Box 2:

Statement of Task

The National Academies will examine the requirements for waste form technology and performance in the context of the disposal system in which the waste form will be emplaced. Findings and recommendations will be developed to assist DOE in making decisions for improving current methods for processing radioactive wastes and for selecting and fabricating waste forms for disposal. The study will identify and describe:

  • Essential characteristics of waste forms that will govern their performance within relevant disposal systems. This study will focus on disposal systems associated with high-cost waste streams such as high-level tank waste and calcine but include some consideration of low-level and transuranic waste disposal.

  • Scientific, technical, regulatory, and legal factors that underpin requirements for waste form performance.

  • The state-of-the-art tests and models of waste forms used to predict their performance for time periods appropriate to their disposal system.

  • Potential modifications of waste form production methods that may lead to more efficient production of waste forms that meet their performance requirements.

  • Potential new waste forms that may offer enhanced performance or lead to more efficient production.

The committee will not make recommendations on applications of particular production methods or waste forms to specific EM waste streams.

A major focus of the DOE-EM cleanup program is on retrieving legacy wastes resulting from nuclear weapons production and testing and processing them into waste forms suitable for disposal in onsite or offsite facilities. Some waste requires minimal processing to make it suitable for disposal; for example, lightly contaminated solid waste generated during facility decommissioning may be suitable for disposal in near-surface engineered facilities with little or no processing. Other waste will require more extensive processing to make it suitable for disposal; for example, HLW, liquid wastes from facility decontamination, contaminated resins from groundwater cleanup, and radioactive sources and other nuclear materials used in civilian and defense applications may require processing to destroy organic components; to remove components that are incompatible with the processing method or final waste form or that are not acceptable for disposal; and to immobilize radioactive and other hazardous components. DOE-EM is using a variety of waste forms to immobilize these components.

The committee observes that the DOE-EM cleanup program is successfully processing waste and producing waste forms at several sites. For example, DOE has completed HLW vitrification at the West Valley, New York, site. DOE is also retrieving HLW from tanks at the Savannah River Site, separating it into high-activity and

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