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Radiation Protection

Radiation Regulations and Laws

Congress and the president assign radiation protection responsibilities to EPA through laws (also known as statutes). Specific statutes make EPA responsible for writing regulations that explain what must be done to obey the law. Regulations are requirements that can apply to individuals, businesses, states, local governments, or other institutions. Many environmental regulations set standards that limit the amount of a hazardous material allowed in the environment.

Read about how regulations are developed on EPA's Laws and Regulations web page.

Click on the tabs below to see the regulations and laws that protect the public and environment from radioactive pollutants.

Specific Radiation Sources

Nuclear Power Operations

Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Nuclear Power Operations (40 CFR Part 190)

These standards limit radiation releases and doses to the public from the normal operation (non-emergency) of nuclear power plants and other uranium fuel cycle facilities.

40 CFR Part 190: Rule Review and Background Documents

Spent Nuclear Fuel, High Level, and Transuranic Wastes

Management and Storage of Spent Fuel, High Level and Transuranic Wastes (40 CFR Part 191)

This regulation sets environmental standards for the disposal of spent nuclear fuelHelpspent nuclear fuelFuel that has been withdrawn from a nuclear reactor after use. It is still highly radioactive., high-level wastes and transuranicHelptransuranicElements with atomic numbers higher than uranium (92). For example, plutonium and americium are transuranics. radioactive wastes.

Uranium Mill Wastes

Health and Environmental Protection Standards for Uranium and Thorium Mill Tailings (40 CFR Part 192)

This regulation sets standards for the protection of the public health, safety and the environment from radiological and non-radiological hazards associated with uranium and thorium ore processing, and disposal of associated wastes. In January 2015, EPA proposed adding a new Subpart F to 40 CFR 192 that would establish ground water restoration and monitoring requirements at in-situ recovery facilities.

40 CFR Part 192: 2015 Proposed Rulemaking and Background Documents

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)

Criteria for the Certification and Recertification of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s Compliance with the 40 CFR Part 191 Disposal Regulations (40 CFR 194)

These criteria apply to the certification and recertification of compliance with the radioactive waste disposal standards at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. WIPP is a deep geologic repository operated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for permanent disposal of a specific type of waste from the nation's nuclear defense program.

Yucca Mountain

Public Health and Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Yucca Mountain, Nevada (40 CFR Part 197)

These regulations, promulgated in 2008, establish public health and environmental standards for storage and disposal of spent nuclear fuel at the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission would implement these regulations at Yucca Mountain if a repository were to be established there.

40 CFR Part 197 Resources


The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate airborne emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from a specific list of industrial sources called "source categories." Standards known as the "National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants" (NESHAPs) dictate specific regulatory limits for source categories that emit radionuclides. 

View compliance software for radiation laws and regulations.

40 CFR Part 61: National Emission Standards For Hazardous Air Pollutants: Subpart

B: Radon Emissions from Underground Uranium Mines

H: Emissions of Radionuclides Other than Radon from Department of Energy Facilities

I: Radionuclide Emissions from Federal Facilities Other than Nuclear Regulatory Commission Licensees and Not Covered by Subpart H

K: Radionuclide Emissions from Elemental Phosphorus Plants

Q: Radon Emissions from Department of Energy Facilities

R: Radon Emissions from Phosphogypsum Stacks

T: Radon Emissions from the Disposal of Uranium Mill Tailings

W: Radon Emissions from Operating Mill Tailings

Drinking Water

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), EPA sets legal limits on the levels of certain radionuclides in drinking water.

Radionuclides in Drinking Water

  • Atomic Energy Act (AEA)

    1946 - Atomic Energy Act as amended in 1954 (42 USC 2011 et seq.)

    The Atomic Energy Act (AEA) gives EPA authority to establish environmental standards and to issue recommendations on radiation protection to federal and state organizations. This authority was transferred from the former Atomic Energy Commission to EPA in 1970.

    Learn more about the Atomic Energy Act (AEA).

  • Clean Air Act (CAA)

    1963 - Clean Air Act as amended in 1970, 1977, 1990 (42 USC 7401 et seq.)

    The CAA is the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from area, stationary and mobile sources. Section 112 provides EPA the authority to list hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and to develop and enforce emission limits for each of them. Some HAPs are radionuclides.

    Learn more about the Clean Air Act (CAA).

  • Clean Water Act (CWA)

    1972 - Federal Water Pollution Control Act amended by the Clean Water Act of '77, '87 (33 USC 1251 et seq.)

    The CWA regulates the discharges of pollutants, including some radionuclides, into the waters of the United States. It authorizes EPA and states to set and enforce quality standards for surface waters. The primary objective of the CWA is to restore and maintain the integrity of the nation's waters.

    Learn more about the Clean Water Act (CWA).

  • Energy Policy Act (EnPA)

    1992 - Energy Policy Act (PL 102-186)

    The EnPA requires EPA to "promulgate standards to ensure protection of public health from high-level radioactive wastes in a deep geologic repository that might be built under Yucca Mountain in Nevada." It directs EPA to issue site-specific public health and safety standards for the proposed Yucca mountain repository.

    Learn more about the Energy Policy Act (EnPA).

  • Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) and Amendments

    1982 - Nuclear Waste Policy Act (42 USC 10101 et seq.)

    The NWPA establishes procedures to evaluate and select sites for deep geologic repositories for the safe storage and/or disposal of radioactive waste. It assigns DOE the responsibility to site, build and operate a deep geologic repository for the disposal of high-level wastes (HLW) and spent nuclear fuel (SNF). It directs EPA to develop standards for protection of the environment from off-site releases of radioactive material in repositories. The NWPA directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to license a repository only if it meets EPA's standards and all other relevant requirements.

    Amendments to the NWPA directed DOE to consider Yucca Mountain as the sole site for the first geologic repository for high-level waste (HLW) and spent nuclear fuel (SNF). It also established a commission to study the need and feasibility of a monitored retrievable storage facility.

    Learn more about the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) and Amendments.