Watching the watchers: NRC oversight helps ensure state materials programs hit the mark

Federal law allows states to enter into agreements with the NRC which permit them to regulate the use of certain types of nuclear materials within their borders that would otherwise be overseen by the NRC. The NRC refers to these states as “Agreement States.”

Thirty-seven states have chosen to go this route, resulting in about 19,000 or the 22,000 material licenses nationwide falling under the jurisdiction of Agreement States. The other roughly 3,000 material licenses remain under the authority of the NRC.

Even though these agreements are in place, the NRC retains an oversight role. As such, the NRC periodically assesses the Agreement State programs to determine if they are adequate to protect public health and safety and are compatible with our program. (Materials inspections performed by the NRC’s Regional Offices are also subject to periodic reviews.)

Toward this end, the NRC in 1994 designed and piloted a new review process for Agreement State radioactive materials programs called the Integrated Materials Performance Evaluation Program, or IMPEP. In 1996, the NRC began full implementation of IMPEP.

So how exactly are these evaluations carried out? One of the first steps is to ask the Agreement State program being reviewed to respond to a questionnaire, which asks detailed questions about the program. Another initial step entails having qualified inspections accompany the program’s inspectors to assess their performance.

Next, a thorough on-site examination of records and interviews of program personnel are conducted.

Once the on-site review is finished, the IMPEP team – made up of NRC staff and experts from Agreement States other than the one being evaluated — issues a draft report of its findings to the program undergoing scrutiny for any comments on factual accuracy. Any comments received are then dispositioned and a proposed final report is issued.

A public meeting of a Management Review Board (MRB), which is comprised of senior NRC managers and an Agreement State manager who serves as a liaison, is held. At this session, the MRB reviews the proposed final IMPEP report and renders a final determination of the program’s adequacy and compatibility.

After this meeting is held, and the evaluation is finalized, the NRC issues a final report to the Agreement State that was reviewed. Those reports are made public in the NRC’s electronic document system.

Each day in the United States, radioactive materials are used for purposes that include the treatment and diagnosis of diseases, making food safer and industrial applications, such as detecting oil in the ground or cracks in pipes. The Agreement States, in conjunction with the NRC, work to ensure those uses remain as safe as possible for the public and for the environment.

Neil Sheehan
Region I Public Affairs Officer

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

5 thoughts on “Watching the watchers: NRC oversight helps ensure state materials programs hit the mark”

  1. US is using radio active materials in a very efficient manner.US as always is showing the way to other nations in world.
    @Annu vu Here I completely agree with moderator.There were no official signs of NRC involvement with licensed radio active materials at china basin.

  2. The China Basin area in San Francisco was apparently built partially on an old landfill, but there was no NRC involvement with licensed radioactive materials at the site. If you have concerns about what may have been buried there, we suggest you contact the Radiologic Health Branch in the California Department of Public Health – that’s the office that regulates radioactive materials in California.

    Radiologic Health Branch
    1500 Capitol Ave., MS 7610
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    PH (916)445-2196

  3. What are your guys knowledge on the radioactive material down by China Basin in San Francisco? Reports are coming out that there is radioactive material buried beneath the newly built high-rises, which is really unfortunate because I just began working for a startup,, which is DIRECTLY ABOVE it. Apparently it use to be a huge shipping yard area and they were lazy about dealing with radioactive waste. Now, people are demanding that they do tests, but the land owners are refusing because they know what is under there. How unsafe is it to work there?


  4. I agree, the transparency is something that is needed in a lot of other govt organizations… This is a very important area of government that is grossly overlooked and also a reminder of the good things that the govt provides for its citizens…

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