Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 13
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT Transuranic Waste Management Program Transuranic waste management operations are performed under the auspices of the DOE National TRU Program administered by the DOE Carlsbad Area Office. This program has been designed and developed, based on initial efforts in the 1980s and subsequent modifications, to accommodate all applicable external regulations and internal requirements that are associated with the characterization, certification, packaging, and transportation of TRU waste to WIPP. These procedures, described briefly in Appendix A, were applied in 1999 for the first contact-handled TRU waste shipments to WIPP from DOE sites that have generated and stored such waste. The remote-handled TRU waste management system is still under development and is not reviewed in this report. The committee considered three topics associated with TRU waste management: (1) waste characterization and packaging requirements, (2) gas generation, and (3) transportation. These topics are discussed in the following subsections. Waste Characterization and Packaging Requirements Finding: The committee found inadequate legal or safety bases for some of the National TRU Program requirements and specifications. That is, some waste characterization specifications have no basis in law, the safe conduct of operations to emplace waste in WIPP, or long-term performance requirements.7 The National TRU Program waste characterization procedures involve significant resources (e.g., expenditures of several billion dollars) and potential for exposure of workers to radiation and other hazards. Insofar as some of this waste characterization may be unnecessary, such characterization is inconsistent with economic efficiency and the ALARA principle that guides radiation protection practices.8 The committee regards the 30+ years of waste emplacement op- 7 A recent study (DOE, 1999c) has also shown that some waste characterization procedures are not prescribed by safety or legal requirements. 8 ALARA requires that all operations be done with the lowest possible radiation exposure consistent with other requirements of safety and basic programmatic objectives. See, for example, 10 CFR 835, which are requirements for worker protection referenced in DOE radioactive waste management practices (specifically, in DOE Order 435.1 [DOE, 1999a]).
OCR for page 14
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT erations and related worker safety issues at WIPP as posing no significant needs for waste characterization information, because no use of characterization data is made in any handling, shipping, or emplacement operations. Recommendation: DOE should eliminate self-imposed waste characterization requirements that lack a legal or safety basis. One way to justify a reduction in waste characterization requirements is through implementation of joint U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC)–U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance (62 Federal Register 62079; see Appendix B), which appears to the committee to provide appropriate guidelines for implementation and integration of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requirements for mixed TRU waste. Implementation of this regulatory guidance could significantly reduce the testing protocols and associated radiation exposure of personnel. Another way to justify a reduction is to identify the origins of all waste characterization requirements and to eliminate those requirements that lack a technical or safety basis. Such reductions may require modifications to existing permits granted by external regulating authorities such as the EPA and New Mexico Environment Department. Rationale: The National TRU Program has developed waste restrictions, as described in the waste acceptance criteria (DOE, 1996a, 1999d), and requirements for waste generating sites presented in the quality assurance program plan (DOE, 1998b). These criteria and plans impose many required procedures on waste-generating sites. EPA and DOE Carlsbad Area Office audits are conducted to certify (i.e., approve for shipment) TRU waste streams. Additionally, each container of waste from a certified waste stream must be characterized, and shipping sites must prepare documentation on characterization data for each waste container. At the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the time to obtain all the requisite documentation and administrative approvals was greater than the time to process a drum of waste through the characterization and packaging protocols that had been developed. At all sites, the assembly, management, and storage of waste characterization information are resource-intensive activities, and drum handling is a major source of worker exposure. Of interest to the committee is the origin of these required procedures, because they increase the cost or risk or decrease the efficacy of operations. The committee sought to identify the connection between the National TRU Program procedures and the various regulatory, legal, and technical requirements that the procedures should be devised to meet. The committee views these requirements in a hierarchy, at the top of which are legal and safety requirements, with regulatory specifications at the next tier, procedures proposed by DOE to meet regulatory requirements at the third tier, and the DOE protocols for these procedures at the fourth tier.
