Nuclear Waste: Information on DOE's Interim Transuranic Waste Storage Facilities

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-06-08.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

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bA0                                               Rqwrt to the Chairman, Environment,, ’
                                                  Energy and Natural Resources
                                                  Sut~comrnittee, Committee on
                                                  Government Operations, House of
1I _.. _.-__i...
                                                   NUCLEAR WASTE
                                                  Information on DOE’s
                                                  Interim Transuranic
                                                  Waste Storage



                                  .__                                                                       ._   ..__ . _._.   -.----   - _.
United States
General Accounting Office
Washington, D.C. 20648

Resources, Community, and
Economic Development Division

June 8,199O
The Honorable Mike Synar
Chairman, Environment, Energy
  and Natural ResourcesSubcommittee
Committee on Government Operations
Houseof Representatives
Dear Mr. Chairman:
In your December20, 1989, letter, you expressedconcern that the Waste
Isolation Pilot Plant (wIPP)-the Department of Energy’s (M)E) planned
permanent disposal facility for transuranicl (TRU) nuclear waste-may
require extensive modifications before it can accept waste. In the
meantime, TRU waste will continue to be temporarily stored at six
interim sites around the nation.2You noted that continued temporary
storage of TRU waste could endangerthe environment and that the lack
of storage spacefor newly generatedTRU waste could halt production of
nuclear weapons.
Becauseof these concerns,you requestedthat we provide the Subcom-
mittee with information on (1) the remaining TRIJ waste storage capacity
at DOE interim storage sites and projected dates when capacity will be
reached, (2) the existence of any statutory or administrative provisions
limiting the amount of waste that DOE can store at existing or proposed
interim storage sites, and (3) DOE’S alternative plans for stored wastes if
delays in the opening of WIPP are extensive or the facility doesnot open
at all.
This report focuseson the TRU waste storage capacity at DOE'S six
interim storage sites. On February 28, 1990, we issued a report to you
and RepresentativeDavid E. Skaggson the TRU waste storage situation
at DOE’S Rocky Flats Plant, located near Denver, Colorado.:1Since 1954,
Rocky Flats has stored its TRU waste at the Idaho National Engineering

'DOEdefinesTRIJ waste as any waste contaminated with radioactive elements heavier than uranium
at levels greater than 100 nanocuries per gram. (A nanocurie is a billionth of a curie.) Typical waste
forms include contaminated glassware, equipment, tools, rubber gloves, paper products, clothing, and
“The six storage sites are located at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Hanford Site in Wash-
ington, Idaho National Engineering Laboratory in Idaho, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New
Mexico, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and the Nevada Test Site in Nevada.
“Nuclear Waste: Transuranic Waste Storage Limitations at Rocky Flats Plant (GAO/RCED-90-109,
Feb. 28,lQQO).

Page 1                                              GAO/RCED-90-166      Transurauic   Waste Storage

                       Laboratory. However, in August 1989 the Governor of Idaho banned
                       such shipments into the state. Therefore, Rocky Flats has been forced to
                       temporarily store its TRUwaste onsite until arrangements can be made to
                       store this waste at other DOE interim storage facilities or place it in WIPP.
                       We reported that, even with the installation and operation of a waste
                       compactor, unless steps are taken to find alternative storage, Rocky
                       Flats could reach its permitted storage capacity in fiscal year 1992.

                       We found the following:
Results in Brief
                   l   The date that the physical capacity of existing TRU waste storage facili-
                       ties will be reached ranges from early 1991 at the Hanford Site to about
                       100 years at the Nevada Test Site. According to officials at the six sites,
                       additional storage facilities are either in the processof being con-
                       structed or can be constructed as neededif funds are appropriated and
                       no other restrictions apply.
                   l   Although storage site officials did not identify any statutory restrictions
                       on the amount of TRU waste that can be stored at the sites, certain
                       administrative restrictions could affect storage of TRU waste at some
                       sites, However, if new out-of-state TRZJwaste, mixed with hazardous
                       waste regulated under the ResourceConservation and Recovery Act
                       (RCRA), is to be stored at the six sites, revised RCRA permits would have
                       to be approved by someof the states. According to DOE storage site offi-
                       cials, the states have indicated that they would opposethe storage of
                       any new out-of-state mixed TRU waste within their borders.
                   l   According to DOE, until WIPP is operational (currently scheduledfor
                        1996), TRU waste will continue to be stored at the interim storage sites.
                       Each interim site is required to develop site-specific waste management
                       plans describing how the projected newly generatedTRU waste will be
                       manageduntil a final disposal site is constructed. In addition, a DOE task
                       force is exploring various options for temporarily storing mixed TRU
                       waste from the Rocky Flats Plant in the event that the onsite capacity at
                       this large DOE production facility is reached.Someof the options being
                       explored by the task force, such as storing waste at Department of
                       Defensesites, could also be used for storing waste from other DOE loca-
                       tions should the need arise.

