Indiana Seeks to Control Permitting of Low-level Radioactive Materials

February 2, 2022

The state of Indiana is seeking authorization to take control of permitting for low-level radioactive materials, a move it said would benefit the state and the regulated community financially.

Senate Bill 381 sets the framework for entering the state into an agreement with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that would allow the state to assume regulatory authority over industrial, medical and academic uses of radioactive materials and low-level waste.

The state would also have authority to license and regulate low-level radioactive waste facilities in the state.

The NRC would still regulate nuclear reactors and the spent fuel from those facilities.

States have been allowed to run their own permitting programs for low-level radioactive materials since 1985, as long as they receive NRC approval. So far, 39 state programs have been approved by the NRC, including Indiana’s neighbors, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio.

The bill would establish the state’s program, which would be used as part of the application process for NRC approval.

Gov. Eric Holcomb kicked off Indiana’s application process in June 2021 by formally requesting the transfer of authority.

“As Governor, I will ensure that Indiana dedicates the resources necessary to meet the requirements of the Agreement. Upon becoming an Agreement State, we will work to create an accessible and efficient regulatory program for the benefit of our citizens and communities and make available resources for sustainable radiation safety,” Holcomb wrote.

The move is backed by Eli Lilly and Co. and other members of the Indiana Health Industry forum and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, who would ultimately carry out the state’s radioactive materials permitting program.

The NRC currently manages the radioactive materials licenses for 267 entities in the state.

Radioactive materials are used in a variety of industries, including construction, where nuclear densometers are used to determine soil density, and in the medical field, including radioisotopes used in x-ray machines, blood irradiators and radiopharmaceutical drugs.

Equipment that uses radioactivity is also used by Indiana agriculture, in the form of radiometric grain yield monitors and other equipment, and the food industry, where it’s used to kill microorganisms and insects in food products.

IDHS said a state program for radioactive materials would allow the state to charge licensing fees that would be less expensive than what the federal government currently charges and would allow the state to process and approve licenses faster than currently accomplished by the NRC.

“Indiana is becoming a hub for the radiopharmaceutical industry. Creating partnerships between the state and these businesses would increase public health, public safety and economic development,” said IDHS legislative director Alyssa Schroeder. “In addition to industry, all Hoosiers would benefit if Indiana became an agreement state because state and local public safety officials would have greater insight into where sources of radiation in the state are located, how they are used and how to respond appropriately if an incident were to occur.”

The bill passed the Senate and is now being considered by the House. Should SB381 become law, IDHS estimates that the NRC’s approval process could take about four years.

Indiana Seeks to Control Permitting of Low-level Radioactive Materials