OCR for page 15
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT The approach used by the committee was to focus on six primary National TRU Program procedures representative of high-level requirements that drive operational activities in waste characterization and repackaging (see Appendix A for an overview of these activities):9 determination that the TRU waste is of defense origin; sampling and analysis of homogeneous waste; headspace gas sampling and analysis; radioassay of the plutonium content; real-time radiography; and visual examination. These procedures are incorporated into the terms of the WIPP facility 's RCRA “Part B” permit, which was issued in October 1999. The EPA guidelines that are specific to RCRA requirements are presented in Appendix B. However, the committee notes that the permit terms are subject to negotiation in a regulatory permitting process, based on the procedures proposed by DOE that became accepted as meeting regulatory requirements. A recent study (DOE, 1999c) has traced these and other TRU waste characterization requirements to their root origins in either (1) Carlsbad Area Office mandates, (2) regulatory certification and permit terms, (3) regulatory requirements or DOE orders, or (4) legal requirements. A review of these six procedures revealed that one may be interpreted too strictly by DOE and three are without a technical or legal foundation: Procedure 1: Determination that the TRU waste is of defense origin. WIPP is limited to defense-related waste as stipulated in the Land Withdrawal Act, with defense activities defined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. The committee notes that this definition includes the words “in whole or in part”, which can be interpreted to include mixtures of defense and nondefense waste, although DOE does not appear to take advantage of this (see DOE, 1997a; Nordhaus, 1996). That is, waste such as plutonium-238 (238Pu)-contaminated scrap from a facility used for both defense and nondefense missions at Los Alamos National Laboratory would appear to qualify as defense waste under the definition, without the need for waste segregation restrictions. Procedure 2: Sampling and analysis of homogeneous waste. DOE has written, “There is no regulatory requirement to conduct homogeneous waste sampling and analysis, however, in an effort to meet the intent of 40 CFR 264.13, WIPP has imposed additional characterization requirements on the waste generators” (Nelson, 1999a, p. 2). No operational decisions are made based on these data; that is, the results of the sampling and analysis do not affect how waste is handled, so it is not clear what justifies the additional radiation exposure risk and cost of this procedure. In the committee's view, this sampling and analysis applied only to homogeneous waste is unnecessary: If acceptable knowledge documentation 9 A more comprehensive list of TRU waste characterization procedures and their origin is found in DOE (1999c).
OCR for page 16
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT (see Appendix A) provides sufficient characterization information for heterogeneous waste, the committee can identify no technical reason why acceptable knowledge should not also be adequate for homogeneous waste. Procedure 3: Headspace gas sampling and analysis. DOE informed the committee that “there is no regulatory requirement to conduct headspace gas sampling and analysis, however, in an effort to meet the intent of 40 CFR 264.13, WIPP has imposed additional characterization requirements on the waste generators” (Nelson, 1999a, p. 3). The headspace gas sampling and analysis was developed as a means of checking on conformance with USNRC and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements (see Appendix A for relevant sections of these regulations); however, these requirements can be met by other means (see the recommendations that follow on the issue of gas generation). Procedure 6: Visual examination. Visual examination is done on a fraction of the waste containers to confirm the real-time radiography and acceptable knowledge waste characterization information (Nelson, 1999a, p. 5). However, there is no requirement for verification of real-time radiography results. An alternative way to confirm these results without operator exposure would be to use standardized test drums. The visual examination confirmation is a self-imposed procedure that yields no benefit but results in increased risk of exposure and cost. A DOE study (1999c) also confirms that procedures 2, 3, and 6 identified above are based on terms negotiated in a permit and not on a required regulation or legal mandate. The committee sees no utility in the information that these procedures provide. Any speculative benefits of acquiring this information must be weighed against the risks and costs. The committee's judgment is that the collection of these data from superfluous procedures increases, rather than decreases, the risk and safety of the overall TRU waste operations. These superfluous characterization and intrusive procedures also represent a conflict with the ALARA principle. The issue of how to handle conflict between regulatory requirements for waste characterization information and ALARA is beyond the scope of the committee's statement of task. At issue, however, is whether the present TRU waste management program results in significantly more worker radiation exposure than is justified to satisfy safety and nonnegotiable regulatory requirements. Gas Generation Finding: The extreme assumptions used in DOE's current gas generation model result in gross overestimates of hydrogen concentrations in waste packages to be shipped to WIPP. As a consequence, DOE's plans to repackage some of the waste to dilute the hydrogen-producing components. These repackaging operations result in additional risks of radiation exposure to workers and highway accidents due to the increased number of truckload shipments required to transport waste in diluted form.