                       Under the Atomic Energy Act of 1964, DOE is responsible for managing
Background             and disposing of radioactive waste. However, if the radioactive waste is
                       mixed with hazardous waste that is subject to regulation under the
                       ResourceConservation and RecoveryAct (RCRA)(~~      U.S.C.6901.et seq.),

                       Page 2                                 GAO/RCED-90-166   Tramuranic   Waste Storage

this mixed waste is then regulated by the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) or by ErA-authorizedstates. At the present time, RCRA regu-
latory authority for mixed waste varies from state to state. Of those
states where DOE interim storage sites are located, four states-Idaho,
South Carolina, Tennessee,and Washington-have been granted regula-
tory authority. Although New Mexico and Nevada operate basic RCRA
programs, they are awaiting final EPA authorization to regulate mixed
waste. According to DOE, EPA maintains that neither EPA nor the states of
New Mexico or Nevada can administer the federal RCRA radioactive
mixed-waste program while this authorization is pending. All the sites
but Nevada store mixed TRU waste.
Prior to 1970, TRU waste was buried nonretrievably in shallow pits 4 to
20 feet below ground. In 1970, the Atomic Energy Commission(a prede-
cessorto DOE) began storing in a retrievable manner contact-handled and
remote-handled4TRU waste at six DOE interim storage sites until DOE
decided on a safe, permanent disposal method. DOE estimates that
through December1988 about 191,000cubic meters of TRIJ waste was
buried and about 59,700 cubic meters was stored at the DOEsites.” In
addition, DOE expects to generate an annual averageof about 2,535 cubic
meters of TRU waste through the year 2013.
In November 1975, DOE identified locations in southeastern New Mexico
from which to select a repository site for the permanent disposal of TR'IJ
waste. Shortly thereafter, DOE settled on a site about 26 miles from the
city of Carlsbad. Subsequentlegislation, enacted in December1979,
authorized WIPP as a research and development facility to demonstrate
the safe disposal of radioactive waste resulting from defenseactivities
and programs.
Although initially expected to begin operations in 1988, WIPP has been
delayed. The Secretary of Energy is scheduledto decide in June 1990
WIPP'S readinessto begin a &year test program to demonstrate that the
waste can be safely disposedof at the site. If the tests show that the
waste can be safely disposedof at the site, WIPP could begin operations
in 1995.

“Contact-handled TRU waste is waste that contains so little radioactive material that it can be han-
dled by workers with the shielding that is provided by the waste package. Remote-handled waste
contains high levels of radioactive material and must be handled by remote devices.
“Five 65-gallon drums are needed to contain one cubic meter of TRU waste.

Page 3                                              GAO/RCED-90-166      Transuranic   Waste Storage

Remaining Capacity at   The existing or planned storage facilities at the six DOE sites have the
                        capacity to store an additional 8,700 cubic meters to 9,700 cubic meters
DOE Storage Sites       of TRIJ waste. In addition, a secondstorage facility at the Hanford Site,
Varies                  known as the Central WasteComplex, has spaceavailable, as of April
                        11, 1990, to store about 393 plutonium-equivalent curies (2,562 grams
                        of radioactive material) of TRU waste. However, the remaining storage
                        capacity of facilities at each site and the date this capacity will be
                        reached vary greatly.
                        According to DOEstorage site officials, the existing storage spacefor
                        contact-handled TRU waste at three of the six sites is beginning to run
                        out. At the estimated storage rates at these sites, DOE will be able to
                        continue to store additional contact-handled TRU waste for 8 months to
                        31 months at Hanford, Los Alamos” , and Savannah River. According to
                        site officials, Oak Ridge could reach capacity in about 5-l/2 years,
                        whereas the Nevada Test Site could continue storing additional unmixed
                        TRU waste for about 100 years. Idaho’s remaining capacity, according to
                        site officials, cannot be determined until agreementis reached with EPA
                        Region X on how contact-handled TRU waste is to be stored. Under the
                        worst casestorage scenario, according to a site official, Idaho would not
                        have adequate capacity to store waste already at the site. However, if
                        EPA adopts Idaho’s recommendedstorage configuration, the site could
                        continue to store waste for more than 100 years.
                        Of the four sites storing remote-handled TRU waste (Hanford, Idaho, Los
                        Alamos, and Oak Ridge) only one-Hanford-will         reach capacity within
                        the next 14 years, according to WE estimates. According to Hanford offi-
                        cials, all newly generated remote-handled TRU waste will be stored in
                        drums shielded with lead, thus they can be handled by workers in the
                        samemanner as contact-handled TRU waste. The shielded drums of
                        remote-handled waste, according to these officials, will then be stored
                        along with the contact-handled waste at the Central WasteComplex.
                        Hanford officials estimate that the site will reach capacity during the
                        first half of 1991.
                        According to officials at the six sites, additional storage facilities are
                        either in the processof being constructed or can be constructed, if neces-
                        sary. However, DOE requires storage sites to perform a safety analysis to
                        demonstrate that storage of waste presents no undue radiological or
                        nonradiological risk to onsite or offsite populations. Only the Hanford

                        “Certified waste storage only (see app. I). Los Alamos should have storage space for its uncertified
                        contact- handled TRU waste for at least 18 years.

