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--> The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant A Potential Solution for the Disposal of Transuranic Waste Committee on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Board on Radioactive Waste Management Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1996
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--> 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 competencies and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Support for this study on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, under Grant No. DE-FC01-94EW54069. All opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Energy. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 96-68944 International Standard Book Number 0-309-05491-5 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Box 285 Washington, DC 20055 800-624-6242 202-334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area) http://www.nap.edu Cover: Federal regulations require calculations to show that the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), if certified as a transuranic radioactive waste repository, is expected to isolate waste from the environment for the next ten millennia. Current plans call for the erection on site of permanent markers containing signs and symbols, intended as decipherable messages to warn future generations of the dangers to nature and to human health of digging into a filled and sealed repository below the surface. Coincidentally, ten millennia is also the approximate age of the earliest known pottery from Asia. One millennium ago, a now-extinct Indian tribe, the Mimbres, lived in Arizona and New Mexico. The cover shows a Mimbres pottery design, perhaps representing the delicate balance of nature, using a man and two animals in a mobile arrangement. The Mimbres design is used by permission from Art of a Vanished Race: The Mimbres Classic Black-On-White, by Victor M. Giammattei and Nanci Greer Reichert, Published by Dillon Tyler, Publishers, P.O. Box 645, Calistoga, CA 94515. The background photograph, provided by the Department of Energy Carlsbad Area Office, shows a close-up of a sample of Permian age salt crystals taken from the WIPP excavations. The permanence of the geologic salt formation (over 200 million years old) is an attractive feature of the WIPP site and illustrates the exceptional time scales of concern in nuclear repository design, time scales that extend well beyond the typical duration of most engineering projects, languages, and civilizations. Copyright 1996 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America
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--> COMMITTEE ON THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT CHARLES FAIRHURST, Chair, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis HOWARD ADLER, Oxyrase, Incorporated, Knoxville, Tennessee JOHN O. BLOMEKE, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (retired), Tennessee SUE B. CLARK, Washington State University, Pullman FRED ERNSBERGER, University of Florida, Gainesville RODNEY C. EWING, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque B. JOHN GARRICK, PLG, Inc., Newport Beach, California LEONARD F. KONIKOW, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia KONRAD B. KRAUSKOPF, Stanford University (emeritus), California DELLA ROY, Pennsylvania State University (emerita), University Park DAVID A. WAITE, CH2M Hill, Bellevue, Washington CHRIS G. WHIPPLE, ICF Kaiser Engineers, Oakland, California THOMAS A. ZORDAN, Zordan Associates, Murrysville, Pennsylvania Staff INA B. ALTERMAN, Senior Staff Officer ROBERT S. ANDREWS, Senior Staff Officer and Study Director (through December 1995) THOMAS KIESS, Staff Officer and Study Director (beginning December 1995) REBECCA BURKA, Senior Project Assistant DENNIS DUPREE, Senior Project Assistant ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Project Assistant ERIKA L. WILLIAMS, Project Assistant DONNA J. AHRENS, Consultant
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--> BOARD ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT MICHAEL C. KAVANAUGH, Chair, ENVIRON Corporation, Emeryville, California B. JOHN GARRICK, Vice-Chair, PLG, Incorporated, Newport Beach, California JOHN F. AHEARNE, Sigma Xi and Duke University, The Scientific Research Society, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina JEAN M. BAHR, University of Wisconsin, Madison SOL BURSTEIN, Wisconsin Electric Power (retired), Milwaukee ANDREW P. CAPUTO, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, D.C. MELVIN W. CARTER, Georgia Institute of Technology (emeritus), Atlanta PAUL P. CRAIG, University of California (emeritus), Davis MARY R. ENGLISH, University of Tennessee, Knoxville ROBERT D. HATCHER, JR., University of Tennessee/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Knoxville DARLEANE C. HOFFMAN, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, California JAMES JOHNSON, Howard University, Washington, D.C. CHARLES McCOMBIE, National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste, Wettingen, Switzerland H. ROBERT MEYER, Keystone Scientific, Inc., Fort Collins, Colorado PRISCILLA P. NELSON, University of Texas, Austin D. KIRK NORDSTROM, U.S. Geological Survey, Boulder, Colorado D. WARNER NORTH, Decision Focus, Incorporated, Mountain View, California PAUL SLOVIC, Decision Research, Eugene, Oregon BENJAMIN L. SMITH, Independent Consultant, Columbia, Tennessee Staff KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Director ROBERT S. ANDREWS, Senior Staff Officer KARYANIL T. THOMAS, Senior Staff Officer THOMAS KIESS, Staff Officer SUSAN B. MOCKLER, Research Associate LISA J. CLENDENING, Administrative Assistant ROBIN L. ALLEN, Senior Project Assistant REBECCA BURKA, Senior Project Assistant DENNIS L. DUPREE, Senior Project Assistant PATRICIA A. JONES, Project Assistant ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Project Assistant ERIKA L. WILLIAMS, Project Assistant
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--> COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES GEORGE M. HORNBERGER (Chairman), University of Virginia, Charlottesville PATRICK R. ATKINS, Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania JAMES P. BRUCE, Canadian Climate Program Board, Ottawa, Ontario WILLIAM L. FISHER, University of Texas, Austin JERRY F. FRANKLIN, University of Washington, Seattle DEBRA KNOPMAN, Progressive Foundation, Washington, D.C. PERRY L. MCCARTY, Stanford University, California JUDITH E. MCDOWELL, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts S. GEORGE PHILANDER, Princeton University, New Jersey RAYMOND A. PRICE, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario THOMAS C. SCHELLING, University of Maryland, College Park ELLEN SILBERGELD, University of Maryland Medical School, Baltimore STEVEN M. STANLEY, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida Staff STEPHEN RATTIEN, Executive Director STEPHEN D. PARKER, Associate Executive Director MORGAN GOPNIK, Assistant Executive Director GREGORY SYMMES, Reports Officer JAMES MALLORY, Administrative Officer SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate MARQUITA SMITH, PC Analyst & Project Assistant
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--> 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 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. William A. Wulf is interim 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. Kenneth Shine 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 of 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 Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and interim vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.
