.f 1‘ _-_-- ._... _ -..-_ ___ . ._. ..._.....-.._--- ...--.I.-..11rli Wd St i1t.w Gerlvral Amounting Ofl’iw +1 b! bA0 Rqwrt to the Chairman, Environment,, ’ Energy and Natural Resources Sut~comrnittee, Committee on Government Operations, House of Itopresentatives 1I _.. _.-__i... ._. -ll-__l_-__-_ .JlIil(~ 1000 1. NUCLEAR WASTE Information on DOE’s Interim Transuranic Waste Storage Facilities ti I11111 III141802 ” .__ ._ ..__ . _._. -.---- - _. United States General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20648 Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division B-239325 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 soil. “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 c B.239825 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 R-239325 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 B-239325 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 -- R-239326 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 sites. 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 , R-239325 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 R-239325 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 operational. 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 . E-230326 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 plans. 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 report. 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/ 1989). 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 Contents 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 Abbreviations 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 Control SRS Savannah River Site TRU transuranic WIPP WasteIsolation Pilot Plant Page 10 GAO/BCED4JO-166 Trammradc Waste Storage Page 11 GAO/RCEDWl66 Trnnauranic WasteStorage I c 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 contact-handled. 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 1992. 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 guidelines. 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 A-..- 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 Economic 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 ITS. (;eneral Accounting Office Post Office Hex 60 16 G~ithwsburg, Maryland 20877 ‘l’ht! first. five copies of esch report are free. Adclitiotd copies are !$z.oo t?ach. Ordws must. tw prqdti by cash or by check or money order made out. to the Superintendt~~t, of Documents. 1 Permit. No. GlOO 1 0l’fici;tI Ibisincw
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)