                        Page 4                                               GAO/RCED-96-166      Transuranic   Waste Storage

                       Site reported that restrictions have been imposed as a result of such an
                       analysis. According to Hanford officials, operational safety considera-
                       tions limit the total plutonium content of waste that can be stored at its
                       Central WasteComplex to 520 plutonium equivalent curies. This limit
                       has been established to ensure that the storage facility, classified as a
                       low hazard facility, does not pose an undue risk to onsite or offsite
                       populations. Therefore, although additional physical storage spacecan
                       be built at the complex, the total radioactivity of the waste cannot
                       exceedthe safety limit. (App. I provides a detailed discussionof the
                       storage capacity at each of the DOE sites.)

                       Although storage site officials did not identify any statutory restrictions
Restrictions on the    on the amount of TRU waste that can be stored at the sites, certain
Amount of Waste That   administrative restrictions could affect storage of TRU waste at some
Can Be Stored          sites. In addition, these officials said that political opposition to the stor-
                       ageof out-of-state mixed TRU waste must be overcomeat all DOE storage
                       As discussedpreviously, only the Hanford Site reported that operational
                       safety limits, established as a result of a DOE safety analysis review,
                       restrict the amount of waste that can be stored at one of its two storage
                       facilities. The amount of waste that can be stored at Hanford’s Central
                       WasteComplex is limited to 520 plutonium-equivalent curies.
                       According to DOE site officials, other than DOE-imposed   restrictions such
                       as those related to operational safety, no restrictions exist to expanding
                       their storage capacity for unmixed TRU waste. However, TRU waste
                       mixed with hazardous waste is subject to EPA or state regulation. As a
                       result, somestorage sites would have to either revise their RCRA interim
                       status permits or obtain approval from the state regulatory agency,or
                       do both, in order to expand capacity beyond the current RCRA permitted
                       limits.’ Los Alamos, however, can increaseits storage capacity as needed
                       without state approval becauseneither EPA nor New Mexico are regulat-
                       ing mixed TRU waste while New Mexico is awaiting EPA authorization to
                       administer the RCRA program. According to DOE officials, when New
                       Mexico assumesregulatory authority, the state could establish storage
                       limits that could affect the site’s ability to expand capacity. According

                       ‘The Nevada Test Site waste acceptance criteria does not allow mixed TRU waste to be accepted. The
                       site, also, is not subject to federal RCRA mixed-waste regulations until EPA grants mixed-waste regu-
                       latory authority to the state of Nevada.

                       Page 6                                              GAO/RCED-90-166     Transuranic   Waste Storage


                            to an EPA official, it is estimated that the state of New Mexico will have
                            this authority by about September 1990.
                            Other obstaclescould arise if the capacity expansion is necessitatedby
                            the receipt of out-of-state mixed TRU waste. Most sites would have to
                            revise their RCRA interim status permits to include the new waste source
                            and obtain state approval before they could accept waste for storage.s
                            However, officials at all DOEsites anticipate state opposition to their
                            storing out-of-state mixed TRU waste.

                            Until WIPI’ is operational, DOE plans to continue storing TRU waste at the
DOE Contingency             DOE interim storage sites, Each interim storage site is required to annu-
Plans   If WIPP   Opening   ally develop a program plan that describesthe site’s waste management
Is Delayed                  operations and plans for storing waste in the coming fiscal year. Accord-
                            ing to the Deputy Director, DOE Office of WasteOperations, DOE head-
                            quarters would becomeinvolved if for somereason a site could not
                            safely store its waste or the site would have to be used to store waste
                            from other DOE facilities, such as the Rocky Flats Plant.
                            DOE has established the  Rocky Flats Plant Alternative StorageTask
                            Force to develop several options to addressthe mixed TRU waste stor-
                            age-limit problem at the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado. The Deputy
                            Director, DOE Office of WasteOperations, said that although the task
                            force is focusing on the Rocky Flats waste, there are no technical rea-
                            sonswhy the storage options being explored could not be used for stor-
                            ing waste from other DOE facilities. The options being explored by DOE, in
                            addition to sending Rocky Flats waste to WIPP during the test program,
                            include storage of this waste at DOE interim storage sites, Department of
                            Defensesites, and yet-to-be established commercial TRU waste storage
                            sites. A former task force chairman said that these options will be pur-
                            sued despite what happens at WIPP becauseWIPP will take only a small
                            volume of Rocky Flats waste during the early years.
                            Planning for storage of Rocky Flats’ mixed TRU waste at DOE sites has
                            been underway for several months. In addition to possibly storing the
                            waste at the existing six DOE interim storage facilities, DOE is also looking
                            at the possibility of storing the waste above ground at WIPP and
                            expanding the storage capacity at Rocky Flats, if state approval can be
                            obtained. As of May 12,1990, with the exception of the Rocky Flats

                            “The Idaho National Engineering Laboratory interim status permit already provides for storage of
                            Rocky Flats’ TRU waste.

