RISK AND
DECISIONS

ABOUT DISPOSITION OF TRANSURANIC AND HIGH-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE

Committee on Risk-Based Approaches for Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste

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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Risk and Decisions: About Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste RISK AND DECISIONS ABOUT DISPOSITION OF TRANSURANIC AND HIGH-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE Committee on Risk-Based Approaches for Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste 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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Risk and Decisions: About Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste 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. This study was supported by Grant No. DE-FC01-99EW59049 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Energy. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. International Standard Book Number 0-309-09549-2 (Book) International Standard Book Number 0-309-54787-3 (PDF) Library of Congress Control Number 2004118206 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); http://www.nap.edu. Front cover: Cover design by Michele de la Menardiere; images courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy. Copyright 2005 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

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Risk and Decisions: About Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste 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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Risk and Decisions: About Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste COMMITTEE ON RISK-BASED APPROACHES FOR DISPOSITION OF TRANSURANIC AND HIGH-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE DAVID E. DANIEL, Chair, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign JOHN S. APPLEGATE, Vice-Chair, Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington LYNN ANSPAUGH, School of Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City ALLEN G. CROFF, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (retired), Tennessee RODNEY C. EWING, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor PAUL A. LOCKE, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland PATRICIA A. MAURICE, University of Notre Dame, Indiana ROBIN ROGERS, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa ANNE E. SMITH, Charles River Associates, Washington, D.C. THEOFANIS G. THEOFANOUS, University of California, Santa Barbara JEFFREY WONG, California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Sacramento Staff MICAH D. LOWENTHAL, Study Director DARLA J. THOMPSON, Research Associate TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative Associate ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Senior Program Assistant (until April 30, 2004) MARILI ULLOA, Senior Program Assistant

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Risk and Decisions: About Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste BOARD ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT RICHARD A. MESERVE, Chair, Carnegie Institution, Washington, D.C. ROBERT M. BERNERO, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (retired), Gaithersburg, Maryland SUE B. CLARK, Washington State University, Pullman ALLEN G. CROFF, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (retired), Tennessee DAVID E. DANIEL, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign RODNEY EWING, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor ROGER L. HAGENGRUBER, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque HOWARD C. KUNREUTHER, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia KLAUS KÜHN, Technische Universität Clausthal, Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Germany SUSAN M. LANGHORST, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri NIKOLAY LAVEROV, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow MILTON LEVENSON, Bechtel International (retired), Menlo Park, California PAUL A. LOCKE, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland NORINE E. NOONAN, College of Charleston, South Carolina EUGENE A. ROSA, Washington State University, Pullman ATSUYUKI SUZUKI, Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, Tokyo Staff KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Director MICAH D. LOWENTHAL, Senior Program Officer BARBARA PASTINA, Senior Program Officer JOHN R. WILEY, Senior Program Officer TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative Associate DARLA J. THOMPSON, Research Associate LAURA D. LLANOS, Senior Program Assistant MARILI ULLOA, Senior Program Assistant JAMES YATES, JR., Office Assistant

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Risk and Decisions: About Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste 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 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: David E. Adelman, University of Arizona, Tucson Audeen Fentiman, Ohio State University, Columbus Roy Gephart, Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington Rhea Graham, New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, Albuquerque Barbara L. Harper, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Pendleton, Oregon Milton Levenson, Bechtel International (retired), Menlo Park, California Margaret MacDonell, Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois

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Risk and Decisions: About Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste Richard A. Meserve, Carnegie Institution, Washington, D.C. D. Warner North, NorthWorks, Inc., Belmont, California Richard Parizek, Pennsylvania State University, University Park Chris Whipple, ENVIRON International Corporation, Emeryville, California 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 Louis Lanzerotti, Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, and New Jersey Institute of Technology, Murray Hill and George Hornberger, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional 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 National Research Council.

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Risk and Decisions: About Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste Preface Risk has become a pervasive concept in modern society. The public confronts it in almost every aspect of life, from recreational sports to investments to surgical procedures, and people are urged to consider risks described in qualitative or quantitative terms. In our society we are not satisfied to wait in ignorance to see how a future event comes out. In financial decisions, potential shareholders must be fully informed of the risks before investing; in medicine, patients must be informed of the health risks of a drug or medical procedure; and in protecting the environment and human health, regulators do not wait for actual harm to occur before taking protective action. In some places, owners of buildings that may be vulnerable to earthquakes must post notices of that risk at their entrances. And for thirty years, the federal government has had a requirement that the risks associated with major federal actions be assessed as part of the decision-making process. This committee's study is about the role of risk and risk assessment in decisions about federal actions that will cost tens of billions of dollars, require decades of work by possibly thousands of workers, and affect the environment for millennia. Much work precedes this committee's efforts on the role of risk in decision making and on the disposition of long-lived radioactive waste. The committee has not, therefore, tried to reinvent what has been done so ably by its predecessors. Instead, the committee has endeavored to apply insights from prior studies to the specific situation of disposition of relatively low hazard high-level radioactive waste and transuranic waste. Readers should note that the study does not cover spent nuclear fuel, commercial high-level radioactive

