The Department of Energy is planning to ship contaminated process equipment from its Savannah River Site in South Carolina to Waste Control Specialists’ federal low-level radioactive waste facility in Andrews County, Texas.
The contaminated process equipment, which includes a salt sampling drill string, glass bubblers, and glass pumps from an SRS waste tank, is the second waste stream to be analyzed as a result of the DOE’s implementation of its interpretation of the statutory definition of high-level radioactive waste. The first waste stream analyzed was a small amount of SRS Defense Waste Processing Facility recycle wastewater that was shipped to the WCS facility in September 2020.
The findings: The department completed a final environmental assessment, along with a finding of no significant impact, which found that the off-site disposal of the contaminated equipment as LLW would “entail minor impacts and low risks and would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” Notice of the EA and FONSI were published in the July 20 Federal Register.
The equipment is currently being conservatively stored at SRS as if it were HLW. As the equipment also contains hazardous waste, it cannot be disposed of on site as mixed LLW. Therefore, the DOE said that the determination of a near-term disposition path will help to “mitigate on-site storage constraints, improve worker safety, and support accelerated completion of the environmental cleanup mission at SRS.”
Based on its analysis, the DOE concluded that the SRS contaminated process equipment meets the HLW interpretation for disposal as LLW in accordance with its radiological characteristics, and therefore can be safely disposed of in a LLW facility outside of South Carolina.
Draft EA: A draft EA for the disposal of the process equipment was issued by the DOE for public comment in December 2021. According to the DOE, three comment documents were received during the public comment period. Commenters included one federal agency, one state agency, and one local community organization. The comments and the DOE’s responses are included in the final EA.