OCR for page 17
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT Recommendations: DOE should derive a more realistic radiolytic gas generation model, validate it through confirmatory testing, use the results to recalculate gas generation limits, and seek regulatory approval to implement these limits. DOE should perform a safety analysis to determine the concentration and quantity of hydrogen that, upon ignition, could damage the seals of the TRUPACT-II shipping container. The goal of the safety analysis would be to demonstrate whether such an event could occur inside a waste package, and whether the energy associated with such an event could result in the rupture of containment provided by the TRUPACT-II. This analysis could provide the rationale to obtain relief from the 5 percent hydrogen flammability limit and should form the basis for a future modification to the present TRUPACT-II license. DOE should consider technical approaches for reducing hazards from hydrogen generation, such as filling the headspace of the waste containers or the shipping containers with an inert gas to displace air and thereby reduce the flammability hazard. DOE should reevaluate the technical and regulatory feasibility of shipping high-wattage TRU waste using ATMX10 railcar shipping system. The goal of these recommendations is to expedite the transport of TRU waste to WIPP by increasing the amount of waste that can be carried safely in each truckload or trainload, without compromising the level of safety and containment that is provided by the shipping container. These recommended options would reduce the number of truckloads required to transport the waste to WIPP and the associated transportation risks. Rationale: The amount of TRU waste in each waste drum and truck shipment is limited because of the potential for radiolytic generation of hydrogen gas (H2). Within TRU waste, radiolytic hydrogen gas generation is due primarily to the co-disposal of alpha emitters with organic materials. The DOE has developed a radiolysis model to calculate hydrogen generation rates and the hydrogen concentration in each headspace11 inside a waste container. Limiting any H2 concentration to 5 percent leads to a restriction, expressed as maximum allowable wattage, on alpha activity (i.e., the amount of alpha-emitting radionuclides) within each waste container (e.g., a 55-gallon drum). The value of 5 percent H2 (as a mole 10 “ATMX” is an acronym to denote the railcars used by DOE to ship nuclear weapons components and TRU waste. The “AT” stands for Atchison Topeka, the rail carrier. The “M” signifies munitions, and the “X” on a railcar signifies private ownership (in this case, by the U.S. government), rather than ownership by the railroad company. As noted elsewhere in this report, these railcars have been used to ship TRU waste for decades. 11 In many waste containers, waste is contained in one or more plastic bags that were used for radiological protection against any inadvertent spread of radioactivity. These plastic bags provide resistance to diffusive transport of hydrogen gas, thereby providing multiple headspaces.
OCR for page 18
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT fraction) in air as a “flammability limit” can be used in any USNRC license application on a transportation package without the need for further safety analysis because of its conservatism. This allowable wattage is a function of the G value 12 of the solid matrix of the waste materials adjacent to each alpha emitter and the total resistance to the flow of hydrogen gas that the waste and packaging contents provide, due primarily to the layers of plastic bags in the waste. Wattage limits based on this model determine whether or not a waste container may be transported to WIPP without repackaging. The gas generation model, and the wattage limits derived from it, specify the terms of operation that are contained in the DOE safety analysis report for the TRUPACT-II transportation package. These terms of operation are also specified in DOE's application to the USNRC for regulatory approval of the TRUPACT-II transportation package. The certificate of compliance for TRUPACT-II issued by the USNRC is subject to modifications (and in fact has been amended several times since the original certificate was issued in the late 1980s), provided that DOE can offer sufficient adequate safety assurances and comply with applicable regulations, principally the USNRC's 10 CFR 70-71 and DOT's 49 CFR 171-173. The current model is based on worst-case scenario of H2 generation and wattage limits. Because of this worst-case approach and the extreme assumptions used in the model, the calculations often exceed experimental observations by orders of magnitude. The explanations for these large discrepancies are only beginning to be studied (see Idaho Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, 