IEER Comments on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Rulemaking Regarding the “Safe Disposal of Unique Waste Streams Including Significant Quantities of Depleted Uranium”
by Arjun Makhijani
October 30, 2009

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Opening paragraph:

On March 18, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) directed its staff to proceed with a rulemaking to amend the low-level waste rule to take into account the gap in the existing rule, which does not address depleted uranium waste created in large amounts, such as at uranium enrichment plants. This followed the preparation by the staff of a paper, SECY-08-147, which presented the Commission with four options. The March 18, 2009, decision was to proceed with Option 2 as specified in SECY-08-147.

Final recommendations:

  • The present rulemaking be stopped.
  • A new rulemaking that corresponds to Option 3 should be initiated for significant amounts of DU.
  • The possibility that DU will fall into the Greater than Class C category of low level waste should be explicitly included.
  • The option of deep geologic disposal should be considered – indeed, given the text of the low-level waste rule as it now stands, this would the normal mode of disposal of significant amounts of DU.
  • Performance standards as set forth in Subpart C should be maintained.
  • There should be no limit on the period of performance.
  • A change in the method by which performance is evaluated could be considered along the lines that are specified in the French high-level waste rule cited above.
  • The NRC should ensure that sound and defensible scientific assumptions, methods, and analytical tools are used and that input data represent conditions that might reasonably be expected, or that would put an upper limit to dose calculations.
  • The NRC should exercise more oversight over agreement states to ensure that the methods, data, conclusions, analyses, computer models, and parameter values meet at least minimal tests of scientific soundness.