                            Page 6                                             GAO/RCED-90-166     Transuranic   Waste Storage

               Plant Action Plan, all DOE storage site Action Plans for storing Rocky
               Flats waste had been approved by DOE, according to the task force chair-
               man. In addition, DOE is revising its draft environmental assessment
               addressingthe environmental impacts associatedwith each option. If
               approval of necessarypermits can be obtained, DOE believes that some
               sites could be ready to accept Rocky Flats’ mixed TRUwaste in 1990.
               However, according to the Deputy Director, DOE Office of WasteOpera-
               tions, DOE will not direct the sites to submit RCRA permit modifications
               until it is absolutely necessary.
               A secondoption that DOE is exploring, with the concurrenceof the Secre-
               tary of Defense,is the possibility of storing TRU waste on Defense-con-
               trolled property. The DefenseSites Subtask Force was formed in
               January 1990 with representatives from both Defenseand DOE. The
               group will identify potential Defensesites and develop a strategy for
               site selection. According to the Chairman of the Rocky Flats Plant Alter-
               native Storage Task Force, DOE currently plans to prepare all necessary
               environmental documentation and to reimburse Defensefor all storage
               costs.A list of potential sites is scheduled to be ready by June 1990. A
               decision on a viable site will be made in October 1992. The site selected,
               however, is not expected to be ready to receive Rocky Flats’ TRU waste
               before late 1993.

               The last storage option DOE is exploring for Rocky Flats’ TRU waste is
               interim storage at a commercial storage facility. In late February 1990,
               DOE announcedits intention to select a contractor to perform this ser-
               vice. According to the Chairman of the Rocky Flats Plant Alternative
               Storage Task Force, DOE Secretarial approval of a Requestfor Proposal
               is scheduled for May 1990. According to the Deputy Director, DOE Office
               of Waste Operations, if this approach is approved by the Secretary of
               Energy, DOE plans to proceed in phases.The first phase would involve
               feasibility and siting studies. When these studies are completed, the sec-
               ond phase would involve designing the facility and obtaining necessary
               permits and licenses.The third phase would be the actual construction
               and operation of a temporary storage facility. DOE estimates that the
               total procurement would range from $20 million to $30 million and that
               it would take 3 to 4 years before a commercial site could become

               As we reported in December 1989, continued temporary storage of TRU
Observations   waste at DOE'S interim storage sites has becomea politically contentious

               Page 7                                GAO/RCED-90-166   Trammranic   Waste Storage


issue between DOE and the states hosting these facilities9 While some
solutions to DOE’S interim storage problem may be technically feasible,
they may also present political problems. Becausethere are problems
with any storage solution DOE may pursue, we believe that it is impor-
tant for DOE to determine if WIPP can be used as a repository as quickly
as possible.

We conducted our review from December1989 through April 1990 in
accordancewith generally acceptedgovernment auditing standards. To
obtain information on the TRU waste storage capacity and any limita-
tions to increasing the amount of waste that can be stored at each of the
six DOE sites, we requested DOE to provide this information in writing
along with documentation to support its responses.We then visited the
South Carolina, Idaho, and New Mexico sites to verify the information
provided to us. For the remaining three sites, we discussedthe responses
with appropriate DOE and contractor waste managementofficials to clar-
ify and expand on the responsesprovided. This report contains informa-
tion primarily about solid TRU waste storage, since those wastes are
targeted for disposal at WIPP. Other TRUwastes (sludges,buried wastes,
large bulky wastes) were generally not included. This approach to
obtaining the requested information was used in order to respond in a
short time frame. We were unable to assess,in depth, the TRU waste
managementoperations or waste minimization activities at the interim
storage sites. To determine DOE’S alternative storage plans if WIPP were
not available, we interviewed officials at DOE headquarters in Washing-
ton, DC. and reviewed DOE’S long-range and site-specific waste storage
We discussedthe contents of the report with DOE headquarters, opera-
tions office, and contractor officials at each of the DOE storage sites, who
generally concurred with the facts presented. Their comments have
been included in the report where appropriate. However, as you
requested, we did not obtain official DOE commentson a draft of this
As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announceits contents
earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days from
the date of this letter, At that time, we will send copiesto the Secretary

QNuclear Waste: Storage Issues at DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico (GAO/

Page 8                                            GAO/RCJtDfMLlf36    ‘lhnmranic    Waste Storage
of Energy and the Director, Office of Managementand Budget, and make
copies available to others upon request.
Pleasecall me at (202) 276-1441if you have any additional questions or
if we can be of further assistance.Major contributors to this report are
listed in appendix II.
Sincerely yours,

Victor S. Rezendes
Director, Energy Issues

Page 9                               GAO/RCED-99-106   Tranmranic   Waste Storage