1998; Mewhinney, 1998a). Specific examples follow. A G value of 3.4 is used for the plastic bags in the safety analysis report for the TRUPACT-II (DOE, 1997b). In this analysis, no credit is taken for matrix depletion (i.e., exhaustion of the H2 source). Therefore, DOE is seeking relief from unrealistically large G values in revisions 17-19 of the safety analysis report and certificate of compliance for the TRUPACT-II (DOE, 1999b). The model assumes that all layers of plastic bags are intact and behave as a new bag (i.e., no credit is taken for changes in permeability with age). The results of these gas generation model assumptions have severe consequences.13 Repackaging is carried out to redistribute waste in containers (e.g., 55-gallon drums) in order to meet the wattage limits derived from the gas generation model for each container. This repackaging of waste exposes workers to radiation and increases the number of containers, thereby diluting the waste into a greater volume. 12 The G value is the number of electrons (or, equivalently, the number of electron-ion pairs, with H+ the chief ion produced in materials containing hydrogen compounds) produced in a material per 100 eV of energy that is deposited within it by irradiation. 13 In general, the use of extreme assumptions that result in overestimating consequences is not a conservative approach, because attending to these overestimated consequences results in unnecessary actions, each of which has its own risks, thus potentially increasing the risks of the overall operations.
OCR for page 19
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT Transportation-related risks (and costs) are also incurred in repackaging, because the extra containers require additional shipping loads with many additional truck trips. DOE estimates reveal that this repackaging of 238Pu contact-handled TRU waste may increase the number of 238Pu shipments by more than a factor of ten, to as many as 150,000 extra drums (Lechel and Leigh, 1998).14 Another consequence of such volume expansions that should be considered is the impact on WIPP's volume limit.15 Therefore, the maximum allowable wattage imposed by the gas generation model is a major technical restriction of the National TRU Program. Recent information (DOE, 1999b; Gregory, 1999) suggests that significant progress is being made toward developing technical information to support planned future applications to the USNRC to amend the terms of the TRUPACT-II safety analysis report and certificate of compliance. Research continues to investigate the use of hydrogen getters16 (Mroz et al., 1997, 1999), methods for puncturing bags, use of vented bags (Gregory, 1999), and relief from the restrictive G values (Idaho Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, 1998). To provide containment of its radioactive contents, the TRUPACT-II shipping container uses outer O-rings that generate a vacuum seal. In this package design, internally generated gas, such as H2, builds up to pressurize the internal gas volume. Other transportation package designs are possible that are less sensitive than the TRUPACT-II to the potential for H2 gas generation. One such system for transport of TRU wastes was the ATMX railcar system, which DOE used for hundreds of shipments over several decades to safely transport TRU waste from the Mound Laboratory in Ohio and from the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site in Colorado to the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. Based on the integrity provided by the railcar, this system was exempted (DOT exemption number DOT-E 5948) from the double-containment and vacuum seal requirements for packages used to transport plutonium (classified as “Type B” fissile packages). As a result, this system did not suffer limitations of the kind that are imposed on the TRUPACT-II due to radiolytic gas generated and trapped within the shipping container. 14 The actual number of containers to be repackaged and procedures to be used have not yet been determined by DOE but are under active study, as is an analysis of technical options. If each truck carried the maximum number of TRUPACT-II transporters per shipment to WIPP, and each TRUPACT-II carried the maximum number of 55-gallon drums, 150,000 drums would be equivalent to 3,600 additional truck shipments. 15 The Land Withdrawal Act (P.L. 102-579) specifies a total TRU waste volume limit of 175,600 m3 if waste were sufficiently diluted, WIPP would be filled to this volume limit without having disposed the total TRU inventory in curies. Therefore, there is a minimum “filling ratio” of curies to volume that must be achieved, on average, for WIPP to contain the total TRU inventory in curies by the time the volume restriction is reached. 16 A getter is a material designed to absorb gas such as hydrogen.
