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    Bill: State may oversee nuclear materials

    May 16, 2023 - John Moritz


      Connecticut regulators are poised to take a more direct role in overseeing much of the radioactive materials used in medicine, industry and academic labs under a bipartisan bill making its way through the state legislature.

      The legislation would help clear the way for Connecticut to become the 40th state to reach an agreement with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to transfer oversight of radioisotopes and certain other nuclear materials -- such as those used in PET scans, radioactive dating and other everyday uses -- to state officials.

      Under each of the agreements, the NRC retains its jurisdiction over radioactive material used in power plants, as well as spent nuclear fuel.

      Lawmakers agreed to take up the bill at the request of Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes, whose agency would assume the responsibility of licensing and inspecting users of covered materials, as well as impounding sources of radiation that may pose an immediate safety or environmental risks.

      Dykes said that assuming oversight of nuclear materials would streamline regulatory efforts, and provide a more localized connection between regulators and those entities covered by the agreement.

      "DEEP has been working with NRC during the multi-year review process to align statutory and regulatory processes, and to complete the necessary training for DEEP radiation staff to implement all of the requirements and thereby meet all federal programmatic requirements," Dykes wrote in testimony to lawmakers.

      The General Assembly's Public Health Committee on Monday became the third panel to sign off on the bill, meaning it will likely be sent to the House floor for consideration. So far, each of the three votes have come with broad bi-partisan support.

      "Basically, it's a public safety bill and a consumer protection bill which is focusing on giving the authority to the commissioner of DEEP to be able to intervene if there are concerns about business or sites that have risk of nuclear material," said state Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, who co-chairs the committee.

      Gov. Ned Lamont declared the state's intent to become a so-called "agreement state" in a letter to NRC Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki in 2020, which cited the state's existing "close local partnership" with entities that use radioactive materials for research and health care.

      "For decades, Connecticut has managed an effective program for the protection of the public health and safety from radiation hazards in the use of x-ray machines in healthcare, industry and academia," Lamont said. "We also have exceptional resources in radiological and nuclear emergency preparedness and for monitoring radiation in the environment."

      The bill before lawmakers would revise several of the state's statutes on the use of nuclear materials to align with federal regulations. In his letter, Lamont said he expected the state to complete work on the agreement in early 2025.

      The shift to becoming an agreement state would likely result in additional revenues in the form of fees that are currently collected by the NRC, according to legislative analysts, who predicted that those fees would be more than enough to offset the cost of any enforcement actions undertaken by DEEP.

      Other agreement states include the neighboring states of New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.


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