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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental
Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste
at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation


Review #3

Committee on Supplemental Treatment of
Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation

Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board

Division on Earth and Life Studies

A Consensus Study Report of

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, DC
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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This activity was supported by award DE-EM0001172/NAS Proposal Number 10003497 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.

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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25509.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.

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Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.nationalacademies.org.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the study’s statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and the committee’s deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer-review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task.

Proceedings published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine chronicle the presentations and discussions at a workshop, symposium, or other event convened by the National Academies. The statements and opinions contained in proceedings are those of the participants and are not endorsed by other participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies.

For information about other products and activities of the National Academies, please visit www.nationalacademies.org/about/whatwedo.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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COMMITTEE ON SUPPLEMENTAL TREATMENT OF LOW-ACTIVITY WASTE AT THE HANFORD NUCLEAR RESERVATION

JOHN S. APPLEGATE (Chair), Indiana University, Bloomington

ALLEN G. CROFF (Vice-Chair), Vanderbilt University, St. Augustine, Florida

MARGARET S.Y. CHU, M.S. Chu + Associates, LLC, New York, New York

KENNETH R. CZERWINSKI, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

RACHEL J. DETWILER, Beton Consulting Engineers, LLC, Mendota Heights, Minnesota

TIMOTHY A. DEVOL, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina

RODNEY C. EWING, Stanford University, Stanford, California

CRAIG S. HANSEN, Independent Consultant, Clinton, Tennessee

CATHY MIDDLECAMP, University of Wisconsin–Madison

ALFRED P. SATTELBERGER, Argonne National Laboratory (retired), Argonne, Illinois

BARRY E. SCHEETZ, The Pennsylvania State University, State College

ANNE E. SMITH, National Economic Research Associates, Inc., Washington, DC

CHRIS G. WHIPPLE, ENVIRON (retired), Lafayette, California

Technical Adviser

DAVID W. JOHNSON, JR., Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies (retired), Bedminster, New Jersey1

Staff

CHARLES D. FERGUSON, Study Director

TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative and Financial Associate

DARLENE GROS, Senior Program Assistant

___________________

1 He became a technical adviser on May 1, 2018.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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NUCLEAR AND RADIATION STUDIES BOARD

GEORGE APOSTOLAKIS (Chair), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (emeritus), Los Angeles, California

JAMES A. BRINK (Vice Chair), Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

SALLY A. AMUNDSON, Columbia University, New York, New York

STEVEN M. BECKER, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia

AMY BERRINGTON DE GONZÁLEZ, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland

PAUL T. DICKMAN, Argonne National Laboratory, Washington, DC

TISSA H. ILLANGASEKARE, Colorado School of Mines, Golden

BONNIE D. JENKINS, Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security, Washington, DC

ALLISON M. MACFARLANE, The George Washington University, Washington, DC

NANCY JO NICHOLAS, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico

R. JULIAN PRESTON, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

HENRY D. ROYAL, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri

WILLIAM H. TOBEY, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

SERGEY V. YUDINTSEV, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

Staff

CHARLES D. FERGUSON, Director

JENNIFER HEIMBERG, Senior Program Officer

OURANIA KOSTI, Senior Program Officer

TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative and Financial Associate

LAURA D. LLANOS, Administrative and Financial Associate

DARLENE GROS, Senior Program Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
×

Preface

The scale and complexity of the radioactive and hazardous waste disposal problem at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are well known. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (DOE-EM) has called the Hanford site the most challenging cleanup task in DOE’s nuclear complex.

DOE’s current plan for treating the nearly 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical waste contained in 177 large tanks is to separate it into two waste streams: a high-level waste (HLW) stream that will have less than 10 percent of the volume but more than 90 percent of the radioactivity, and a low-activity waste (LAW) stream that will have more than 90 percent of the volume but less than 10 percent of the radioactivity. Notably, DOE’s determination as to whether a volume of waste is considered LAW depends on the removal of “key radionuclides to the maximum extent that is technically and economically practical,” as stated in DOE’s Radioactive Waste Manual. But this processing could still leave significant amounts of long-lived radionuclides such as iodine-129 (half-life of 15.7 million years) and technetium-99 (half-life of 210,000 years) in the LAW stream. According to DOE’s plan, once the under-construction Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant becomes operational, it will vitrify (treat) the HLW stream and one-third to perhaps one-half of the LAW stream. The excess LAW that still needs to be treated is called supplemental LAW (SLAW). DOE, the Washington State Department of Ecology (the Department of Ecology), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—the three parties under the legally binding 1989 Tri-Party Agreement—have yet to agree on the SLAW treatment method. The use of a technology other than vitrification for any LAW is controversial at Hanford—though it has been adopted at other DOE-EM sites—and such use is currently opposed by the State of Washington, key tribal nations, and many Hanford stakeholders.

