Nuclear material safety and safeguards


Material Information

Nuclear material safety and safeguards fact sheet
Series Title:
Physical Description:
9 p. : ; 23 x 11 cm.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- Office of Public Affairs
USNRC, Office of Public Affairs
Place of Publication:
Washington, D.C
Publication Date:
Rev. 3.


Subjects / Keywords:
Nuclear energy -- United States   ( lcsh )
federal government publication   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


General Note:
Cover title.
General Note:
Shipping list no.: 2000-0061-P.
General Note:
"August 1999"--P. 4 of cover.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 021392454
oclc - 43257112
System ID:

This item is only available as the following downloads:

Full Text
Y 3.N 88:31/0137/ REV.3

Material Safety


Office of Public Affairs
Washinglon. DC 201555-0001

Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2012 with funding from
University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries with support from LYRASIS and the Sloan Foundation

Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The U.S. Nuclear lRep~la ory (Coi mission regulate's IIedicail.
academic nid coiniercial uses of IuclelIar maIerials to Jprtect
public health aId(1 safety aidl the (Il'nirollInent and to ensure tlhe
commillon dlfelnse and security.

The ageniy issues liceiises for nuclear power plants, other
types of co0mmerciial anlll research nuclear reactors, the pro-
duction and use of reactit fuel, and the processing and use of
radioactive material produced in reactors. The NRC also
certifies packages for the tranilm ortatiio of nuclear materials
and regulates the shipment of the materials and the disposal of
radioactive wastes.

All n1on-reIactor NRC licensees are regulated by the Office
of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (NMSS), one of
three major NRC program offices establlished by law. NMSS's
responsibilities fall into six principal areas:

(1) Licensing of fuel cycle facilities
(2) Licensing of nuclear materials for uses other than
in reactors
(3) Regulation of the transportation of nuclear materials
(4) Safeguarding of nuclear materials from sabotage and
diversion to unauthorized uses
(5) Regulation of radioactive waste disposal facilities and
(6) Regulation of the decommissioning of previously licensed
nuclear facilities that are no longer in use.

Some of these functions are carried out by the four NRC
Regional Offices,

Fuel Cycle Facilities

The various processing operations required to produce fuel
for nuclear reactors are conducted in NRC-licensed fuel cycle
facilities. Activities at these facilities include:

* Certain types of uranium mining activities
* Milling and refining uranium ore to produce uranium

* Production of uranium hexafluoride from uranium concen-
trates to provide feed material for isotopic enrichment of
uranium-235 to levels needed for a nuclear reaction
Isotopic enrichment processing of uranium hexafluoride to
produce fuel with a higher percentage of uranium-235 than
in natural uranium, which is mostly (99.8%) uranium-238
Fabrication of nuclear reactor fuel, including converting
enriched uranium hexafluoride to uranium dioxide, forming
it into pellets, loading the pellets into zircaloy tubes that are
fitted with end caps and welded, and assembling the rods
into fuel elements and
* Reprocessing spent fuel for recycle. (This step is not
performed in the United Sates.)

Most of the manufacturing operations that make up the
nuclear fuel cycle are licensed by the NRC. Exceptions are
uranium mining and uranium milling in Agreement States.

At the present time there is no reprocessing of commercial
nuclear fuel in the United States; spent fuel is being stored for
later disposal in a high-level waste repository. However, the
NRC is conducting a safety review of DOE's high-level waste
solidification activities at the closed-down West Valley, NY,
reprocessing facility.

NMSS's Division of Fuel Cycle Safety and Safeguards
reviews operational safety, radiation protection and criticality
safety programs as part of the licensing process for fuel cycle

The office also provides policy guidance and technical
support to the NRC regional offices and to Agreement States
on their licensing and inspection activities and on incident and
emergency responses to ensure protection of the public health
and safety. At the present time NRC fuel cycle licenses number
about 24.

Nuclear Materials

The NRC regulates approximately 8,200 licenses for the
possession and use of radioactive materials for purposes other
than the generation of electricity or operation of a research
reactor. The 30 Agreement States (which are states that have
accepted authority, through agreement with the NRC, over the
licensing of radioactive materials within the state) regulate
about 15,000 radioactive materials licenses.

Most of the ahouit .,0)(0 NR( materials lic'Ienss are admin-
istered by the NIR(s four regional offices. NMSS's D)i\ision of
Industrial and Medical Nuclear Safety at headquarters provides
national direction to the regional licensing and inspection
acti\'ities. It also provides technical guidance alnd Support to to the
regional offices and. upon request, to the Agreement States.