OCR for page 20
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT Transportation The committee has examined various aspects of the WIPP transportation system, focusing on system safety and the cost-effectiveness of planned and ongoing activities. Based on this review (see DOE, 1999b; Mewhinney, 1998a,b), the committee has identified two issues—DOE's communication and notification system (TRANSCOM17) and DOE's emergency response program—that warrant immediate attention. DOE's Communication and Notification Program Finding: DOE bases its system of communication and notification on TRANSCOM, a satellite-based system developed more than a decade ago and used to track all DOE shipments of radioactive materials. Users have found the current level of performance of TRANSCOM to be less than fully reliable. Although efforts are being made to keep the system current (Nelson, 1999b), it has not kept pace with the rapid development of information technology. As a result, TRANSCOM is obsolete compared to presently available communications systems (for a summary of recent transportation communication initiatives using information technology, see Allen ). Recommendations: DOE should consider cost-effective ways to improve the reliability and ease of use of the TRANSCOM system, either by improving or replacing it. If DOE decides to replace the current system, the committee strongly encourages the use or adaptation of existing commercial systems. In the near term, DOE should develop an interim plan for maintaining an adequate communication and notification system until any such alternative system or TRANSCOM upgrade is ready for full-scale implementation. This plan should be driven by a comprehensive assessment of TRANSCOM component performance based on anticipated usage. In the long term, DOE should ensure that the system it employs is designed to meet the needs of WIPP shipment users and other major stakeholders in a timely and cost-effective fashion. Rationale: Public confidence in a transportation communication and notification system is essential. This will become increasingly important with the growing number of shipments to WIPP. The magnitude of shipping activity and the public interest in WIPP transportation safety dictate the need for a state-of-the-art communications system. As a means of obtaining information on the current effectiveness of TRANSCOM, the committee contacted 27 users located across the nation, requesting information on their experience with the system. Serious concerns were raised about system reliability and ease of use, giving the impression that key transportation stakeholders have little confidence in TRANSCOM. Comments of the 11 users who responded (from two tech- 17 The DOE TRANSportation Tracking and COMmunication System, or TRANSCOM, is a satellite-based telecommunications system designed to enable users to track WIPP truck shipments in essentially real time while en route to WIPP on the approved highway routes.
OCR for page 21
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT nology companies and various institutions involved in emergency response monitoring in Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, Arizona, North Carolina, and Utah) to a committee survey are shown below. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 = inadequate, 2 = poor, 3 = average, 4 = good, and 5 = excellent, the average scores for TRANSCOM system on five issues were as follows: Category Average Score on Scale of 1 to 5 Accuracy 3.5 Cost 3.4 Ease of use 3.2 Communication capability 3.0 Reliability 2.5 Most survey responders also wrote either explicitly or by using examples that the system was (1) unreliable (citing frequent downtime, connection or access problems, or other hardware or software problems), (2) not user friendly (citing features such as slow data rates, the time required to download information, and “old technology”), and (3) not economical because of the high costs for modem connections. Of those survey responders who had experience with at least one other transportation tracking system, each provided written comments attesting to the “unreliable” and/or “not user-friendly” features of TRANSCOM. The committee concludes from this survey and from other materials received (e.g., presentations at committee meetings in October 1998, May 1999, and July 1999) that the TRANSCOM system has failed to give its users confidence in its reliability, ease of use, and the timeliness with which accurate information can be accessed. The committee regards these features as important for engendering public confidence and trust in WIPP's transportation program, especially for incidents in which some sort of emergency response is required. The committee considers that given the potential interest in and visibility of WIPP shipments, the tracking system should provide reliable, real-time, and user-friendly access to information for the state users and other interested parties. In principle, this could be accomplished through upgrades to the current TRANSCOM system. However, rather than maintaining and upgrading a technically obsolete system, the committee believes that it would be more prudent for DOE to implement a less expensive, higher-quality system using a currently available commercial communications product (for a summary of transportation communication initiatives using information technology, see Allen ). Careful screening of vendors is necessary to ensure that the desired system can perform to specification and be delivered on schedule and within budget. Recent DOE efforts (Nelson, 1999b) are aimed at developing upgraded information technology capabilities (“TRANSCOM 2000”) for the TRANSCOM system. Specifically, modem connections to access data of interest (e.g., the commercial bill of lading for a shipment) are to be replaced in the near future by internet postings. These plans for improved user interface and data distribution capabilities do not address other parts of the system, such as the speed with which data are acquired and proc-
OCR for page 22
