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Maintaining Radioactive Material Security Through Rules, Not Orders

Kim Lukes
Health Physicist
Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards

The NRC’s rulemaking process can be lengthy. This ensures that members of the public and interested stakeholders have an opportunity to participate and provide feedback on new requirements as they are developed.

10cfrThere are occasions, though, when we need to move quickly. In these cases, the Commission can issue “orders” to any licensee to require them to address an issue promptly.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, we revised our approach to security for certain radioactive materials. The NRC issued new security requirements via “orders” to certain licensees requiring added protective measures when using and transporting certain types and amounts of radioactive material. The new requirements focused on materials the International Atomic Energy Agency designates as Category 1 and 2; which are the two most safety significant quantities.

The strongest restrictions were placed on these categories of radioactive material through the NRC orders due to their type and quantity, which can pose the greatest potential risk to health if used to do harm.

The requirements included background checks to ensure that people with access to radioactive materials are trustworthy and reliable. The orders also required access controls to areas where radioactive materials are stored and security barriers to prevent theft of portable devices.

Over the longer term, the NRC developed new regulations to formalize the requirements in the security orders. The creation of Part 37 to Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations, published in 2013, was intended to replace the orders.  These rules ensure strong regulatory standards are maintained for the protection of certain types and quantities of radioactive material. NRC licensees were required to meet the new regulations in March 2014.

The NRC has agreements with 37 states allowing them to regulate radioactive materials. The Agreement States had to adopt compatible Part 37 security requirements, and their licensees had until March 19, 2016, to comply.

Because licensees are now in compliance with the new rules, the NRC has rescinded a series of material security orders. There is no change to security for these categories of radioactive material. These licensees have maintained the same higher level of security since we first issued the orders.

We are rescinding them because they are no longer needed. Licensees are complying with the Part 37 rules, instead of the orders. More details about the rescissions and our security requirements can be found here and in 10 CFR Part 37-Physical Protection of Category 1 and Category 2 Quantities of Radioactive Material.

2 responses to “Maintaining Radioactive Material Security Through Rules, Not Orders

  1. Anonymous May 4, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    This is all well and wonderful for the security of safeguarding of radioactive material falling into bad hands. Why does not the agency give the same treatment for JLD Lessons Learnt task force enforcements orders, for example the modifications to the containment via the Interim Staff Guidance JLD-ISG-2015-01, remedies to Hardened Vents through a rule making??? Why NRC fell short of making a Rule to those orders, which were more poignant and a breach to the containment would be more catastrophic than radioactive material falling into bad hands? Just a thought, though out of context for this blog? Why this deferential treatment to that issue, it looks like the agency is cherry picking the issues? Will the moderator care to comment (if appropriate, in the other blog, if you prefer).

    • Moderator May 5, 2016 at 2:07 pm

      The NRC is in the midst of a rulemaking that covers the Mitigation Strategies order and several other actions related to lessons learned from Fukushima. The Commission, in considering the staff’s preliminary work on the containment protection rule, concluded the Order already provides the level of enhancement the rule would. The Commission decided the staff should focus its limited rulemaking resources on more significant issues.

      Scott Burnell

      Moderator: We will leave your question and this answer on this blog post; however, additional questions unrelated to this blog post should be posted to our Open Forum section.

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