States Pursuing Agreements - FAQs

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Agreement State?

Congress authorized the NRC in Section 274b. of the Atomic Energy Act to enter into Agreements that allow States to assume, and the NRC to discontinue, regulatory authority over byproduct, source, and small quantities of special nuclear material. The State can then regulate byproduct, source and small quantities of special nuclear materials that are covered in the Agreement, using its own legislation, regulations, or other legally binding provisions. The Commission will enter into an Agreement if the Commission finds the State program adequate to protect public health and safety and compatible with the NRC's regulatory program. The NRC ensures that an Agreement State program remains adequate and compatible through periodic review and assessment under the Integrated Materials Performance Evaluation Program (IMPEP).

How many Agreement States are currently in the Agreement State Program?

There are 39 Agreement States that regulate approximately 16,000 radioactive material licenses, or approximately 88 percent of all radioactive material licenses nationally.

What exactly does an Agreement with a state allow the State to regulate and what would the NRC continue to regulate?

The agreement with the NRC and the State will allow the state to assume regulatory authority over the possession and use of byproduct material, source and special nuclear material in limited quantities used at academic, commercial, and medical facilities.

A State can assume authority over the any of the following:

  • Byproduct material as defined in Sections 11e(1), of the AEA
    • Radionuclides produced by fission
  • Byproduct material as defined in Sections 11e(2), of the AEA
    • Uranium mill tailings
  • Byproduct material as defined in Sections 11e(3), of the AEA
    • Radium 226 and accelerator produced material, fusion energy systems
  • Byproduct material as defined in Sections 11e(4), of the AEA
    • Currently no material
  • Source material
    • Uranium and thorium greater than 0.05% by weight
  • Special nuclear material in quantities not sufficient to form a critical mass
  • Sealed source and device evaluation (SS&D)
  • Land disposal of byproduct, source, and special nuclear material waste received from other persons (LLRW)

The NRC would retain regulatory authority over the following:

  • Protection of common defense and security
  • Federal agencies
  • Federally Recognized Tribal reservations and lands
  • Production and utilization facilities (commercial and research nuclear power plants)
  • Exports and imports
  • Disposal in the ocean
  • High-level waste handling and disposal
  • Transfer of materials to persons exempt from licensing (consumer products)
  • Large quantities of special nuclear material
  • Off-shore waters

West Virginia, Indiana, and Connecticut are all in the process of obtaining Agreements for the transfer of Byproduct material as defined in Sections 11e(1), of the AEA, Byproduct material as defined in Sections 11e(3), of the AEA, Byproduct material as defined in Sections 11e(4), of the AEA, Source material, and Special nuclear material in quantities not sufficient to form a critical mass.

What are the steps in the process by which a State becomes an Agreement State?

  • The Governor sends a letter to the NRC Chairman expressing the intent to become an Agreement State.
  • The State submits a draft application to the NRC for review and comment.
  • The Governor certifies that the State has an adequate program and submits a formal request that includes supporting legislation, regulations, program description and staffing.
  • The NRC assesses the request and after Commission approval publishes the staff's assessment and proposed Agreement for a 30-day comment period.
  • The NRC assesses public comments and prepares a final assessment.
  • After Commission approval, the Chairman and the Governor sign the agreement.

How long is the proposal review process that results in a State becoming an Agreement State?

The NRC's part of the process takes about a year to complete starting when the agency receives the final application from the State. Adding the time it takes for the State to develop its program, train its staff, and adopt compatible regulations, after it sends in a letter of intent, the entire process typically requires approximately 4 years.

Where can I find a State’s specific timeline of the process?

Each State’s timeline can be found on the state-specific page.

What opportunities are currently available or will be available in the future to comment on the State’s program and the governing regulations?

Those interested in receiving information about the State's program should contact the NRC point of contact which can be found on the state-specific pages.

Will the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and/or the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews continue to be part of application reviews for materials covered under the Agreement once the State becomes an Agreement State?

No, unless another federal agency, such as the Bureau of Land Management or the Environmental Protection Agency, is involved in the licensing action. The NHPA and NEPA are Federal statutes that apply to federal undertakings and major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. Future licensing reviews would be State actions and subject to the regulations developed by the State.

Would the transfer of regulatory authority from the NRC to the State be considered a Federal undertaking as defined in the NHPA and therefore require consultation to comply with Section 106 with federally recognized Tribes and other concerned individuals and stakeholders?

No. The review and consideration of an application for an Agreement is not a federal undertaking that is subject to NHPA Section 106 review.

If federally-recognized Tribes have concerns about the State proposal and the impact of the NRC's acceptance of the State as an Agreement State or Tribal engagement, what are the channels for expressing these concerns?

Federally recognized Tribes may contact the NRC tribal liaison, which can be found on the state page, with any concerns about Tribal engagement.

Will the State regulate activities on Tribal land held in trust by the Federal government, Tribal reservations, or allotted land?

No. Federally recognized Tribes and their land or reservations that are in an area of exclusive federal jurisdiction are only subject to the NRC's regulatory authority. The NRC will continue to regulate the possession and use of byproduct, source and special nuclear materials if they are on land or reservations under exclusive federal jurisdiction. Case-by-case determinations will be needed to determine regulatory authority over Tribal lands that are not under exclusive federal jurisdiction.

What if a federally recognized Tribe leases its land to a private operator? Who would regulate?

The NRC would still be the regulatory authority if a federally recognized Tribe leases its land under exclusive federal jurisdiction to a private operator. Case-by-case determinations would be needed to determine regulatory authority if the Tribal lands are not under exclusive federal jurisdiction.