NMSS also takes appropriate actions to control safety
issues involving nuclear materials licensees and directs NRC
responses to emergencies in this area.

Uses of n11Llear materials under these licenses include
medical diagnosis and treatment, food irradiation, sterilization
of surgical gloves. smoke detection and industrial measure-

Transportation of Nuclear Materials

Approximately 3 million packages of radioactive materials
are shipped in the United States each year. The transportation of
these materials is regulated jointly by the NRC and the Depart-
nient of Transportation (DOT). The responsibilities of the two
agencies are generally divided as follows:

DOT Regulates packages for small amounts of radio-
activity, carriers of radioactive material and the conditions of
transport (such as routing, vehicle requirements, handling
and storage).

NRC Regulates users of radioactive material and the
design. construction, use and maintenance of shipping contain-
ers for large amounts of radioactivity.

Requirements for the shipping containers vary according to
the amount of radioactivity in the material being transported.

Type B Packages

Containers used to transport spent fuel, which is highly
radioactive, must be "Type B" packages that are designed to
withstand a series of impact, puncture, and fire environments,
thereby providing reasonable assurance that the packages will
withstand severe transportation accidents. NMSS's Spent Fuel
Project Office initially reviews the package design to verify its
resistance to accidents. An approval certificate must be issued
by NMSS before a package, called a "cask," can he used to
transport spent fuel.

NRC regulations require that all states located on approved
routes be notified by the licensee before a series of spent fuel
shipments begins. Under DOT's guidelines, a state may indicate
a preferred route through the state other than via an Interstate
System highway.

In addition to the protection provided to spent fuel ship-
ments by the Type B shipping container, a physical protection
system is applied to minimize the possibilities of radiological
sabotage of the shipments, particularly in highly populated
areas. Armed escorts must be provided while a shipment travels
through urban areas, for example. NMSS also must approve
routes proposed by licensees for shipment of spent fuel to ensure
that sabotage concerns are considered.

Type A Packages

Small amounts of radioactivity cam be shipped in "Type A"
packages. Contents are restricted so that failure of packages
containing these materials would not present a serious health
problem if the contents were released. Type A packages must be
designed to withstand normal conditions of transport, but not

Most medical isotopes are shipped in Type A packages.
Lesser amounts of radioactivity, such as that contained in smoke
detectors, may be shipped in ordinary boxes.

Low Specific Activity Packages

Another category, the "Low Specific Activity" package, is
used where the radioactivity is low concentration, such as
uranium ore or yellowcake. LSA material may be shipped in bulk
or packages and presents a minimal health hazard in transport.

NMSS develops policy and guidance for inspection and
quality assurance programs to ensure that transportation
regulations are followed for nuclear materials shipments.
Approximately 1,000 individual inspections are performed by
the NRC per year principally by the regional offices.

In case of an accident involving actual or suspected leakage
during the transportation of packages of radioactive material
regulated by the NRC, the agency's role includes ensuring that
affected parties are aware of the event and offering and
responding to requests for technical assistance by providing
information, advice and evaluations. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency is responsible for coordinating federal

ad11(1 tate partiiipathin ill dteloping ifergellcy resposlmlN plans.
The state goeflrnmilt ill affe Ictetd ar la is rI(cc, ni/'dW ais Ie'ing
responsible for asslumiiig cImtrl fl of tlhe av(ident seeIe t1 prJotct
the public health and safety.

Safeguarding of Nuclear Materials

"Safeguards" refers to (1) Imeasures taken to deter. prevent
or respond to the unauthorized possession o1 use4 of significant
quantities of special nuclear inaterial through theft or di\versilo
and (2) measures taken to protect against radiological sabotage
of nuclear activities.

NMSS, in consultation with otler Federal agencies.
continually reviews the dollestic and f'reignl threat en\viron-
ments and their relationships to NRC's domestic safeguards
regulations. The staff also reviews threat-related information
on a continuous basis to monitor any change in adversary
characteristics and to assess safegiuards-related events asso-
ciated with NRC-licensed facilities and activities.

