The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a final rule to regulate future disposal sites for low-level radioactive wastes in 24 states.

None of the three existing disposal sites -- at Beatty, Nev., Richland, Wash., and Barnwell, S.C. -- complies with the rules, an agency official said. He said they will be exempted anyway because they are already operating and are in three of the 26 states with authority to regulate the disposal of low-level radioactive wastes.

The regulations would apply in Virginia and the District since those jurisdictions have no rules of their own.

The regulations would require operators to segregate three classes of wastes because the least radioactive category compresses as it ages, causing theearthen covers on the dump sites to fall in, said Paul H. Lohaus, director of the agency's low-level waste licensing branch.

Lohaus said, "There's no danger in terms of how the operating sites are doing it today. The requirements would give an improved level of performance, and most importantly, would provide greater overall site stability and reduce the need for long-term maintenance and long-term high costs to the site owner."

The new rules were supported by several states and disposal site operators.

The NRC said in its Federal Register notice, however, that they were criticized by those whose opposition "appeared to stem from objections to nuclear power and use of radioactive materials." (FR 57446)