Letter                                                                                               1

Appendix I                                                                                          12
Current and Future      Hanford Site (Washington)                                                   12
                        Idaho National Engineering Laboratory                                       13
Capacity to Store       Los Alamos National Laboratory (New Mexico)                                 16
Transuranic w&e at      Nevada Test Site                                                            16
DOE’s Six Interim       Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Tennessee)                                   16
                        Savannah River Site (South Carolina)                                        17
Storage Sites
Appendix II
Major Contributors to
This Report


                        DOE       Department of Energy
                        EPA       Environmental Protection Agency
                        GAO       General Accounting Office
                        INEL      Idaho National Engineering Laboratory
                        LANL      Las Alamos National Laboratory
                        NTS       Nevada Test Site
                        ORNL      Oak Ridge National Laboratory
                        RCRA      ResourceConservation and RecoveryAct
                        SCDHEC    South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental
                        SRS       Savannah River Site
                        TRU       transuranic
                        WIPP      WasteIsolation Pilot Plant

                        Page 10                            GAO/BCED4JO-166   Trammradc   Waste Storage
Page 11   GAO/RCEDWl66 Trnnauranic WasteStorage

Appendix I

Current and F’uture Capacity to Store
Trmurtiti    Waste at DOE’s Six Interim
Storage Sites
                The remaining capacity of existing and soon-to-becompleted transura-
                nit (THJ) waste storage facilities and the expected date this capacity will
                be reached vary among the six DOE interim storage sites. However,
                according to officials at the six sites, additional storage facilities are
                either in the processof being constructed or can be constructed, if neces-
                sary. The following sections discussthe TRU waste-storagesituation at
                each of these storage sites. The variation in the discussionof each site
                reflects the differences between the sites and site-specific issues.

Hanford Site    Hanford currently stores contact-handled TRU waste in a retrievable
                manner in two facilities-the Transuranic WasteStorage and Assay
(Washington)    Facility and the Central WasteComplex. According to a Hanford official,
                the TR~JWasteStorage and Assay Facility is a sturdily constructed build-
                ing and therefore provides a high limit to the type of waste that can be
                stored. According to Hanford officials, the Central WasteComplex, on
                the other hand, consistsof several light-weight metal buildings and
                therefore the DOERichland Operations Office has approved much
                stricter storage limits. Becausethis facility has a low hazard classifica-
                tion, uo~ operational safety considerations limit the plutonium content
                of a drum to 3.6 plutonium-equivalent curies (23 grams of radioactive
                material) and the total plutonium content of the Complex to 520 pluto-
                nium-equivalent curies (3,585 grams of radioactive material).

                According to Hanford officials, as of April 11, 1990, the TRU WasteStor-
                age and Assay Facility contained about 252 cubic meters of TRU waste,
                with a remaining storage capacity of about 83 cubic meters. The other
                Hanford storage facility, the Central WasteComplex, had an inventory
                as of April 11, 1990, of about 127 plutonium-equivalent curies of waste
                (828 grams of radioactive material). Therefore, the Central WasteCom-
                plex had a remaining storage capacity of about 393 plutonium
                equivalent curies of waste.
                A DOE Richland official estimates that, if the WasteIsolation Pilot Plant
                (WIPP) doesnot open, Hanford’s existing onsite TRU waste storage capac-
                ity will be reached during the first half of calendar year 1991.I Accord-
                ing to Hanford officials, when it is apparent that storage spacewill be
                exceeded,Hanford could construct additional storage facilities as
                needed.For example, Hanford is currently planning additional facilities
                in the Central WasteComplex. The amount of waste that can be stored

                ‘Newly generated remote-handled TRlJ waste will be placed in drums shielded with lead and stored
                in the Central Waste Complex.

                Page 12                                           GAO/RCEDBO-166      Transuranic   Waste Storage
                 Appendix I
                 Current and Future Capacity to Store
                 ‘rranauranlc  Wade at DOE’s SIX Interim
                 Storage Sitea

                 within the Central WasteComplex will, however, still be limited to 620
                 plutonium-equivalent curies.
                 Hanford officials believe that the 620 plutonium-equivalent curie limit is
                 too restrictive and therefore plan to discussrevising the limit with the
                 Hanford Safety Approval Committee. If the limit cannot be revised, the
                 officials said that the storage spacecould be maximized by insuring that
                 higher plutonium-equivalent curie waste is placed in the TRUWasteStor-
                 age and Assay Facility, thus allowing more waste to be stored at the
                 existing facilities. Another option is to rescheduleor delay decommis-
                 sioning and decontamination activities, thus reducing the amount of
                 waste generated. Other options include (1) placing TRUwaste in contain-
                 ers with a greater shielding capability and (2) designing buildings that
                 would have a greater safety limit. Westinghouse,the Hanford site con-
                 tractor, is expected to complete a study of possible new building designs
                 by the end of July 1990.