NMSS's Division of Fuel Cycle Safety and Safeguards
develops and implements safeguards policies and the overall
safeguards program for licensed nuclear materials, facilities
and activities. It recommends improvements for physical
security and nuclear materials control and accountability.
Protection provided in the co mmercial sector for weapons-
usable "special nuclear material" is comparable to that provided
for similar material under goerninent control. (The term
"special nuclear material" refers to plutonium. uranium-233.
uranium containing more than the natural abundance of
uranium-23:5 or any material artificially enriched in any of
these substances.)

The Division also performs international safeguards and
foreign physical protection evaluations of nuclear export license
applications, coordinates implementation of the United States/
International Atomic Energ Agency Safeguards Agreement at
NRC-licensed facilities, and provides technical support to
strengthen IAEA safeguards through interagency groups and
direct assistance.

Safeguards for nuclear power reactors generally stress
protection against radiological sabotage such as a deliberate
tampering or breaching of containment that could result in
spread of radioactive materials in an uncontrolled fashion -
rather than theft or diversion.

Safeguards for licensed nuclear fuel cycle facilities and
non-power reactors (such as university or research reactors)
emphasize protection against theft or diversion of special
nuclear material.

NMSS's Division of Fuel Cycle Safety and Safeguards is
responsible for protecting against radiological sabotage and
theft or diversion of special nuclear material at nuclear fuel
facilities and during transportation. Another NRC office, the
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, performs this function
for reactors.

Radioactive Waste Disposal

Radioactive wastes generated from commercial uses of
radioactive material include high-level and low-level wastes
and mill tailings. High-level radioactive waste consists of
irradiated nuclear reactor fuel and certain liquid and solid
wastes resulting from the reprocessing of irradiated reactor
fuel. All other radioactive waste is low-level. The NRC also
regulates mill tailings, which are the residues from processing
ore to recover uranium and thorium.

High-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal

No facilities are presently available for the permanent
disposal of high level radioactive wastes. In passing the
Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA), Congress found that
a national problem had been created by the accumulation of
spent fuel from nuclear reactors, certain materials from the
reprocessing of spent fuel, and other highly radioactive materi-
als requiring permanent isolation.

The NWPA provided for the development of repositories for
the disposal of high-level radioactive wastes and spent nuclear
fuel. In 1987, the NWPA was amended to focus the development
of a repository on only one site Yucca Mountain, Nevada. If
the Nevada site does not prove suitable, the Department of Energy
(DOE) is mandated to obtain further Congressional guidance.

The NWPA gave DOE the responsibility for siting, construct-
ing, operating and decommissioning the repository under NRC
license and regulation. The NRC is charged with evaluating
DOE's application for authority to construct a repository and
reaching a licensing decision on construction authorization
within three years from the receipt of the application. After the
repository construction is completed, DOE will apply to NRC for
a license to receive and possess the wastes.

DOE will also apply to NRC for license ainendients if they
inlltend to pernnialnently close the repository, disilanitle surface
facilities, remove controls to restrict (ce ss to the site or
undertake any other activities in\olviing an unreviewed
safety question.

The Divisioin of \Waste ManIage ment within the Office of
Nuclear Material Safety and Siafegllards manages the NRC"s
program for licensing. inspecting and regulating the repository.
This includes Ideeloping a program of pre-licensing interface
with DOE. Federal and State authorities and any affected Indian
tribes. The aim is to achieve an ongoing g understanding of DOE's
program and identify repository licensing concerns and issues
at an early stage.

Until the repository is approved and constructed, spent
nuclear fuel is being stored primarily in specially designed,
water-filled basins or dry storage casks at individual reactor
sites around the country. Alternative methods for additional
storage may include:

Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installations using wet
storage in separate pools or dry storage in casks, modules or
vaults off the reactor site. A license of this type has been issued
for a wet storage pool at an off-reactor site to General Electric
Co., Morris. Illinois. The NRC is reviewing an application from
Private Fuel Storage for an independent spent fuel storage
installation in Utah, using dry casks.

Monitored Retrievable Storage Facilities which may be
built by the Department of Energy. NMSS is responsible for
reviewing applications for such storage facilities and issuing a
license to operate, if appropriate.

Low-Level Waste

Two disposal sites in the United States are currently
accepting low-level radioactive waste from certain areas of the
country. The two sites are located in Barnwell. South Carolina,
and Hanford. Washington. Under a provision of the Atomic
Energy Act enabling states to assume certain regulatory
responsibilities from the NRC, both sites are licensed by the
"Agreement States" in which they are located.

