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IMPROVING THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR MANAGING DOE’S EXCESS NUCLEAR MATERIALS AND SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL Committee on Improving the Scientific Basis for Managing Nuclear Materials and Spent Nuclear Fuel through the Environmental Management Science Program 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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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 organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. International Standard Book Number 0-309-08722-8 (book) International Standard Book Number 0-309-50613-1 (PDF) Additional copies of this report are available from: The National Academies Press 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Lockbox 285 Washington, DC 20055 (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu COVER PHOTOS. Clockwise from top: Plutonium-238 from the Savannah River Site, South Carolina; Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 capsules at the Hanford Site, Washington; 14-ton cylinder containing depleted uranium hexafluoride at the Oak Ridge Reservation, Tennessee. Copyright 2003 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America
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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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COMMITTEE ON IMPROVING THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR MANAGING NUCLEAR MATERIALS AND SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL THROUGH THE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SCIENCE PROGRAM WM. HOWARD ARNOLD, Chair, Westinghouse Electric Corporation (retired), Coronado, California GREGORY B. COTTEN, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland KATHRYN A. HIGLEY, Oregon State University, Corvallis LINN W. HOBBS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge DONALD A. ORTH, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (retired), Aiken, South Carolina IRVIN OSBORNE-LEE, Prairie View A&M University, Texas MARK T. PAFFETT, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico DALE L. PERRY, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, California PER F. PETERSON, University of California, Berkeley STEVEN M. THORNBERG, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico ROBERT W. YOUNGBLOOD, ISL, Inc., Rockville, Maryland Board on Radioactive Waste Management Liaison RODNEY C. EWING, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Staff JOHN R. WILEY, Study Director DARLA J. THOMPSON, Research Assistant LAURA D. LLANOS, Senior Project Assistant
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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 GREGORY R. CHOPPIN, Florida State University, Tallahassee RODNEY EWING, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 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, The Nature Conservancy, Altamonte Springs, 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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Preface The production of nuclear materials for the national defense was an intense, nationwide effort that began with the Manhattan Project and continued throughout the Cold War. Now many of these product materials, by-products, and precursors, such as irradiated nuclear fuels and targets, have been declared as excess by the Department of Energy (DOE). Most of this excess inventory has been, or will be, turned over to DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), which is responsible for cleaning up the former production sites. Recognizing the scientific and technical challenges facing EM, Congress in 1995 established the EM Science Program (EMSP) to develop and fund directed, long-term research that could substantially enhance the knowledge base available for new cleanup technologies and decision making. The EMSP has previously asked the National Academies’ National Research Council for advice for developing research agendas in subsurface contamination, facility deactivation and decommissioning, high-level waste, and mixed and transuranic waste. For this study the committee was tasked to provide recommendations for a research agenda to improve the scientific basis for DOE’s management of its high-cost, high-volume, or high-risk excess nuclear materials and spent nuclear fuels. To address its task, the committee focused its attention on DOE’s excess plutonium-239, spent nuclear fuels, cesium-137 and strontium-90 capsules, depleted uranium, and higher actinide isotopes. The nuclear materials dealt with in this report are in relatively pure and concentrated forms, in contrast with waste and contaminated media dealt with in previous reports—in which radionuclides are typically dispersed at low concentrations in heterogeneous matrices. The committee concluded that not all of the excess nuclear materials are necessarily wastes; they cannot be re-created in the quantities now available, at least not without another effort approaching the Manhattan Project in scale, and some may have beneficial future uses. Research funded by the EMSP and other organizations should be directed primarily at discovering such uses, safely stabilizing the inventory, and developing a scientific basis for future disposition options.
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In conducting this study, the committee held six meetings and visited four DOE sites. We recognize that a great deal of effort went into arranging presentations to the committee by DOE and contractor personnel. We especially thank Mark Gilbertson and Ker-Chi Chang of DOE headquarters for their help throughout the study. Our visit coordinators at the sites were Allen Croff, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Jay Bilyeu, DOE-Savannah River; Alan Riechman, Savannah River Technology Center; and Marcus Glasper, DOE-Richland. Committee members Mark Paffett, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), and Steven Thornberg, Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) also arranged, respectively, the visit to LANL and discussions with SNL scientists in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We also recognize the staff of the National Academies’ Board on Radioactive Waste Management (BRWM) for their assistance during the study. John Wiley, who served as study director, helped to guide the committee through its fact finding, report writing, and report review. Rodney Ewing, BRWM liaison, provided much helpful advice. Staff members Laura Llanos and Toni Greenleaf were always efficient and cheerful as they handled all of the many logistic details for the committee. Finally, I want to thank the members of the committee. They were a pleasure to work with, and each made significant contributions. Wm. Howard Arnold Chairman
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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: Cynthia Atkins-Duffin, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Harold Beck, U. S. Department of Energy Environmental Measurements Laboratory (retired) David Clark, Virginia Tech Norman Eisenberg, University of Maryland Charles Forsberg, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Milton Levenson, Bechtel International (retired) Alexander MacLaughlin, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (retired) 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 Chris G. Whipple, ENVIRON International Corporation. Appointed by the National Research Council, he 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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Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 1 INTRODUCTION, BACKGROUND, AND TASK 11 2 THE CHALLENGES OF MANAGING DOE’S EXCESS NUCLEAR MATERIALS 16 3 PLUTONIUM-239 28 4 SPENT DOE NUCLEAR FUEL 43 5 CESIUM-137 AND STRONTIUM-90 CAPSULES 52 6 DEPLETED URANIUM 60 7 THE HIGHER ACTINIDES 70 8 CONCLUSIONS 81 REFERENCES 84 APPENDIXES A Nuclear Materials Production in the DOE Complex 97 B Biographical Sketches of Committee Members 102 C Presentations to the Committee 107 D List of Acronyms 111
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