                 Hanford has stored remote-handled TRUwaste in a third facility,
                 referred to as the Alpha Caissonfacility, or in shallow trenches. The
                 total volume of remote-handled TRUwaste stored at Hanford, according
                 to a DOE Richland official, is about 136.6 cubic meters. About 23.6 cubic
                 meters of this waste is stored in the Alpha Caissonfacility and the
                 remaining 113 cubic meters of waste is retrievably stored in drums and
                 boxes in shallow trenches covered with dirt. Becausethe Alpha Caisson
                 facility has reached its storage capacity, all newly generated remote-
                 handled TRU waste will be placed in drums shielded with lead so that it
                 can be handled by workers in the samemanner as contact-handled TRU
                 waste. According to a DOE Richland official, this waste will then be
                 stored in the Central Waste Complex.

                 Since 19’70,TRU waste has been placed in interim 20-year retrievable
Idaho National   storage at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL) Radioactive
Engineering      Waste ManagementComplex. The Complex includes (1) two fabric-cov-
Laboratory       ered buildings, (2) the Intermediate Level TRU Storage Facility for
                 remote-handled TRU waste, and (3) two earth-covered TRUwaste storage
                 area pads. Although the current inventory of TRUwaste includes both
                 contact-handled and remote-handled waste, greater than 99 percent is
                 As of February 1990, INEL'S inventory of contact-handled TRUwaste in
                 the two fabric-covered buildings and in the earth-covered storage pads
                 was about 13,036 cubic meters and 61,720 cubic meters, respectively.

                 Page 13                                   GAO/RCElMO-16f3   ‘lkansuranic   Waste Storage
Appendix I
Current and Future Capacity to Store
Tranauranic   Waste at DOE’s Six Interim
Storage Sites

The remaining storage capacity, however, cannot be determined until
EPA Region X agreeson a stacking configuration. On January 29, 1990,
EPA Region X issued a Notice of Noncomplianceto the no&Idaho Opera-
tions Office stating that the current placement of drums on the storage
pads violates RCRA requirements. Specifically, the current dense-pack
configuration (i.e., stacking 20 drums wide, 20-26 drums deep, and 6
drums high) doesnot provide adequate aisle spaceto allow (1) proper
inspection of the drums, (2) unobstructed movement of personnel, or (3)
unobstructed movement of emergencyequipment.
INEL officials are scheduledto discussthe stacking configuration with
EPA by the end of May 1990. According to INEL officials, if INEL is allowed
to adopt a modified dense-packconfiguration, (i.e., stacking 12 drums
wide, 24 drums deep, and 6 drums high), as it has proposed to EPA, INEL
would have an estimated remaining capacity of about 1,900 to 2,000
cubic meters. At the current onsite generation rate of about 6 cubic
meters a year for contact-handled TRU waste (assuming that no waste
will be received from another facility), INEL officials said that storage
capacity should be adequate for hundreds of years.

This situation could change dramatically if INEL'S proposed modified
dense-packstorage configuration is not acceptableto EPA. INEL officials
said that if they are required to store TRU waste under the worst-case
RCRA stacking configuration (stacking 2 drums wide, 2 drums deep, and
3 drums high), there would not be enough physical storage spacein
existing facilities to accommodatethe contact-handled TRU waste
already in storage. According to INEL estimates, if all retrievably stored
waste must be restacked using the modified dense-packconfiguration,
20 new storage modules would be needed.However, if the worst case
RCRA spacing configuration must be used, INEL estimates that 3 1 modules
will be required. According to an INEL official responsible for construc-
tion programs at the complex, each module is expected to cost between
$3.6 million and $6.6 million. (The higher cost figure includes the instal-
lation of robotics for monitoring the drums if a modified dense-packcon-
figuration is adopted.)
INEL'S remote-handled TRU waste is stored underground in steel pipe
vaults at the Intermediate Level TRU WasteStorage Facility. According
to an INEL official, this facility has a total physical storage capacity of
136 cubic meters. As of March 28, 1990, INEL had an inventory of 66
cubic meters of remote-handled TRU waste. With INEL'S annual average
remote-handled TRU waste generation rate of 1.133 cubic meters, INEL
could have adequate storage spaceuntil the year 2060.

Page 14                                    GAO/RCEDBO-166   Tranmranic   Waste Storage
                      Appendix I
                      Current and Future Capacity to Store
                      Transnranlc   Waste at DOE’s Six Interim
                      Storage Sites

Los Alamos National   The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) generatesand temporarily
                      stores both contact-handled and remote-handled TRU waste. According
Laboratory (New       to a draft LANL WasteManagementSite Plan, it is estimated that about
Mexico)               40 percent of LANL TRU wastes are also mixed with hazardous waste.