NMSS's Division of Waste Management provides guidance to
Agreement States in low-level waste areas.

The Barnwell low-level waste facility will generally accept
waste from all states except North Carolina. The Hanford

facility accepts waste from the states of Alaska, Colorado,
Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah,
Washington and Wyoming. In addition, Envirocare of Utah is
licensed by the NRC to operate a facility near Clive, Utah, for
disposal of uranium and thorium mill tailings. The facility
also accepts certain other radioactive wastes under a State of
Utah license.

The Low-level Radioactive Waste Policy Act gave the
States rather than the Federal government responsibility
for providing additional disposal capacity for low-level radio-
active waste. Most states have entered into regional compacts
to provide adequate disposal capacity in the future without
building a new waste facility in every state. Sites located in
non-Agreement States will be regulated by the NRC.

NRC regulations and guides contain performance objectives
and technical requirements for the land disposal of low-level
wastes. Performance objectives include limits on radioactive
material released to the environment and provide for protection
against inadvertent intruders after active operations cease.

Technical requirements in NRC's regulations and guides
include an examination of site suitability to ensure avoidance of
sites with, for example, unacceptable earthquake vulnerabilities
and erosion or flooding. Environmental monitoring is required
before the site is chosen to provide basic data about the site.
Similar monitoring is required during operation to provide early
warning of releases of radioactive materials before they leave
the site boundary. The regulations also require proper packaging
and form of the waste and classifying each package of waste to
indicate its radiological hazards, based on the concentration of
radioactive materials.

Low-level wastes exceeding the limits of NRC's classifica-
tion system are to be disposed of by the Federal Government.
The Department of Energy is responsible for disposal of these
wastes, but has not developed a facility for their storage or
disposal. Disposal in the high-level waste repository is one
option recognized by the NRC.

The NRC licenses and regulates uranium mills, heap
leaching facilities, ore-buying stations, commercial in-situ
solution mining operations and uranium extraction research
and development projects. The licenses are administered by
NMSS's Division of Waste Management. NMSS also is reviewing
the remedial actions that DOE is taking at two inactive mill
tailings sites.


-De) olmmi bi illing" meialis, r,,l]io,\ i a nIl ii*Ilar lcll' ilt Irllril
service and(1 rli u ini r'u i idual radltlii 'tivity t, i ll I\. th' 1at
permits ter timiation of thie li. ii,.

For nuclear powl r re rllctors, NMlSS\s Rl)i isin i of \
.Maialit nilt is 'espon sibti. t r i\,'ill ratrtr lhic set rs,
during the final l stail s t dt (t'c(lnllll ,iiii a ,ter fuel lia ll n't'i
nremPH d fl'1ron thi' spent iip i f)u l l nd l[or ij()l)j i i tl 'criniiiatillon
of the li ense \\ihen thli i't', dcfulili',ilolii ailrtiviti.N are sucrt't -
fully completed.

The NlC iE oup that liciscs o)p'ralii nuIcitirlar poWl,\r
plants. the Offict of NuIlc'ar Relulation. IasN responsibilities'
during the initial stages of decronimiissioniniig i haIs complihlte
responsibility for regulating' the d('ecommi.inini of rec isrsch
and test reactors.

NMISS"s Divisiconr f \\ist, Ma~na.~i'lnenlt )proid(s national
direction, technical guidlati ce on dct'rcllmi.sisi in ri'\ic\\s and
support for all non-reactor licensees.

The above areas of trespolsibilit\ evwlrved froml tfie Eineri'
Reorganization Act of 1974, which established NNMSS as (one of
the three major program offices of the NKC. Under this authority
granted by Congress. NM.SS has ai primary rolet in ensuring' that
the NRC performs its mission to ren'llate the .,safe ulse of( nuclear
materials in the public sector.


3 1262 08858 5855

For Additional Information Contact:

Office of Public Affairs
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, D.C. 20555-0001
(301) 415-8200

Regional Public Affairs Offices

Region I

Region II

Region III

Region IV

475 Allendale Road
King of Prussia, PA 19406-1415
(610) 337-5330

Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth Street, S.W
Atlanta, GA 30303-3415
(404) 562-4416

801 Warrenville Road
Lisle, IL 60532-4351
(630) 829-9663

611 Ryan Plaza Drive
Suite 400
Arlington, TX 76011-8064
(817) 860-8128

NUREG/BR-0137, Rev. 3
August 1999

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