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT essed prior to posting. These data acquisition and processing activities appear to introduce time delays that limit system performance; for example, position updates showing the locations of trucks along routes are delayed by several (up to seven) minutes (Nelson, 1999b). An as-yet-unspecified element of these planned upgrades is the extent to which future stakeholder participation will be solicited and used to provide sufficient feedback to ensure that the product ultimately developed addresses user concerns. Moreover, the timetable for off-the-shelf availability of TRANSCOM 2000 appears to the committee to be several years in the future, a problematic scenario for a WIPP shipping activity that is already underway. One issue relevant to these planned information disclosures in TRANSCOM 2000 is the extent to which such information is needed or useful, by which parties, and to what ends. For example, the terrorist hazard and/or the potential for deliberate sabotage would presumably increase as this information is disseminated more broadly. If restricted access to certain information were important, security firewalls could be used to prevent internet information from being accessed outside of the TRANSCOM user community. At present, the National TRU Program is one of many DOE users of the TRANSCOM system that is managed by another DOE program unit, the DOE transportation center in Albuquerque, New Mexico; other DOE transportation users include shippers of low-level waste and spent nuclear fuel. If the DOE transportation program that maintains TRANSCOM cannot provide sufficient improvements to fully implement the above recommendations, another approach would be for the National TRU Program to adapt a commercially available tracking system for use on WIPP shipments only. If the tracking system need only meet WIPP shipment requirements, the system specifications would likely be simpler, with a correspondingly greater likelihood that a commercially available product could be adapted for use. For example, WIPP shipments involve unclassified material, which may allow relief from the full suite of TRANSCOM system requirements that have been developed for all of DOE shipping needs. DOE's Emergency Response Program Finding: The responsibility for emergency response is divided between DOE and the states along WIPP shipment corridors. In the committee's view, a system to maintain up-to-date information on response capability would contribute significantly to the effectiveness of the transportation system. The WIPP emergency response program has not assessed sufficiently whether adequate and timely emergency response coverage for a transportation incident exists along the full extent of each WIPP route. No formal system presently exists to identify areas where coverage may be inadequate. Recommendations: The committee recommends that DOE explore with states and other interested parties how to develop processes and tools for maintaining up-to-date spatial information on the location, capabilities, and contact information of responders, medical facilities, re-
OCR for page 23
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT covery equipment, regional response teams, and other resources that might be needed to respond to a WIPP transportation incident. This assessment should explore which organization(s) should develop and maintain the capability to generate and maintain such information. DOE should also determine where emergency response capability is currently lacking, identify organization(s) responsible for addressing these deficiencies, and take action to address them. Rationale: To respond appropriately to any accident or other incident associated with a WIPP shipment, an emergency response system has been developed involving the DOE and state and local governments. Four levels of emergency response teams have been established. The first responders, typically the local police or local fire department, are to alert others. Their “911” call routes the incident to the attention of the second responders, the state emergency management agency, which then involves the state police and any state hazardous material (HAZMAT) or radiological response teams. The third responders are DOE Radiological Assistance Program teams that would be sent from major DOE sites (e.g., Idaho Engineering and Environmental Laboratory or the DOE Carlsbad Area Office) to conduct radiological emergency (medical) response. The fourth level of response is DOE remediation teams who perform measures such as righting a truck and any necessary site cleanup and restoration activities (DOE, 1998a). Because of the required integrity of the TRUPACT-II shipping container, which is tested and certified to conform to the USNRC's 10 CFR 71 regulatory requirements, the containment offered by this container normally cannot be breached in an accident scenario. Therefore, emergency response procedures in these four levels of response normally would preclude any consideration of releases of materials from the TRUPACT-II. Under normal conditions, the emergency response procedures would still be needed for traffic management and other necessary operations in accident-related situations. DOE's emergency response program relies heavily on WIPP corridor states to conduct emergency responder training and develop response plans in the event of a transportation incident. DOE also maintains its own specialized response capabilities that can be deployed on an as-needed basis. Although this approach offers certain advantages in terms of state and local involvement, system-level integration is a significant concern. Maintaining an effective emergency response program necessitates that, if an incident should occur anywhere along a WIPP route, qualified responders can reach the scene in a timely fashion. Emergency preparedness is a formidable challenge given the thousands of miles of highway that comprise WIPP routes. While WIPP corridor states are coordinating with DOE to ensure the safe transport of WlPP shipments18 (DOE, 1995, 1999b; Klaus, 1999; Ross, 1999; Wentz, 1999), the public may view this responsibility as ulti- 18 These activities have included training drills that have been conducted over the past several years to simulate real transportation procedures and accident scenarios.
