The Honorable Robert F. Bennett
United States Senate
Dear Senator Bennett:
I am responding to your letter of October 22, 1999, in which
you asked for my personal views concerning the Commission's regulatory
authority over certain uranium and thorium processed waste generated prior to
1978 and administered under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program
(FUSRAP). My responses to your four questions are provided below:
1. Would you agree that the Commission should rethink
its reluctance to regulate pre-1978 material?
In addition to your letter, the Commission has received a
number of other inquiries relating to its position on the pre-1978 material. In
light of the concerns expressed by the various stakeholders, the Commission is
well aware of the differing views on this important issue. A legislative
solution would be the most direct approach to clarifying the NRC's
responsibilities under UMTRCA.
2. Would you agree that NRC licensing requirements for this
material are more protective of public health and the environment than RCRA
Both RCRA landfills and NRC-licensed disposal facilities are
protective. In general, I believe that NRC-regulated and licensed disposal
facilities, because they are subject to requirements that focus on protection
of public health, safety, and the environment from radiological hazards, may
afford more protection against radiological hazards.
3. Would you agree that the decision in Kerr-McGee v.
NRC (903 F.2d 1. D.C. Cir. 1990) supports NRC regulating all FUSRAP waste?
Yes. I believe the decision in Kerr-McGee v. NRC does tend to
support the NRC regulation of pre-1978 FUSRAP waste. However, this specific
issue was not addressed by the court. Consequently, there is ambiguity as to
the extent of the NRC's authority in this area. Thus, a legislative solution is
the most direct approach to clarifying the NRC's responsibilities under UMTRCA.
4. Would I, as NRC Chairman, support legislation that would
absolutely make clear that pre-1978 FUSRAP waste should be regulated and
disposed in licensed sites?
If Congress believes that the NRC should regulate such waste,
I stand ready to assist the Congress in amending UMTRCA. The NRC would need
additional resources to regulate pre-1978 material.
I trust that this reply is responsive to your concerns and I
apologize for my delay in responding. I look forward to working with you on
These responses represent my views and not necessarily those of
Please contact me if I can be of further assistance.