IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT

INTERIM REPORT

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.



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IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT INTERIM REPORT 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.

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IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this interim 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-FC01-94EW54069. 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. International Standard Book Number: 0-309-06928-9 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 Copyright 2000 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

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IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT THE NATIONAL ACADEMICS National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine National Research Council 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. William 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. Kenneth I. 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 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. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT Committee on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant B. JOHN GARRICK, Chair, PLG, Incorporated (retired), Laguna Beach, California MARK D. ABKOWITZ, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee ALFRED W. GRELLA, Grella Consulting, Locust Grove, Virginia MIKE P. HARDY, Agapito Associates, Inc., Grand Junction, Colorado STANLEY KAPLAN, Bayesian Systems Inc., Rockville, Maryland HOWARD M. KINGSTON, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania W. JOHN LEE, Texas A&M University, College Station MILTON LEVENSON, Bechtel International, Inc. (retired), Menlo Park, California WERNER F. LUTZE, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque KIMBERLY OGDEN, University of Arizona, Tucson MARTHA R. SCOTT, Texas A&M University, College Station JOHN M. SHARP, JR., The University of Texas, Austin PAUL G. SHEWMON, Ohio State University (retired), Columbus JAMES WATSON, JR., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill CHING H. YEW, The University of Texas (retired), Austin Board on Radioactive Waste Management Liaison DARLEANE C. HOFFMAN, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Oakland, California Staff KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Director THOMAS E. KIESS, Study Director ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Senior Project Assistant

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IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT 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, Consultant, Bethesda, Maryland ROBERT J. BUDNITZ, Future Resources Associates, Inc., Berkeley, California GREGORY R. CHOPPIN, Florida State University, Tallahassee JAMES H. JOHNSON, JR., Howard University, Washington, D.C. ROGER E. KASPERSON, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts JAMES O. LECKIE, Stanford University, Stanford, California JANE C.S. LONG, Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada, Reno ALEXANDER MACLACHLAN, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (retired), Wilmington, DE WILLIAM A. MILLS, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (retired), Olney, Maryland MARTIN J. STEINDLER, Argonne National Laboratories (retired), Argonne, Illinois ATSUYUKI SUZUKI, University of Tokyo, Japan JOHN J. TAYLOR, Electric Power Research Institute (retired), Palo Alto, California VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida MARY LOU ZOBACK, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California Staff KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Director ROBERT S. ANDREWS, Senior Staff Officer THOMAS E. KIESS, Senior Staff Officer GREGORY H. SYMMES, Senior Staff Officer JOHN R. WILEY, Senior Staff Officer SUSAN B. MOCKLER, Research Associate TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative Associate LATRICIA C. BAILEY, Senior Project Assistant MATTHEW BAXTER-PARROTT, Project Assistant LAURA D. LLANOS, Senior Project Assistant ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Senior Project Assistant

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IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources GEORGE M. HORNBERGER (Chair), University of Virginia, Charlottesville RICHARD A. CONWAY, Union Carbide Corporation (Retired), S. Charleston, West Virginia LYNN GOLDMAN, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland THOMAS E. GRAEDEL, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut THOMAS J. GRAFF, Environmental Defense, Oakland, California EUGENIA KALNAY, University of Maryland, College Park DEBRA KNOPMAN, Progressive Policy Institute, Washington, DC BRAD MOONEY, J. Brad Mooney Associates, Ltd., Arlington, Virginia HUGH C. MORRIS, El Dorado Gold Corporation, Vancouver, British Columbia H. RONALD PULLIAM, University of Georgia, Athens MILTON RUSSELL, Joint Institute for Energy and Environment and University of Tennessee (Emeritus), Knoxville ROBERT J. SERAFIN, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado ANDREW R. SOLOW, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts E-AN ZEN, University of Maryland, College Park MARY LOU ZOBACK, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California Staff ROBERT M. HAMILTON, Executive Director GREGORY H. SYMMES, Associate Executive Director JEANETTE SPOON, Administrative and Financial Officer DAVID FEARY, Scientific Reports Officer SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate MARQUITA SMITH, Administrative Assistant/Technology Analyst

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IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT Acknowledgments 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 review comments and draft manuscript remain 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: Tom Borak, Colorado State University Edith Boyden, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center Robert Budnitz, Future Resources Associates, Inc. Allen Glazner, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Lawrence Johnson, National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste Joseph Leary, Independent Consultant Solomon Levy, Levy & Associates Hank Mevzelaar, University of Utah Randall Seright, New Mexico Institute of Technology Although the individuals listed above have provided 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 E-an Zen, appointed by the Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources, and Frank Parker, appointed by the Report Review Committee, who were 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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IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT Preface This report is the product of a National Research Council (NRC) committee study sponsored by the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE). The first NRC Committee on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) began in 1978, and this committee and its successors issued eight letter reports during 1979-1992 and two full reports in 1984 and 1996. The current WIPP committee study is operating under a revised statement of task (see box) derived from a DOE request (Dials, 1997). This interim report addresses selected issues associated with the task statement, as explained below. The committee will comprehensively address the statement of task in the final report. The specific approach taken in this interim report was to consider how to assess (1) the performance of WIPP in isolating waste from the environment and (2) the basic, minimal requirements and procedures that should be applied to waste management operations. The committee provides recommendations on several issues that it believes merit immediate consideration and action by DOE. Specifically, these issues include the determination of the natural background radioactivity in the area surrounding WIPP, and improvements in TRU waste operations. This study is organized within the NRC's Board on Radioactive Waste Management and is being conducted by a 15-member committee. Committee members were chosen for their expertise in relevant technical disciplines such as nuclear engineering, health physics, chemical and environmental engineering, civil and transportation engineering, performance assessment, analytical chemistry, materials science and engineering, plutonium geochemistry, hydrogeology, rock and fracture mechanics, petroleum engineering, and mining engineering. As is normal practice of the National Academies, committee members do not represent the views of their institutions, but form an independent body to author this report. To conduct the study and prepare this interim report, the committee gathered information principally through meetings and reviews of relevant literature. The committee met several times in open public sessions to hear from DOE and its contractors, as well as from other invited speakers such as regulatory agency personnel and groups with an interest in the WIPP program. Committee members prepared this report

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IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT using these inputs together with their collective knowledge and experience. The report reflects a consensus of the committee and has been reviewed in accordance with NRC procedures. Statement of Task The purpose of this study is to identify the limiting technical components of the WIPP program, with a two-fold goal of (i) improving the understanding of long-term performance of the repository and (ii) identifying technical options for improvements to the National TRU Program (i.e., the engineering system that defines TRU waste handling operations that are needed for these wastes to go from their current storage locations to the final repository destination) without compromising safety. To accomplish this goal, the study will address two major issues: The first is to identify research activities that would enhance the assessment of long-term repository performance. This study would examine the performance assessment models used to calculate hypothetical long-term releases of radioactivity, and would suggest future scientific and technical work that could reduce uncertainties. The second is to identify areas for improvement in the TRU waste management system that may increase system throughput, efficiency, cost effectiveness, or safety to workers and the public. This study will examine, among other inputs, the current plans for TRU waste handling, characterization, treatment, packaging, and transportation.

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IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT Contents     Summary,   1     Introduction,   5     Baseline Radiogenic Analysis of Subsurface Fluids,   7     Transuranic Waste Management Program,   13     References,   27     Appendixes    A.   Background Information,   31  B.   Joint USNRC and EPA Guidance on Mixed Waste,   37  C.   Biographical Sketches of Committee Members,   39  D.   Acronyms,   44

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