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--> Acknowledgments The committee has spent countless hours over the more than ten years since its last full report on WIPP, in discussions with staff from DOE and its contractors, EPA, officials of the State of New Mexico, the Environmental Evaluation Group, community leaders from Carlsbad, and concerned citizens. In open meetings held several times a year for more than a decade, the committee has heard a wide diversity of views on WIPP. Genuine concerns have been expressed without rancor or polemics, but with conviction and unfailing courtesy. This is a tribute to the community involved in and concerned about WIPP. For the committee, and particularly the chair, it has been a privilege to have participated in these discussions. We sincerely appreciate all of the information and insights gained and hope that our report will be of value in arriving at an appropriate decision on the proposal to establish a TRU waste site at WIPP. The committee thanks the many anonymous reviewers who painstakingly read and criticized our report, which has benefitted considerably from their efforts. Finally, we wish to express our appreciation to staff colleagues of the National Research Council's Board on Radioactive Waste Management, both past and present, who have done much to assist the committee in its task. Particular thanks are due to Tom Kiess, Angela Taylor, and Erika Williams, without whose efforts the report would not have been completed. Charles Fairhurst, Chair October 1996
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--> Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 General Conclusions and Recommendations 3 Summary 6 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 7 Transuranic Waste: What it is, Where it Comes From, Where it Must Go 7 Geologic Disposal of Radioactive Waste in Salt 8 History of WIPP 10 The WIPP Underground Facility Today 10 The Disposal Plan 10 Regulation and Licensing of WIPP 10 Framework for the Report 12 CHAPTER 2 REGULATORY COMPLIANCE AND REPOSITORY PERFORMANCE 15 EPA Standards for Radioactive Waste 15 Performance Assessment 18 Radionuclide Release Scenarios 24 Discussion of PA Modeling Efforts 27 Discussion of Repository Performance 29 General Quality of WIPP Performance Assessment Activities 32 Other Long-Term Radiological Compliance Issues 32 Conclusions 35 CHAPTER 3 SALADO HYDROGEOLOGY, GAS PRESSURE, AND ROOM CLOSURE 37 Salado Hydrogeology 37 Gas Pressure 39 Room Closure 41 The Combined Effects of Brine Inflow, Gas Generation and Room Closure 44 Summary and Conclusions 45 CHAPTER 4 ENGINEERING TO IMPROVE PREDICTED REPOSITORY PERFORMANCE 47 Repository Design and Excavation Alternatives 47 Sealing of Shafts and Boreholes 50 Sealing of Rooms and Panels 57 Conclusions 57 CHAPTER 5 ACTINIDE SOURCE TERM 58 Actinide Source Term Model 59 Schedule 62
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--> Summary and Discussion 62 Conclusion and Recommendations 63 CHAPTER 6 NON-SALADO HYDROLOGY 65 Regional Hydrogeologic Modeling 65 Flow and Transport Modeling 66 WIPP 1992 PA Model Analysis 68 Discussion and Summary of Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations 73 Perspective Based on International Repository Siting Efforts 75 CHAPTER 7 PERSPECTIVES 77 Integrity of the Waste Isolation System 77 Human Intrusion 78 Role of Performance Assessment 78 The Nature and Frequency of Human Intrusion 79 Retrospective 80 REFERENCES 82 APPENDIXES A.NATURAL SETTING AND RESOURCES 95 Geologic Framework 95 Hydrologic Setting of WIPP 99 Natural Resources 103 B.THE COMPLEMENTARY CUMULATIVE DISTRIBUTION FUNCTION: THE RISK CURVE 110 C.BRINE INFLOW TO EXCAVATIONS IN THE SALADO 116 Permeability of WIPP Salado Anhydrite and Interbeds 116 One-Dimensional Flow in Anhydrite interbeds in Impermeable Salt 117 Radial Flow into Excavations in Permeable Salt 118 Bredehoeft Calculation 119 Shaft Seals—Approximate Check on PA Flow Calculations 120 D.CREEP BEHAVIOR OF WIPP SALT 123 E.ACTINIDE SOURCE TERM 129 Experimental Work on Actinide Solubilities 129 Experiments on Colloids 132 Retardation Experiments 132 F.REGIONAL HYDROGEOLOGY 134 Approaches to Studying Regional Aquifer Systems 134 Ground-Water Models 134
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--> G.AN OVERVIEW OF WIPP COMPLIANCE ISSUES 143 Deep Geologic Disposal 143 Project Administration and Regulation 143 Certification Criteria 143 Certification of WIPP 144 Chemistry, Biology, and Geotechnology 145 The Actinide Source Term 146 Hydrology Above the Salado Formation 146 Repository Design Using Compartmentation 147 Summary, Conclusions, and Perspective 148 H.BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF COMMITTEE MEMBERS 149 I.GLOSSARY 152 J.LIST OF ACRONYMS AND SYMBOLS 158 K.BIBLIOGRAPHY 159
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