HARRISBURG – Under an agreement signed last week with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Pennsylvania assumed regulatory authority over approximately 700 radioactive material users in the state, a change Gov. Edward G. Rendell said will strengthen public safety by improving emergency response capabilities.
The governor said with its new “agreement state” status, Pennsylvania will be better able to provide timely and accurate information to state and local authorities responding to incidents involving radioactive materials, which improves public safety.
“This move increases public safety because state officials will have greater knowledge of the radioactive materials that are being used in Pennsylvania, and will be better able to respond to any emergency situation,” Rendell said. “State officials are usually the first to respond to incidents involving radioactive materials. Now, these officials will have more knowledge to protect the public from the first minute they arrive on scene.”
Under the agreement, Pennsylvania assumes regulatory authority from the NRC over most of the in-state facilities using radioactive materials—the majority of which are medical facilities treating patients with nuclear medicine procedures. Industrial, construction and pharmaceutical firms using radioactive materials also now fall under the state’s jurisdiction, as do colleges and universities using nuclear materials for academic purposes. Pennsylvania’s nine nuclear power plants and one research reactor will continue to be regulated by the NRC. The Governor added that the agreement also improves the business climate through lower licensing fees and less duplicative regulatory requirements.
“Pennsylvania’s businesses will benefit because state licensing fees are expected to be lower than the NRC’s in the long run,” said the governor. “These savings will help to reduce costs and encourage businesses to locate and expand here, creating jobs for Pennsylvanians.” Radioactive material licensing fees are expected to generate at least $2 million a year, which should be sufficient to fund the entire cost of licensing, inspecting and regulating facilities within the state that hold such licenses. As required by law, no state general fund tax dollars will be used for this program. “Many of Pennsylvania’s major employers — medical facilities, pharmaceutical makers and manufacturers— use radioactive materials,” said Rendell. “Providing these businesses with a single point of contact on issues related to radioactive materials and x-rays helps eliminate the potential for confusion and will streamline the regulatory and licensing process for these companies. That means a more efficient operation from the state’s perspective and fewer regulatory hurdles and expenses for companies.”
The NRC licensed 693 radioactive material users in the state and, prior to gaining the agreement state status, Pennsylvania licensed 436 users. About half of the state’s licensees were also licensed by the NRC. As an agreement state, Pennsylvania assumes oversight of the 693 NRC-licensed users and, discounting for the facilities carrying two separate licenses from the state and federal government, Pennsylvania will now license and regulate 911 total license holders. Pennsylvania will manage the licensing and regulation efforts using highly trained radiological health physicists within the Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Radiation Protection. Many of these employees have been licensing, inspecting and regulating the radioactive materials licensees now under state jurisdiction, including all the medical and industrial facilities that use x-ray generating machines. Pennsylvania was directed to enter into an agreement with the federal government to regulate radioactive materials by the state’s Radiation Protection Act, or Act 147 of 1984. Information on the agreement is available by contacting DEP’s Bureau of Radiation Protection at 717-787-2480, or by visiting here, keyword: Radiation Protection.