OCR for page 24
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT mately resting with DOE as the system manager. The public might well expect qualified emergency response coverage along the entire length of each WIPP route, and in the committee's view, DOE could be heavily criticized if an event occurs that demonstrates weaknesses in the emergency response program, regardless of whether serious consequences are involved. Hence, although the recommendations in this section are not legal requirements, these assessments of the emergency response capabilities are, in the committee's view, important for providing a well-orchestrated transportation system. The system-level integration necessary to ensure adequate emergency response would have to manage the jurisdictional boundaries between the various responsible government agencies. For example, under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (specifically, 29 CFR 1910.120), an employer is responsible for providing training; consequently, the state has the responsibility to determine the extent and adequacy of training (i.e., who is trained and in what capabilities) for first-and second-level responders. States have, to date, offered free WIPP-related training opportunities. No “quality assurance” program yet exists to evaluate periodically and systematically the extent of training and response capabilities within states. Moreover, the database lists trained personnel by state only, rather than by local region (e.g., county). As required by the Land Withdrawal Act, DOE provides the states with WIPP-specific hazard information, but DOE does not furnish protective, detection, monitoring, or communication equipment to states. These and other demarcations of responsibilities should be managed to ensure that prompt and effective response capability for any transportation incident exists anywhere along a WIPP route. Although the training and response time associated with the first and second responders are not under DOE's direct control, a system to assess the extent and adequacy of this response coverage would be useful for DOE to properly prepare for and manage WIPP transportation incidents. Committee Perspective on National TRU Program Requirements A reasonable goal for the National TRU Program is to send DOE TRU waste to WIPP at a minimum risk (from all sources of risk, including radiological exposure and highway accidents) and cost. The current system for managing TRU wastes does not achieve this goal. The current transportation system cannot be used to ship a large fraction of the TRU waste volume without significant repackaging (Connolly and Kosiewicz, 1997; DOE, 1999b; Mroz et al., 1997). For the waste inventory that does qualify for shipment in this system, risk and cost considerations have not been optimized. The terms and activities selected by DOE Carlsbad Area Office for submission to its regulatory authorities to satisfy applicable regulations and other concerns do not produce an optimum balance between risk and cost, in the spirit of ALARA. The committee recommends that waste management procedures be reviewed and revised, with reduction of risk and cost as the guiding principles.
OCR for page 25
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT As experience is gained in the WIPP shipping program, empirical data could be gathered to improve upon the initial estimates of risk and cost that are associated with each operation. The effort to reduce risks and costs necessarily would include some consideration of uncertainty, the procedures needed to adequately bound this uncertainty, and an assessment of which TRU waste program elements are the most important to control. For example, the current National TRU Program has many procedures to control certain program elements. Over time, the most effective of such controls could be identified and retained. The reduction of risks and costs is possible in a management approach that takes into consideration public preferences for certain restrictions and implements procedures to minimize relevant uncertainties. As empirical data and experience are gathered, estimates of risks and costs of various components of the TRU waste operations can be refined. Such risk and cost estimates are useful to probe the elements of the waste management system that need to be controlled most restrictively, whether to meet legal or technical safety restrictions or to address public preferences for how radioactive waste is to be managed and transported.
OCR for page 26
IMPROVING OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM SAFETY OF THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT: INTERIM REPORT This page in the original is blank.
Representative terms from entire chapter: