RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES FOR MANAGING THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY’S TRANSURANIC AND MIXED WASTES

Committee on Long-Term Research Needs for Managing Transuranic and Mixed Wastes at Department of Energy Sites

Board on Radioactive Waste Management

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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Research Opportunities for Managing the Department of Energy’s Transuranic and Mixed Wastes RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES FOR MANAGING THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY’S TRANSURANIC AND MIXED WASTES Committee on Long-Term Research Needs for Managing Transuranic and Mixed Wastes at Department of Energy Sites Board on Radioactive Waste Management Division on Earth and Life Studies NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu

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Research Opportunities for Managing the Department of Energy’s Transuranic and Mixed Wastes THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. Support for this study was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy under Grant No. DE-FC01-99EW59049. All opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Energy. International Standard Book Number 0-309-08471-7 Additional copies of this report are available from: The National Academies Press 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Box 285 Washington, DC 20055 800-624-6242 202-334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area) http://www.nap.edu COVER PHOTO. DOE’s inventory of transuranic and mixed wastes is large and heterogeneous. Most is stored in 55-gallon drums or larger containers. Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy. Copyright 2002 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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Research Opportunities for Managing the Department of Energy’s Transuranic and Mixed Wastes THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

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Research Opportunities for Managing the Department of Energy’s Transuranic and Mixed Wastes COMMITTEE ON LONG-TERM RESEARCH NEEDS FOR MANAGING TRANSURANIC AND MIXED WASTES AT DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY SITES LLOYD A. DUSCHA, Chair, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Retired), Reston, Virginia CAROL J. BURNS, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico RICHARD J. COLTON, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C. KIMBERLEE J. KEARFOTT, Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor RICHARD J. SAMELSON, PPG Industries (Retired), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ROBERT J. STEFFAN, Envirogen, Inc., Lawrenceville, New Jersey VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Environmental Policy and Management, Tallahassee, Florida MARIA E. UHLE, University of Tennessee, Knoxville GERBEN J. ZYLSTRA, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey STAFF JOHN R. WILEY, Study Director DARLA J. THOMPSON, Research Assistant LATRICIA C. BAILEY, Senior Project Assistant

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Research Opportunities for Managing the Department of Energy’s Transuranic and Mixed Wastes BOARD ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT JOHN F. AHEARNE, Chair, Sigma Xi and Duke University, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina CHARLES MCCOMBIE, Vice Chair, Consultant, Gipf-Oberfrick, Switzerland ROBERT M. BERNERO, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (retired), Gaithersburg, Maryland ROBERT J. BUDNITZ, Future Resources Associates, Inc., Berkeley, California GREGORY R. CHOPPIN, Florida State University, Tallahassee RODNEY EWING, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor JAMES H. JOHNSON, JR., Howard University, Washington, D.C. HOWARD C. KUNREUTHER, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia NIKOLAY LAVEROV, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow MILTON LEVENSON, Bechtel International (retired), Menlo Park, California JANE C.S. LONG, Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada, Reno ALEXANDER MACLACHLAN, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (retired), Wilmington, Delaware NORINE E. NOONAN, College of Charleston, South Carolina EUGENE A. ROSA, Washington State University, Pullman ATSUYUKI SUZUKI, University of Tokyo, Japan VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Environmental Policy and Management, Tallahassee, Florida STAFF KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Director MICAH D. LOWENTHAL, Staff Officer BARBARA PASTINA, Senior Staff Officer JOHN R. WILEY, Senior Staff Officer TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative Associate DARLA J. THOMPSON, Research Assistant LATRICIA C. BAILEY, Senior Project Assistant LAURA D. LLANOS, Senior Project Assistant ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Senior Project Assistant JAMES YATES, JR., Office Assistant

