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Mixed Waste
Waste Management: 

Joint NRC-EPA Memo on Siting Guidelines for LLMW


This memo was published with NRC-EPA's Siting Guidelines for LLMW disposal sites. It was signed by J. Winston Porter, EPA Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response, and Hugh L. Thompson, Jr., NRC Director for Nuclear Material and Safeguards on March 13, 1987.

TO: The States and Compact Regions

SUBJECT: Combined NRC-EPA Siting Guidelines for Disposal of Mixed Low-Level Radioactive and Hazardous Waste

As you are aware, the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985 (LLRWPAA) established milestones (and penalties for not meeting these milestones) to ensure adequate development of future disposal capacity for commercial low-level radioactive waste (LLW). The penalties are quite severe and the deadlines do not leave much room for slippage.

We would like to call to your attention the January 1, 1988 milestone (Section 5(e)(l)(B)) which requires that each non-sited compact or non-member state develop a siting plan for a LLW disposal facility. These siting plans must include detailed procedures and a schedule for establishing a disposal facility location and preparing a license application. Among other things, Section 5(e)(1)(B)(ill) provides that the siting plan shall:

"... identify, to the extent practicable, the process for (l) screening for broad siting areas; (2) identifying and evaluating specific candidate sites; art (3) characterizing the preferred site(s), ..."

This letter serves four purposes:

  1. to inform states and Compacts that, under current Federal law, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have dual jurisdiction over mixed low-level radioactive and hazardous waste (Mixed LLW)
  2. to state that both NRC and EPA do not consider the absence of EPA's final comprehensive location standards to be justification for states and compacts to not meet their obligations under the LLRWPAA
  3. to convey that both NRC and EPA are committed to providing guidance to states and compacts who request help in their efforts to meet the January 1988 LLRWPAA milestone for siting plans
  4. to jointly transmit the NRC-EPA combined siting guidelines for Mixed LLW (enclosed).

Dual statutory authority exists for Mixed LLW, which is regulated by the NRC under the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), as amended, and by EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), as amended. Mixed LLW is defined as waste that satisfies the definition of LLW in the LLRWPAA and contains hazardous waste that either is listed in 40 CFR Part 261 Subpart D or causes the LLW to exhibit any of the hazardous waste characteristics identified in 40 CFR Part 261 Subpart C. Both the NRC and EPA staffs consider that Mixed LLW can be disposed of in accordance with the above statutes and NRC and EPA regulations.

In 1982, the NRC promulgated regulations containing minimum site suitability requirements for LLW land disposal facilities under 10 CFR Part 61. In 1981, EPA promulgated minimum location standards for hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities in 40 CFR Part 264. Section 3004(o)(7) of RCRA, which was added by the hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984 (HSWA), requires EPA to publish guidance dandifying areas of vulnerable hydrogeology; this guidance was completed and issued in July 1986. Section 3004(o)(7) of RCRA also requires EPA to specify criteria for the acceptable location of new and existing hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities as necessary to protect human health and the environment. EPA anticipates proposing these location standards in September 1987 and promulgating them by September 1988. This schedule provides affected states and compacts with a preview of the final standards and an opportunity to comment on the standards before promulgation.

Because of uncertainty about the precise content of EPA's future location standards, states and compacts may have questions regarding the site selection process. Both NRC and EPA are committed to providing guidance to states and compacts who request help in developing their siting plans by the January 1, 1988 deadline. Technical questions pertaining to siting a disposal facility for Mixed LLW should be submitted in writing to either the NRC or EPA contacts listed below, as appropriate.for questions about the LLRWPAA For questions relating to siting deadline or NRC's site EPA's location standards suitability requirements, contact:

Division of Waste Management
Mall Stop 623-SS
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, D.C. 20555

Office of Solid Waste
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW 
Washington, D.C. 20460-0001

In summary, if states and compacts observe the enclosed NRC-EPA combined siting guidelines and keep abreast of the developing EPA location standards, the absence of final RCRA location standards should not prevent states and compacts from meeting their obligations under the LLRWPAA.

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