Some of Hanford’s tank waste to be disposed of off-site as LLW

February 9, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

As preparations continue for immobilizing millions of gallons of low-activity tank waste at the Hanford Site in Washington state through vitrification, the Department of Energy has issued two key decisions for the handling and disposing of vitrified low-activity waste (LAW) and associated secondary wastes.

The decisions will allow the DOE to dispose of a portion of its tank waste as low-level radioactive waste at an off-site commercial disposal facility. Stored in underground tanks, Hanford’s radioactive waste was generated in part by the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel during the Manhattan Project and Cold War eras for defense-related purposes.

WIR evaluation: First, the DOE has determined that vitrified LAW and secondary wastes are waste incidental to reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, are not high-level radioactive waste, and can be safely managed and disposed of as LLW.

That decision is contained in the DOE’s report, Final Waste Incidental to Reprocessing Evaluation for Vitrified Low-Activity Waste and Secondary Waste at the Hanford Site, Washington, which was made available to the public on January 31.

Done in consultation with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and with input from tribal nations, states, stakeholders, and the public, the evaluation addresses approximately 23.5 million gallons of separated, pretreated, and vitrified LAW. It also addresses secondary wastes generated by or derived from such vitrification of LAW.

Record of decision: Second, the DOE completed a National Environmental Policy Act supplement analysis supporting an amended record of decision to transport and treat some of these secondary wastes at off-site commercial treatment facilities.

While most of the secondary waste will be disposed of on-site at Hanford’s Integrated Disposal Facility, some of the treated secondary wastes will be disposed of at the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) Federal Waste Facility in Andrews County, Texas. According to the DOE, approximately 350 cubic meters of solidified secondary waste could be disposed of annually at the WCS site.

Documents supporting the DOE’s decisions regarding low-activity tank waste are available on Hanford’s Vitrified Low-Activity Waste program webpage.

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