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Fact Check

Itís important to understand that naturally occurring radioactivity is found in nature and materials all around us, thus very low-level radioactive material is disposed of everywhere, all the time.

Findings/Recommendations

  Findings and Recommendations of The Tennessee Municipal Solid Waste Advisory Committee; August 20, 2007
  2008 Solid Waste Management Response to BSFR Recommendations
  2008 Radiological Health Response to BSFR Recommendations
  2008 Radiological Health - Roles of Staff

BSFR Waste Volumes Disposed

  Link to Table

Archives of 2007 BSFR Meetings and External Links


Helpful Links

  Bulk Survey For Release Program (BSFR) home
  Solid Waste Advisory Committee Web site
  Division of Radiological Health
  Division of Solid Waste Management

Tennessee’s Bulk Survey for Release (BSFR) program was developed in order to have a standardized process to analyze materials with extremely low levels of radioactive contamination for disposal in specified Class I landfills. These levels of contamination, while detectable with modern equipment, pose no hazard to human health or the environment by being disposed of in this manner. Examples of materials analyzed under the program are bulk materials such as building rubble, metals, soils, asphalt, paper, plastics and wood.  

Tennessee is unique in that it has more waste processors than other states due to the role played by the Oak Ridge Reservation in the development of atomic energy plus our proximal and historical relationship to the licensed, low-level radioactive waste disposal site at Barnwell, South Carolina. However, Tennessee is not the only state that allows very low-level radioactive material to be disposed of in modern landfills. Materials that are candidates for the BSFR program are of such low levels other states generally would exempt them from further regulation as a radioactive material and allow their unrestricted disposal. In contrast, Tennessee has developed a regulatory framework for it.

Bulk Survey for Release (BSFR) is a term for a licensed process that has been approved by the Department of Environment and Conservation to allow the disposal of materials with extremely low levels of radioactive contamination at four different Class I landfills in Tennessee. Four licensees in Tennessee are currently authorized to conduct the BSFR program: IMPACt, Studsvik-RACE, Toxco and Duratek/Energy Solutions. The Division of Radiological Health staff conducts regular inspections of licensed processors in order to review their operation for compliance with all standards, regulations and required conditions.

Nuclear power plants and other industrial, academic and medical sites that utilize very low-level radioactive materials may send their waste to one of the four licensees for processing. Before going to the licensee’s facility for required sampling and analysis, these materials are evaluated at the generator’s site to ensure the material does not exceed predetermined limits set by the BSFR program. Upon receiving these materials from the generator, the licensed processor will also sample, measure and evaluate the material to make sure it meets BSFR criteria prior to being disposed of as part of this program. Furthermore, materials processed at a licensee’s facility still have to pass through detection monitors before disposal at an authorized landfill site.

There are four Class I landfills in Tennessee authorized to receive wastes under the BSFR program: Chestnut Ridge landfill facility in Heiskell (Anderson County), North Shelby County, South Shelby County, and Carter Valley in Hawkins County. The criteria for accepting material under the BSFR program are extremely conservative.  BSFR waste cannot contribute more than five percent of the total landfill waste, and it cannot contribute a dose of more than one millirem per year to any member of the public. To put that in perspective, the public is exposed to approximately 300 millirems per year in Tennessee from naturally occurring radiation in the environment.

Any material that does not meet the strict requirements of Tennessee’s BSFR program would need to be disposed of in a licensed radioactive waste facility.  There are three such commercial facilities in the United States.  By allowing waste that does not pose any significant risk to be disposed of under the BSFR program, space in the limited number of radioactive waste facilities can be conserved for the material that truly requires that type of disposal.