                      Most TRU waste that has not yet been certified for WIPP acceptanceis
                      placed on storage pads in a dense-packconfiguration. As the stack pro-
                      gressesdown the pad, the top and sides are covered with 3/4-inch ply-
                      wood, and the entire stack is enclosedwith 0.02 inch nylon-reinforced
                      vinyl sheeting. The stack is then covered with 3 to 6 feet of earth to
                      create an artificial mound. On the other hand, TRU waste that has been
                      assayedand certified for WIPP acceptance,according to draft WIPP Waste
                      AcceptanceCriteria, is placed on a separate asphalt storage pad under
                      the protective covering of a tension support structure.
                      As of January 31, 1990, LANL had an inventory of 7,366.6 cubic meters
                      of uncertified contact-handled TRU waste. With a current generation rate
                      of about 8.8 cubic meters of waste per year, according to a IANL esti-
                      mate, and about 680.6 cubic meters of remaining capacity, LANL should
                      have storage spacefor its uncertified TRU waste until 2066. However, if
                      LANL was required to restack the waste containers for RCRA spacing
                      requirements, rather than the current dense-packconfiguration, LANL
                      could reach storage capacity by the year 2008.

                      The total inventory of certified contact-handled TRU waste at LANL, as of
                      *January31, 1990, was 304.2 cubic meters. With a current generation
                      rate of about 191.2 cubic meters of waste per year, according to a LANL
                      estimate, and about 643.9 cubic meters of remaining capacity, LANL
                      should have spacefor its certified TRU waste until about November
                      However, the estimated dates that capacity for uncertified and certified
                      TRU waste will  be reached is conservative. Specifically, LANL did not fac-
                      tor in the storage savings to be achievedthrough the use of its Size
                      Reduction Facility in developing its estimates for newly generated
                      waste. This facility is expectedto result in a four-to-one reduction in the
                      waste volume. According to a LANL official, the current inventory is now
                      being processedthrough the SizeReduction Facility, and newly gener-
                      ated waste will be processedbeginning later this year.
                      According to LANL, there are currently no restrictions on the amount of
                      remote-handled TRU waste that can be stored at the site; however, this
                      could changeif New Mexico receivesregulatory authority as expected

                      Page 16                                    GAO/RCED-90-166   Transuranic   Waste Storage
                     Appendix I
                     Current and Future Capacity to Store
                     Transuranic Waste at DOE’s Six Interim
                     Storage Sk3

                     by September 1990. The remote-handled TRU waste is stored in under-
                     ground shafts. As of March 30,1990, LANL had an inventory of about
                     28.4 cubic meters of remote-handled waste. According to a LANL official,
                     5.4 cubic meters of remote-handled TRU waste will be generatedthrough
                     1991. Thereafter, they do not anticipate the generation of any additional
                     remote-handled TRU waste that would require storage at the site. There-
                     fore, no additional capacity is neededfor remote-handled TRU waste
                     after 1991.

Nevada Test Site     The Nevada Test Site (NTS) currently stores nonmixed TRU waste in 55-
                     gallon drums and boxes in metal sea-landcargo containers on a pad
                     designedand built to RCRA specifications. According to NTS, the Law-
                     rence Livermore National Laboratory is the only facility currently
                     approved to ship TRU waste to NTS for storage.
                     A total of 210 cargo containers can be placed on the storage pad, provid-
                     ing a total TRIJ waste-storagecapacity of between 1,890 and 3,150 cubic
                     meters, depending on the type of packaging used. According to NTS, as of
                     October 31, 1989, the site had room for an additional 160 cargo contain-
                     ers, which can be used to store between 1,440 and 2,400 cubic meters of
                     TRU waste. The laboratory estimates it will ship about 100 55-gallon
                     drums, or 21.2 cubic meters, of TRU waste to NTS annually. At this rate, if
                     WIPP doesnot open, NTS doesnot expect to exceedits current storage-pad
                     capacity for TRU waste for about 100 years.

                     Since 1970,the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has stored most of
Oak Ridge National   its solid TRIJ waste in a retrievable manner in various facilities in the
Laboratory           north area of what is known as Solid WasteStorageArea 5. According
(Tennessee)          to ORNL officials, 70 percent of the solid TRU waste is consideredcontact-
                     handled TRU waste becauseof its low radiation level. Therefore, about
                     30 percent of the stored solid TRU waste inventory contains enough radi-
                     ation to require remote handling. According to ORNL officials, almost all
                     of the ORNL TRU waste is consideredmixed waste under the current EPA
                     ORNL currently  stores contact-handled TRU waste in two buildings.
                     Becausethese buildings do not have a concretepad and are partially
                     buried, they are not in compliance with RCRA or DOE storage facility
                     requirements and therefore must be vacated by November 1992.
                     According to ORNL, construction is scheduledto begin in October 1991 on
                     a $1.05 million storage facility to replace these two buildings. When

                     Page 16                                  GAO/RCED-90-160   Transuranic   Waste Storage

