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Approaches to an Integrated Framework for Management and Disposal of Low-Activity Radioactive Waste: Request for Comment; Proposed Rule

Federal Register, November 18, 2003, Page 65119

Agency

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Action

Advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR).

Summary

This Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) requests public comment regarding options to promote a more consistent framework for the disposal of radioactive waste with low concentrations of radioactivity ("low-activity"). Of immediate interest is low-activity mixed waste (LAMW). This waste is both chemically hazardous according to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and is radioactive with low radionuclide concentrations under the purview of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (AEA). Such waste is regulated and managed under both authorities but under certain conditions, one authority may be sufficient to provide public health and environmental protection. In particular, given appropriate limits on radionuclide concentrations in LAMW, disposal of LAMW in RCRA Subtitle C hazardous waste landfills, with their prescribed engineering design and associated RCRA requirements (e.g., waste treatment, waste form), may provide protection of public health and the environment. This document focuses on effective use of the RCRA-C disposal technology for the disposal of LAMW. We (the Environmental Protection Agency) seek comment on standards that would codify this approach and provide greater flexibility for the safe disposal of LAMW.

Beyond LAMW, however, there is a wide variety of radioactive wastes with relatively low concentrations of radioactivity; these wastes are not considered mixed wastes because they are not regulated under both RCRA and the AEA. Examples of such low-activity waste include certain AEA radioactive wastes, certain wastes from the extraction of uranium or thorium (such as those generated by the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP)), a variety of wastes that fall into the technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials (TENORM) category, and certain decommissioning wastes. Some AEA wastes are deferred from regulation, such as "unimportant quantities'' of source material with less than 0.05 percent uranium or thorium, and would be characterized as another form of low-activity radioactive waste (LARW, of which low-activity mixed waste would be a subset). Some radioactive wastes are regulated strictly down to the last atom while other low-activity wastes are regulated primarily for their chemically hazardous constituents. Some of these wastes may be unregulated or regulated under a framework lacking clarity and consistency. We seek comment on possible regulatory and non-regulatory options to provide a more coherent framework to manage LARW, and information to improve the scientific characterization of such wastes.

We envision that any standards promulgated to address the use of the RCRA-C disposal technology for LAMW (or, more broadly, LARW) would offer a new disposal option for these wastes. This would provide the flexibility to allow States, disposal facility operators, and waste generators to account for specific State or local regulatory constraints and economic considerations in determining whether they would choose to implement this disposal option for protective management and disposal of these wastes.

Dates

To ensure that your comments will be considered in future actions related to this document, please submit your comments no later than March 17, 2004.

Addresses

Comments may be submitted by mail to: Air and Radiation Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA West Room B108, Mailcode: 6102T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention Docket ID No. OAR-2003-0095. Comments may also be submitted electronically, or through hand delivery/courier. Follow the detailed instructions as provided in Unit I.B of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section. Please be aware that mail addressed to EPA headquarters may experience delays in delivery resulting from physical security screening. We will consider that fact when evaluating comments received after the end of the comment period.

Further Information

Dan Schultheisz, Radiation Protection Division, Office of Radiation and Indoor Air, Mailcode: 6608J, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, 20460-0001; telephone (202) 343-9300; e-mail schultheisz.daniel@epa.gov.

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