants; and (3) NRC actions to determine whether treatment plant workers and the public are being exposed to radioactively contaminated sludge and ash. GAO noted that: (1) NRC regulations may not be adequate to control low-level radioactive materials discharged into municipal sewer systems; (2) over the last 10 years, at least 9 cases of radioactive contamination have occurred at treatment plants; (3) NRC has revised its regulations so that all licensees have to reduce the level of radioactive material discharged to treatment plants; (4) NRC is sponsoring a study to determine the impact of its revised regulation and is seeking information to determine if it needs to further amend its regulations; (5) NRC believes that no imminent health risk exists for treatment plant workers or the general public; and (6) NRC and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies on the impacts of radioactive materials on workers and the public have been inconclusive.

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