In Section 3134 of the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress directed DOE to contract with a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) to analyze at least three potential technologies for treating the SLAW—vitrification, grouting, and fluidized bed steam reforming—and to report on its findings. It further directed DOE to contract with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies) to undertake an independent peer review of the FFRDC report, not only when the report is complete, but also at certain points during the effort. Congress also expressly required the FFRDC and the National Academies review committee to solicit and consider stakeholder input at every step of the process.

DOE appointed Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) as the FFRDC to lead this study, and then SRNL assembled a team of experts from SRNL and other DOE national laboratories to perform the analysis. The National Academies appointed its committee to conduct the overlapping review. The first committee report, published on June 8, 2018, began an iterative exchange between the FFRDC team and the National Academies committee that—together with stakeholder comments—is intended ultimately to lead to a final report on which key decision-makers can rely on in reaching a decision on the treatment and disposal of the SLAW. On November 2, 2018, the second committee report was published and that interim report provided the committee’s review of the FFRDC team’s draft report, dated July 15, 2018. This third review report provides the committee’s overall assessment of the FFRDC team’s final draft report, dated April 5, 2019.

The FFRDC team has presented its work to the committee six times: first in an introductory meeting in Washington, DC, on December 12-13, 2017; second in a meeting describing the status of the FFRDC’s draft analysis, held in Richland, Washington, on February 28 and March 1, 2018; third in a meeting describing the FFRDC’s draft report, held in Richland, Washington, on July 23-24, 2018; fourth in a meeting describing the FFRDC’s progress toward a final draft report, held in Richland, Washington, on November

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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29-30, 2018; fifth in a meeting discussing the next steps required for the FFRDC to produce a final draft report, held in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 8, 2019; and most recently in a meeting discussing the final draft report, held in Kennewick, Washington, on May 16, 2019. (It is the final draft that the committee will fully review; however, the document itself is labeled “Preliminary Draft.”) The committee is grateful for the time and effort that went into the team’s presentations, as well as the presentations by other interested government agencies, stakeholders, and members of the public. The Department of Ecology, in particular, presented in detail and responded to the committee’s questions at every public meeting in Richland and Kennewick. Between the fifth and sixth meetings, as this review indicates, the FFRDC team has continued to make significant progress. The committee’s review provides an overall assessment of the FFRDC’s final draft report and makes findings and recommendations according to the terms of the Statement of Task, with a particular focus on how the FFRDC’s report can be used by decision-makers.

We hope that the present review will provide a useful guide to the FFRDC’s final draft analysis for decision-makers, other stakeholders, and interested members of the public. The committee will meet one more time in Washington State in late October. That public meeting will focus on receiving final comments from the Department of Ecology, tribal nations, and other stakeholders at the end of a congressionally mandated minimum 60-day public comment period, which starts immediately after publication of this review report, and we anticipate that the FFRDC will have issued a final published report by then. We look forward to continued dialogue with interested government representatives, Hanford area stakeholders, and interested members of the public.

John S. Applegate, Chair
Allen G. Croff, Vice-Chair
Committee on Supplemental Treatment of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Acknowledgments

A number of people and organizations contributed to the successful completion of this report. The committee wishes to thank the study sponsor, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (DOE-EM), for supporting this project, and especially the following DOE staff:

The committee also thanks the presenters and speakers who gave high-quality presentations during the public meetings as listed in Appendix C. In particular, for the most recent public meeting on May 16, 2019, the committee is pleased to note the very informative presentations given by John Plodinec, vice chair, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on the Independent Assessment of Science and Technology for DOE’s Defense Environmental Cleanup Program; Suzanne Dahl, section manager of tank waste treatment in the Washington State Department of Ecology; and the team members of the Federally Funded Research and Development Center led by the Savannah River National Laboratory. In addition, the committee is grateful for other submitted public comments, which were useful in helping the committee better understand the public’s concerns and views.

The committee is grateful for the outstanding assistance provided by the National Academies staff in organizing the committee meetings and preparing the report. The chair and vice-chair are also thankful for the time and energy devoted by the committee members.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Reviewer Acknowledgments

This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, 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 thank the following individuals for their review of this report:

Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Michael L. Corradini, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Robert J. Budnitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (retired). They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Review of the Final Draft Analysis of Supplemental Treatment Approaches of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Review #3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25509.
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In 1943, as part of the Manhattan Project, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was established with the mission to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. During 45 years of operations, the Hanford Site produced about 67 metric tonnes of plutonium—approximately two-thirds of the nation’s stockpile. Production processes generated radioactive and other hazardous wastes and resulted in airborne, surface, subsurface, and groundwater contamination. Presently, 177 underground tanks contain collectively about 210 million liters (about 56 million gallons) of waste. The chemically complex and diverse waste is difficult to manage and dispose of safely.

Section 3134 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 calls for a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) to conduct an analysis of approaches for treating the portion of low-activity waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation intended for supplemental treatment. The third of four, this report provides an overall assessment of the FFRDC team’s final draft report, dated April 5, 2019.

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