The Department of Energy is considering disposing of contaminated process equipment from its Savannah River Site (SRS) at a commercial low-level waste facility using its recent interpretation of the statutory term “high-level radioactive waste,” which classifies waste generated from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel based on its radiological content rather than its origin.
In a January 19 Federal Register notice, the DOE announced that it intends to prepare a draft environmental assessment on the disposal of contaminated process equipment from SRS at a licensed LLW disposal facility outside of South Carolina. The DOE said that it will analyze commercial disposal options for three specific types of equipment that were contaminated during the on-site treatment of reprocessing waste: Tank 28F salt sampling drill string, glass bubblers, and glass pumps. Currently, there is no disposal pathway for SRS process equipment that has been contaminated with reprocessing waste.
This would be the second time that the DOE has used its revised HLW interpretation to dispose of a waste stream from the South Carolina site in a LLW facility. Last year, the DOE shipped eight gallons of recycled wastewater from the Defense Waste Processing Facility to Waste Control Specialists’ (WCS) disposal facility in Texas.
The options: The DOE is considering two disposal alternatives. Under the first alternative, if the equipment is determined to be Class A LLW, it would be shipped to either the WCS facility in Texas or EnergySolutions' facility in Clive, Utah. Under the second alternative, if the equipment is found to be Class B or C LLW, it would go to WCS’s facility. Both options are dependent on waste content and compliance with facility waste acceptance criteria.
Prior to making a decision, the DOE would characterize the contaminated process equipment to verify that it meets the department’s HLW interpretation for disposal as non-HLW and complies with the waste acceptance criteria and all other requirements of the chosen disposal facility. The waste would be stabilized and packaged at SRS prior to being shipped off-site.
Availability: The DOE said that it plans to issue a FR notice this year on the availability of the draft environmental assessment. Based on that analysis, the department will either issue a finding of no significant impact or announce its intention to prepare an environmental impact statement.
WM manual update: The DOE has also updated its Manual 435.1–1, Radioactive Waste Management Manual, to formally incorporate the department’s interpretation of the statutory definition of HLW. Notice of limited change to Manual 435.1–1 was published in the January 19 FR. According to the DOE, the objective of the change is to continue to ensure that all DOE radioactive waste, including reprocessing waste, is managed in a manner that protects worker and public health and safety, and the environment.