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Research Opportunities for Managing the Department of Energy’s Transuranic and Mixed Wastes Preface The production of nuclear materials for the national defense, beginning in the 1940s and continuing until the end of the Cold War, led to the accumulation of large quantities of radioactive wastes at sites throughout the country. Site cleanup is now a major, long-term task for the Department of Energy (DOE). Transuranic waste and mixed low-level waste are contaminated with relatively low amounts of actinide isotopes or fission products, respectively, and with hazardous chemicals. These wastes include such diverse materials as process residues, construction debris, equipment, and trash. Early on these wastes were buried in trenches and landfills or managed by the use of seepage and evaporation ponds. These practices were recognized as inadequate, and since 1970 these wastes have been stored for retrieval, mostly in 55-gallon drums (see cover photo). The stored inventory totals about 155,000 cubic meters, the equivalent of about three-quarters of a million drums. At least some of the approximately 500,000 cubic meters of buried waste will be retrieved. Ongoing DOE site cleanup efforts, such as stabilizing highly radioactive tank wastes and decommissioning production facilities, will result in further accumulation of transuranic and mixed wastes. Transuranic waste, which makes up more than two-thirds of the stored inventory and nearly a third of the buried inventory, is destined for permanent disposal in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, in a deep-underground salt formation in New Mexico. Mixed low-level waste will be disposed in licensed near-surface facilities operated by private contractors, although some will be disposed at DOE sites. To help reduce costs and accelerate the schedule of its overall site cleanup program, DOE is making a concerted effort to retrieve and dispose of transuranic and mixed wastes as rapidly as possible. However, work with these wastes is only beginning, and it will continue for at least 20 years. Many current procedures are cumbersome and expensive. For example, each 55-gallon drum, or other container, must be handled individually several times to determine its contents and prepare it for shipment and disposal. Any efficiencies or added effectiveness that can

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Research Opportunities for Managing the Department of Energy’s Transuranic and Mixed Wastes be gained in these procedures will reduce labor and potential risks to workers, lower costs, and accelerate the schedule. To enable such endeavors, basic research is considered a vital tool. The Congress recognized the essentiality of research and in 1995 chartered the Environmental Management Science Program (EMSP) to bring the nation’s scientific capability to bear on the difficult, long-term cleanup challenges facing DOE. To assist in this effort, the National Academies have been requested on several occasions to provide advice in developing a research agenda for the EMSP. To that end, this report is the result of a study by the National Research Council Committee on Long-Term Research Needs for Managing Transuranic and Mixed Wastes at Department of Energy Sites. To launch the study, the committee heard presentations from headquarters personnel on the policy and programmatic aspects of the Environmental Management Science Program. During the course of its study, the committee visited five sites to witness ongoing work on characterization, treatment, shipping preparation, and disposition and held meetings to receive presentations from site DOE and contractor personnel, as well as stakeholders with an interest in DOE cleanup activities. On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank DOE headquarters, field offices, sites, and laboratory staffs, as well as the contractors and many other individuals who provided information to be used in this study for their time, patience, and openness in sharing their views on research needs. The committee found many knowledgeable, informed, and concerned people in DOE and among the contractors; many of their ideas are reflected in the consensus recommendations of the committee. Information provided by members of the DOE Office of Science and Technology’s Transuranic and Mixed Waste Focus Area was especially useful. I also wish to thank and recognize the staff of the National Academies Board on Radioactive Waste Management for their willing, efficient, and most capable assistance during the study in guiding the committee through the fact-finding, report-writing, and review phases, as well as in handling the myriad of logistic details for the committee members. Lastly, I want to deeply thank the members of the committee for their dedication and diligence. Although of diverse background, they respected the overall goal of the study and report, and each made significant contributions. It was a pleasure working with the committee members and the staff of the Board on Radioactive Waste Management. Lloyd A. Duscha Chair

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Research Opportunities for Managing the Department of Energy’s Transuranic and Mixed Wastes List of Report Reviewers This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council (NRC) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The content of the review comments and draft manuscript remains confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Hugh Davis, Environmental Protection Agency Catherine Fenselau, University of Maryland Alexander MacLachlan, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (retired) Norine Noonan, College of Charleston, South Carolina Gary Phillips, Georgetown University Medical Center Gary Sayler, University of Tennessee Bruce Thomson, University of New Mexico Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Kent F. Hansen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, appointed by the Division on Earth and Life Studies, who was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with NRC procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the NRC.

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Research Opportunities for Managing the Department of Energy’s Transuranic and Mixed Wastes Contents     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1 1   INTRODUCTION, BACKGROUND, AND TASK   10     Statement of Task,   11 2   FRAMING DOE’S TRANSURANIC AND MIXED WASTE CHALLENGES   14     DOE’s Transuranic and Mixed Waste Inventory,   16     Current and Evolving Regulatory Constraints,   23     Public Concerns,   31     Summary: Meeting TM Waste Challenges,   33 3   RESEARCH NEEDS AND OPPORTUNITIES   35     Characterization,   36     Retrieval of Buried Waste,   49     Treatment,   56     Long-Term Monitoring,   69     Near-Term and Longer-Term Research,   73     REFERENCES   75     APPENDIXES         A Overview of the Environmental Management Science Program and Pending Changes   85     B The Transuranic and Mixed Waste Inventory   91     C History of Alternatives to Incineration   103     D Biographical Sketches of Committee Members   107     E Presentations to the Committee   113     F List of Acronyms   117

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