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April 09, 2013
NRC packages security requirements

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a major final rule affecting security requirements for radioactive by-product materials possessed by licensees.   Specifically affected are by-product quantities equal to or greater than category 1 or category 2 quantities, also called risk-significant radioactive material, comprising 16 radioactive substances (14 single radionuclides and 2 combinations).  

NRC licensees will be familiar with many of the security requirements, which the NRC and the 37 Agreement States have included in security enhancement orders since September 11, 2001.  The NRC notes that while orders stay in effect indefinitely, they do not apply prospectively to applicants for new licenses.  This compels the NRC to issue new orders to cover new and amended licenses and perhaps reissue orders periodically to existing licensees if requirements or administrative practices change.  “In order to make the requirements generally applicable to all present and future licensees, the security-related requirements need to be placed in the regulations,” says the NRC.

10 CFR 37

The NRC has assembled the security requirements for by-product material into a new part–10 CFR 37.  According to the Commission, the establishment of a new part is more effective and efficient compared to interspersing the requirements with safety requirements or placing them with the separate 10 CFR 73 safety and physical protection requirements for special nuclear material.

The orders that have been codified address license verification before the transfer of the materials, access control, intrusion detection and response, and coordination with local law enforcement authorities.  The orders also contain requirements for the licensee to determine the trustworthiness and reliability of individuals permitted unescorted access to risk-significant radioactive materials.  The determination involves a background investigation of the individual. 

Background investigations were originally limited to local criminal history records checks with law enforcement agencies, verification of employment history, education, personal references, and confirmation of employment eligibility (legal immigration status).  Under authority provided by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, background checks were expanded to include fingerprinting and FBI criminal history checks.

Affected licensees

The security requirements apply to the NRC and Agreement State licensees that possess an aggregated category 1 or category 2 quantity of radioactive material or that transport irradiated reactor fuel less than 100 grams net weight.  Affected are a wide range of licensees, such as:

  • Pool-type irradiator licensees
  • Manufacturer and distributor licensees
  • Medical facilities with gamma knife devices
  • Self-shielded irradiator licensees (including blood irradiators)
  • Teletherapy unit licensees
  • Radiographers; well loggers
  • Broad scope users
  • Radioisotope thermoelectric generator licensees, and
  • Licensees that ship or prepare for shipment category 1 or category 2 quantities of radioactive material

Most of the impact of the final rule will be felt by about 1,400 licensees now implementing the various orders.  In addition, some fuel cycle and reactor licensees that possess sources at these levels may be impacted.  Some decommissioning reactor licensees may also be impacted, says the NRC.

The NRC says it plans to issue guidance on the security requirements for category 1 and category 2 quantities of radioactive materials.

The final rule on physical protection of radioactive by-product material was published in the March 19, 2013, FR.

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