The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has issued a plan to revise 10 CFR 30.35 to require licensees that possess radioactive sealed sources with Category 1 or 2 quantities of byproduct material (such as cobalt-60, iodine-131, cesium-137, and americium-141) to provide financial assurance for the sources’ disposal. The radiation that these sealed sources emit is useful in a variety of ways in industry, medicine, and research, such as radiography, irradiators to sterilize medical equipment, oil and gas well logging, and to detect or treat cancer. However, as NRC has recognized, the costs of disposal can be significant—some surpass $100,000.
Although the NRC has not yet drafted the language for the proposed rulemaking, the NRC has stated that any rulemaking would not apply to facilities licensed under Parts 50, 52, 70, 72, or 76, which have separate financial assurance requirements. Additionally, NRC has recognized that disposal could consist of the sealed source being returned to the manufacturer.
The NRC plans to initiate rulemaking, even though there is no substantial evidence of a safety concern due to lack of financial assurance for disposal of sealed sources. For example, the NRC has cited only a single case in which the government had to incur costs to dispose of a sealed source due to a licensee’s bankruptcy. The Commissioners have not yet approved the plan to engage in rulemaking. Therefore, those who submit comments early to the Commissioners may be able to dissuade them from engaging in rulemaking.