CHARACTERIZATION OF REMOTE-HANDLED TRANSURANIC WASTE FOR THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT

FINAL REPORT

Committee on the Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Board on Radioactive Waste Management

Division on Earth and Life Studies

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.



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Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Final Report CHARACTERIZATION OF REMOTE-HANDLED TRANSURANIC WASTE FOR THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT FINAL REPORT Committee on the Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Board on Radioactive Waste Management Division on Earth and Life Studies National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C.

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Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Final Report NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competence and with regard for appropriate balance. Support for this study was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy under cooperative agreement number DE-FC01-99EW59049. All opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Energy. International Standard Book Number: 0-309-08460-1 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Box 285 Washington, DC 20055 800–624–6242 202–334–3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area) http://www.nap.edu Cover. Remote-handled transuranic waste re-packaging operations in a “hot cell” at Battelle Columbus Laboratories-West Jefferson North Campus. From top to bottom: a robotic manipulator arm transfers several pool filters into a new container and closes the lid. In the background: picture of sludge at the bottom of the K-Basins at the Hanford Site. The sludge will be removed and pieces larger than 0.25 inches will be separated. The sludge, which is expected to be remote-handled transuranic waste, will be solidified while the larger pieces will be handled as debris waste. The debris could be transuranic or low-level waste. Copyright 2002 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

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Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Final Report THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine National Research Council The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm.A.Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V.Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and of advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce Alberts and Dr. Wm.A.Wulf are chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Final Report COMMITTEE ON THE CHARACTERIZATION OF REMOTE-HANDLED TRANSURANIC WASTE FOR THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT EULA BINGHAM, Chair, University of Cincinnati, Ohio SANFORD COHEN, S.Cohen & Associates, McLean, Virginia MILTON LEVENSON, Independent Consultant, Menlo Park, California KENNETH L.MOSSMAN, Arizona State University, Tempe ERNEST NIESCHMIDT, Idaho State University, Idaho Falls JOHN PLODINEC, Mississippi State University, Starkville ANNE E.SMITH, Charles River Associates, Washington, D.C. Consultant HEINO NITSCHE, University of California, Berkeley Liaison to the Board on Radioactive Waste Management ALEXANDER MACLACHLAN, E.I.du Pont de Nemours and Company (retired), Wilmington, Delaware Staff BARBARA PASTINA, Study Director ANGELA R.TAYLOR, Senior Project Assistant DARLA J.THOMPSON, Research Assistant

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Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Final Report BOARD ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT JOHN F.AHEARNE, Chair, Sigma Xi and Duke University, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina CHARLES MCCOMBIE, Vice Chair, Consultant, Gipf-Oberfrick, Switzerland ROBERT M.BERNERO, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (retired), Gaithersburg, Maryland ROBERT J.BUDNITZ, Future Resources Associates, Inc., Berkeley, California GREGORY R.CHOPPIN, Florida State University, Tallahassee RODNEY EWING, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor JAMES H.JOHNSON, JR., Howard University, Washington, D.C. HOWARD C.KUNREUTHER, University of Pennsylvania NIKOLAY LAVEROV, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow MILTON LEVENSON, Bechtel International (retired), Menlo Park, California JANE C.S.LONG, Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada, Reno ALEXANDER MACLACHLAN, E.I.du Pont de Nemours and Company (retired), Wilmington, Delaware NORINE E.NOONAN, College of Charleston, South Carolina EUGENE A.ROSA, Washington State University, Pullman ATSUYUKI SUZUKI, University of Tokyo, Japan VICTORIA J.TSCHINKEL, Victoria J.Tschinkel Environmental Policy and Management, Tallahassee, Florida Staff KEVIN D.CROWLEY, Director MICAH D.LOWENTHAL, Staff Officer BARBARA PASTINA, Senior Staff Officer JOHN R.WILEY, Senior Staff Officer TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative Associate DARLA J.THOMPSON, Research Assistant LATRICIA C.BAILEY, Senior Project Assistant LAURA D.LLANOS, Senior Project Assistant ANGELA R.TAYLOR, Senior Project Assistant JAMES YATES, JR., Office Assistant

