BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board is slated to discussed the Department of Energy’s request for public comments on DOE’s interpretation of the definition of “high-level radioactive waste” (HLW) as stated in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982,
The request for comments was published in the Federal Register Oct. 10 and the comment period ends Dec. 10.
The Federal Register notice states that DOE manages large inventories of legacy waste resulting from spent nuclear fuel reprocessing activities from the atomic energy defense program as well as a small quantity of vitrified waste from a demonstration of commercial spent nuclear fuel processing.
Reprocessing generally refers to the dissolution of irradiated spent nuclear fuel in acid, generating liquid or viscous wastes, and the chemical processing to separate the fission products or transuranic elements of the SNF from the desired elements of plutonium and uranium, which are recovered for reuse,” the notice says.
Liquid reprocessing wastes have been or are currently stored in large underground tanks at three DOE sites: Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Idaho National Laboratory and the Office of River Protection at the Hanford Site in Washington. Solid reprocessing wastes are liquid wastes that have been immobilized in solid form and are currently stored at Savanna River, Idaho and the West Valley Demonstration Project in New York.
DOE’s interpretation of HLW is that reprocessing waste is non-HLW if the waste:
- Does not exceed concentration limits for Class C low-level radioactive waste as set out in section 61.55 of title 10, Code of Federal Regulations; or
- Does not require disposal in a deep geologic repository and meets the performance objectives of a disposal facility as demonstrated through a performance assessment conducted in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements.
Under DOE’s interpretation, the Federal Register notice says waste meeting either of these criteria is non-HLW and may be classified and disposed of in accordance with its radiological characteristics. It says at this time, DOE is not making—and has not made—any decisions on the disposal of any particular waste stream.
Also on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting is discussion of “Recommendation Regarding Site-Specific Advisory Board Involvement in Enhancing Stakeholder/Public Engagement”. The recommendation was developed by the Environmental Site-Specific Advisory Board and states that because of the variety of sites and different cleanup schedules, ESSAB members are presenting a suite of potential activities that can be implemented at varying levels at each of the sites but are applicable to all in some form.
It proposes a list of activities and recommends individual site managers/designees and their advisory boards work together to discuss and determine which activities best suit their circumstances and respond to public needs and that the detail, depth and implementation plan should result from this collaborative effort.
The board will also hear updates from the Los Alamos National Laboratory Environment Management Field Office and the New Mexico Environment Division.