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Risk and Decisions: About Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste waste, or DOE wastes with undetermined waste classification or disposition path (“orphaned wastes”). Experts appointed by the National Research Council to review this report asked several interesting questions that were beyond what the committee could examine in the current report. We share these here in hopes that the ideas will not be lost. Questions were asked about the nature, time requirements and expenses associated with the RCRA delisting process. Questions were also raised about adhering to the exemption process schedule. It may be useful to explore the effects of protracted scheduling delays on cost and human health risk as a potential drawback to seeking exemptions. The statement of task states that the study “will examine the application of risk-based approaches to selected DOE waste streams to assess their practical usefulness.” In the report, the committee examines three waste types and endorses a risk-informed approach for addressing their disposition. The committee, however, specifically declines to make a recommendation concerning the disposition of these wastes. The risk-informed approach requires a formal, well-defined, participatory process for evaluating risks and other impacts; it would be inconsistent to recommend such a process and in the same report purport to conduct a useful risk analysis for disposition of the waste streams without following the approach. For the same reasons, the committee does not dictate how different factors should be balanced or valued. An important component of the study was a survey of prior studies. The literature on environmental health risks and decisions is vast and summarizing all of the previous reports would have been too large a task resulting in a too-large report. The summaries in Appendix A therefore cover only the points directly relevant to disposition of transuranic and high-level radioactive waste and the summaries in Appendix B address only studies directed at helping DOE incorporate risk into its environmental management program. There have been several political and legal developments during the course of this study. The states of Washington and Oregon and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation all filed notices of intent to sue DOE over natural resource damages at the Hanford Site. The State of Washington over-whelmingly passed a ballot initiative requiring that no additional wastes could be added to the Hanford site until waste that is already on-site has been cleaned up and stored, treated, or disposed of in compliance with all state and federal environmental laws. The committee did not examine natural resource trusteeships or natural resource damage assessments, and the report does not address the Washington ballot initiative. As the committee's report was about to enter peer review, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate agreed on legislation that could change the legal context for high-level waste

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Risk and Decisions: About Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste significantly, at least in South Carolina and Idaho. President Bush signed the act into law on October 28, 2004. In a further twist, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court decision on provisions of DOE's Order 435.1 that allow for DOE to manage some waste in its HLW tanks as transuranic or low-level waste. The report now presents a few of the details of these developments, but does not explore all of the issues that led to differing opinions on the issues by the different states and courts because they are not essential to the committee's message. It is not yet clear how either of these actions will affect plans and waste disposition, but they do not change the approach recommended by the committee. Indeed, if anything, they lay the stage for DOE to use the approach recommended here to develop its plans for disposition of TRU and HLW. If DOE is able to implement this approach in a collaborative manner with the stakeholders, American Indian nations, states, and federal regulators then the nation may avoid further litigation and legislation on these issues. The committee held public meetings in Washington, D.C., Idaho Falls, Idaho, Augusta, Georgia, and Richland, Washington. We recognize that a great deal of effort went into making these meetings possible and supporting the committee's requests for information. The committee thanks the many people at DOE headquarters and the field offices, site specialists (lab scientists and contractors), U.S. EPA headquarters and regional representatives, U.S. NRC personnel, state regulators, representatives of American Indian tribal nations, local governments, public-interest groups, and interested citizens for the time and effort they put into our study. Many of these people are listed in Appendix C as presenters at the committee's meetings. We specifically note support provided by Keith Lockie, Bill Pearson, and Mary Goldie, who served as the points of contact at INEEL, SRS, and Hanford, respectively, and coordinated excellent tours and meetings. Finally, the committee thanks the staff of the Board on Radioactive Waste Management, Micah Lowenthal, Darla Thompson, Angela Taylor, Toni Greenleaf, Marili Ulloa, and Kevin Crowley, for their assistance to the committee in completing the study. David Daniel, Chair John Applegate, Vice Chair Committee on Risk-Based Approaches for Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste

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Risk and Decisions: About Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste Contents     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1 1.   INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND   13     1.1   Introduction,   13     1.2   Background,   20 2.   WHY CONSIDER FLEXIBILITY IN DISPOSAL OPTIONS?   37     2.1   Source-Based Definitions—Widely Varied Waste,   38     2.2   Waste Streams that May Not Warrant Deep Geologic Disposal,   43     2.3   The Need for Flexibility in Disposal Options Identified,   59 3.   EXEMPTION PROCESS   61     3.1   The Problem: Inflexibility in Pursuing Appropriate Management Strategies,   63     3.2   Options for Allowing Non-Geologic Disposal of HLW and TRU,   66     3.3   An Exemption System,   77     3.4   Criteria for Exemptions,   80     3.5   Burden of Proof and Independent Decision Maker,   82     3.6   Process,   83

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Risk and Decisions: About Disposition of Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste 4.   A RISK-INFORMED APPROACH: PROCEDURES AND CRITERIA FOR RISK ASSESSMENT TO SUPPORT AN EXEMPTION PROCESS   87     4.1   Using Risk Assessment,   87     4.2   Characteristics of a Good Risk-Information Approach,   90     4.3   A Six-Step Process for Risk-Informed Decision Making,   96     4.4   Process Findings and Recommendations,   110 5.   IMPEDIMENTS TO A SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION OF THE RISK-INFORMED APPROACH   113     5.1   Risk Modeling Issues,   115     5.2   Public Participation and Stakeholder Issues,   123     5.3   Decision-Maker Issues,   127     5.4   Issues of Institutional Culture,   129 6.   FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS   139     REFERENCES   149     APPENDIXES         A.   Overview: Risk Assessment   165     B.   Summary of Previous Studies and Programs Aimed at Incorporating Risk into DOE Environmental Management Decision Making   171     C.   Information-Gathering Meetings   199     D.   Glossary   205     E.   Biographical Sketches of Committee Members   211