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Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Final Report Preface The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking authorization to dispose of its remote-handled transuranic (RH-TRU) waste in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), a geologic repository located in New Mexico. The DOE-Carlsbad Field Office asked the National Research Council to provide an independent review of its proposed characterization plan for RH-TRU waste. To this end, the National Research Council appointed an ad hoc committee of seven members and one consultant with expertise in the following disciplines: knowledge of the DOE weapons complex, particularly with respect to the generation of RH-TRU waste; TRU waste characterization techniques; health physics; actinide chemistry; environmental policy; public policy; and risk assessment. The committee’s statement of task is in Sidebar P.1. The biographical sketches of committee members can be found in Appendix A. SIDEBAR P.1 Statement of Task The objective of this study is to review and evaluate the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) plan to characterize remote-handled transuranic (RH-TRU) waste to be disposed of at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The committee will provide recommendations, as necessary, for improving the plan’s technical soundness, protection of worker safety, and compliance with applicable regulatory requirements. This study does not address transportation issues related to RH-TRU waste. Examples of criteria that could be used by the committee to review DOE’s characterization plan for RH-TRU waste are the following: validity of assumptions used for the proposed plan; quality of information available on RH-TRU waste; uncertainties on process knowledge data and consequences if wrong; appropriateness and sensitivity of overall system safety to uncertainties in the waste specifications; limitations of the methodologies and procedures to characterize RH-TRU waste; and validity of DOE’s conclusions concerning its characterization plan. The committee met four times, from June 2001 to May 2002, to complete its review of DOE’s characterization plan. The committee interacted with DOE, generator sites, WIPP’s primary regulatory agencies (Environmental Protection Agency and the New Mexico Environment Department), the New Mexico Environmental Evaluation Group, and the public to gather information on the status of RH-TRU waste across DOE’s complex, characterization requirements, and expectations for this new plan. The diverse mix of participants from DOE (headquarters and the sites), regulatory agencies, and national laboratories contributed to lively discussions and great insights into the committee’s task. The committee gathered information from the following sites: Battelle Columbus Laboratories, Idaho Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory-West, and

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Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Final Report the Hanford Site. These sites were selected because they are the main RH-TRU waste generators or, in the case of Battelle Columbus Laboratories, because this site has begun RH-TRU waste characterization operations. The committee also visited Battelle and the WIPP site. Information-gathering meeting agendas and speakers are listed in Appendix B. This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Research Council in making the published report technically sound and to ensure that the report meets National Research Council institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Robert M.Bernero, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (retired) David C.Camp, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Rodney C.Ewing, University of Michigan Harry D.Harmon, Harmon Consulting Darleane C.Hoffman, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory Robert H.Neill, Environmental Evaluation Group (retired) Victoria J.Tschinkel, Victoria J.Tschinkel Environmental Policy and Management Raymond G.Wymer, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (retired) Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Chris G.Whipple, ENVIRON International, Inc. Appointed by the National Research Council, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution. This study could not have been completed without the assistance of many individuals and organizations. The committee thanks many DOE staff members in the Carlsbad Field Office, in the Office of Environmental Management, and at RH-TRU waste generator sites, including contractors, for their active participation in committee meetings and for promptly responding to requests of information. The committee is especially grateful to Roger Nelson, chief scientist at the DOE-Carlsbad Field Office, who served as primary contact for this study and provided outstanding support to committee’s activities; Clayton Gist, RH-TRU waste program manager, and Inés Triay, manager of the Carlsbad Field Office. The committee also expresses its deep appreciation to those who organized site tours, especially James Eide at Battelle Columbus Laboratories and Norbert Rempe at the WIPP. The committee is equally grateful to Steve Zappe of the New Mexico Environment Department and Scott Monroe of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their input on WIPP’s regulatory requirements. Matthew Silva, George Anastas, and James Channell of the New Mexico Environmental Evaluation Group also provided the committee with helpful technical and historical perspectives on the characterization of RH-TRU waste.

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Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Final Report Finally, the committee thanks the following National Research Council staff members: Kevin Crowley, who provided guidance in separating science from policy; Angela Taylor, who made certain our committee meetings were as pleasant as possible; Darla Thompson who provided strong research support; and Barbara Pastina, whose knowledge, patience, and organizational and writing skills are unparalleled. She anticipated the obstacles and smoothed the way for the committee to deal with issues in the statement of task during this fast-track project. Any success of the project is because of her dedication. Eula Bingham, Chair Committee on the Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for the WIPP July 2002

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Characterization of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Final Report Contents     Executive Summary,   1 1   Introduction,   8 2   Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste,   15 3   Regulatory Context for the Disposal of Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste,   27 4   Department of Energy’s Proposed Characterization Plan,   34 5   Assessment of the Proposed Characterization Plan,   47     References,   62     Appendixes     A   Biographical Sketches of Committee Members,   65 B   Information-Gathering Meetings,   68 C   Excerpt from the Committee’s Interim Report: Chapter 5,   71 D   DOE’s Response to the Committee’s Interim Report,   79 E   Information About Selected Transuranic Waste Generator Sites,   91 F   Overview of the Contact-Handled Transuranic Waste Characterization Plan,   103 G   Non-Destructive Techniques for Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste Characterization,   105 H   Waste Dose Rates and Characterization Cost Estimates,   109 I   Glossary,   112 J   Acronyms,   120

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