                      Appendix I
                      Current and Future Capacity to Store
                      Transuranic   Waste at DOE’s Six Interim
                      Storage Sites

                      completed, the new facility will provide storage spacefor about 594
                      cubic meters of contact-handled TRU waste. However, as of October 31,
                      1989, ORNL already had about 510 cubic meters of contact-handled TRU
                      waste in storage that must be transferred to the new storage facility.
                      ORNL projects that the remaining capacity at the new facility will pro-
                      vide adequate spaceto store newly generated contact-handled TRU waste
                      (about 13.8 cubic meters annually) through December1995.
                      According to the ORNL Project Manager/WasteManagement,the total
                      volume of remote-handled TRU waste retrievably stored at ORNL is about
                      222 cubic meters. This waste is stored in concrete casksin a bunker-type
                      facility or in shallow trenches2 However, according to ORNL, the shallow
                      trenches do not meet state or federal requirements and must be vacated
                      by November 1992.
                      ORNL plans to  construct two new remote-handled TRU waste storage facil-
                      ities to replace the shallow trenches and to provide additional storage
                      capacity for newly generated waste. According to the ORNL Project Man-
                      ager/Waste Management,construction will begin on the first storage
                      facility in August 1990. This $940,000 facility will have a capacity to
                      store 108 concrete casks.The forecasted date to start construction for
                      the secondstorage facility is July 1992. This $900,000 storage facility
                      will provide storage spacefor 162 concrete casksof remote-handled TRU
                      waste. With the addition of the two new facilities, ORNL will have a
                      remaining remote-handled TRU waste storage capacity of about 88 casks.
                      At a generation rate of about 4.59 cubic meters a year, ORNL will not
                      reach its remote-handled TRU waste storage capacity until June 2004.

                      According to Savannah River Site (SRS) officials, all TRU solid waste, gen-
Savannah River Site   erated as a by-product of production since 1974, is stored on concrete
(South Carolina)      pads at SRSwithin a 119-acrearea. Dependingon the waste involved,
                      several different types of waste containers can be placed on the pads.
                      TR~Jwaste containing greater than 100 nanocuries per gram but less than
                      0.5 curies per container is stored directly on the pad in 55-gallon galva-
                      nized steel drums. Galvanized steel drums containing waste greater than
                      0.5 curies per container are first placed in prefabricated concrete con-
                      tainers, called culverts, and then placed on the pads. Finally, large,
                      bulky TRU waste, such as decommissionedequipment, is placed in carbon
                      steel boxes before placement on the pads.

                      2According to ORNL, for purposes of this report, the volume of the cask is equal to approximately 1
                      cubic yard, or 0.766 cubic meters.

                      Page 17                                            GAO/RCED-90-166     Trausuranic   Waste Storage
Appendix I
Current and Future Capacity to Store
Traneuranic   Waste at DOE’s Six lnterim
Storage Sites

According to Savannah River officials, as of May 8, 1990, TRU waste
stored at SRSwas equivalent to about 12.5 of the 13 existing Rcw-per-
mitted storage pads. This excludes TRU waste equivalent to about 0.5
storage pads that is being stored temporarily at the generators until
completion in June 1990 of 4 new RCRA-permittedstorage pads. There-
fore, when the new TRU pads are completed, SRSwill have approximately
4 TRU pads to store newly generatedTRU waste, excluding waste gener-
ated since May 8, 1990. Using SRS’projected annual waste generation
rate of about 992 cubic meters of mixed and TRU waste and about 857
cubic meters of large, bulky TRU waste, the remaining storage capacity
at SRSis about 3,900 cubic meters. We estimate, and an SRSofficial in
WasteManagementand Technology agrees,that capacity could be
reached at its existing and soon-to-be-completedTRU storage pads by
July 1992.
The waste storage situation at SRS,however, could deteriorate if the cur-
rent spacing of storage containers must be changed.On July 13, 1989,
the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
(SCDAEC) waived the state’s requirement to maintain aisles between the
stored drums to allow unobstructed movement of equipment to any area
of the facility. The waiver was granted on the condition that the stored
drums contained no free liquids. Although SRSrecords indicate that
SCDHECwas notified as early as March 24, 1989, that rainwater had
intruded into the drums, no action has been taken by the state to require
SRSto provide wider aisles. According to an SRSofficial, as long as SRS is
making a good faith effort to remove the water from the drums, the
state will not require wider aisle spacing. He said that a contract to
remove the water from the drums is expected to be awarded in June
1990. If SCDHEXwere to require wider aisles between the drums, SRS'
remaining storage capacity would be significantly reduced.

Page 18                                    GAO/RCED-90-166   Transuranic   Waste Storage
Major Contributors to This Report

                        Judy A. England-Joseph,Associate Director
Resources,              Robert E. Allen, Jr., Assistant Director
Community, and          Edward E. Young, Jr., Assignment Manager
                        Donald E. Pless,Evaluator
Development Division,
Washington, D.C.
                        Peter Fernandez,Regional ManagementRepresentative
Denver Regional         Julia A. DuBois, Evaluator-in-Charge
Office                  Christopher M. Pacheco,Evaluator

(801897)                Page 19                            GAO/RCED-90-166   Tr~~urdc   Wade Storage
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