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The following is a compendium of news reports over the preceding month that may be of interest to our AG offices who are dealing with DOE sites or general nuclear waste issues. Neither the National Association of Attorneys General nor the National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute expresses a view as to the accuracy of news accounts, nor as to the position expounded by the authors of the hyperlinked articles.
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY (DOE)
On a proposal to accept used nuclear fuel from Germany for processing and disposition at the Savannah River Site (SRS), the DOE signed a notice of intent to prepare an environmental assessment. The assessment will analyze potential environmental impacts associated with transporting, storing, and processing fuel at the SRS as well as exploring disposition alternatives for the highly-enriched uranium that will be separated from fuel kernels.
The DOE awarded a $25.7 million task order to North Wind, an Idaho Falls, Idaho, company, for cleanup at the Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC) at the Santa Susanna Field Laboratory in Canoga Park, California. North Wind will be responsible for a number of tasks associated with environmental monitoring and deactivation and decommissioning activities.
DOE awarded Dr. James Marra its D.T. Rankin Award for his work as an investigator at DOE’s Savannah River National Laboratory. Dr. Marra was recognized for his leadership in a division that focuses on studying ceramic technologies for waste management and environmental remediation.
Storage, Recycling, or Disposal of Radioactive & Hazardous Waste
The Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously passed a resolution requesting that the federal government consider an alternative location (outside of Mississippi) for consideration as a national repository. The Commission is the initial state agency to oppose the idea of Mississippi being considered as a permanent storage site and instead calls for the federal government to reconsider Yucca Mountain as originally planned.
UPDATES – WASTE SITES
AIKEN, SOUTH CAROLINA - SAVANNAH RIVER SITE (SRS)
The Director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has threatened to take action against the DOE after it issued a plan that allegedly fails to comply with every agreed upon waste milestone related to cleanup efforts, which amounts to nearly $200 million in penalties through 2016 alone.
Terrel J. Spears was named deputy manager of the DOE’s River Operations Office at the SRS. In this position, Mr. Spears will oversee the approximate $1 billion budget for both operating and construction affairs.
WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT (WIPP)
United States Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich requested that President Obama modify and increase his originally proposed 2015 budget for WIPP to reopen according to recommendations made by the Accident Investigations Boards following the radiation release that caused it to close. Subsequent to this letter, Senate appropriators set aside an additional $102 million in funds to assist in WIPP’s reopening, and the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee voted to permit $323 million in spending on WIPP’s FY 2015 budget.
Due to the closure of WIPP, a physics experiment that studies neutrinos and decay (via a detector that is housed very deep in the geological repository) was halted; the scientists had collected two years of data at the time of the radioactive release, but they expected to continue the experiment and record improved findings for another two to three years since the detector was being upgraded at the time of the accident.
DOE continues to investigate the cause of the WIPP radiation leak and are focusing their attention on 6 drums from the Los Alamos National Laboratory that are currently housed in West Texas and possibly explosive. Although scientists have been unable to reproduce the event to ascertain fully the cause of the accident, they have noted that the breached barrel is from a waste stream at Los Alamos that has a very high acid level.
HANFORD – WASHINGTON
Dispute resolution negotiations between Washington State officials and the DOE concerning compliance with settlement agreements and cleanup activities at the Hanford site, negotiations came to an end without a clear resolution being reached. Since an agreement could not be reached during the 40-day negotiation period, the next step for state officials may be legal action, but the State has not stated whether it intends to take such action.
Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) has assembled a team of experts to review the work at Hanford, at the request of Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), the DOE contractor responsible for management and cleanup at the Hanford site. Among the team’s responsibilities will be to assess the chemical vapor exposure situation, review the industrial hygiene program for chemical vapor exposure, and provide recommendations for enhancements to the WRPS programs and practices to eliminate or minimized worker exposure. The team will also issue a draft report at the end of summer and a final report in December, both of which will be made available to the public.
Workers excavated 2.2 million tons of material from waste sites near Hanford’s D Reactor, eliminating what is believed to be the main source of chromium contamination to the Columbia River. The contamination at these 100-D waste sites was caused by sodium dichromate leaks during reactor operations in the 1940s and 1960s. Project Director Mark French says he believes the cleanup of these sites has removed the “mother lode” of chromium contamination in the reactor area.
Following a DOE directed survey offered to Hanford employees between December 2013 and March 2014 on their comfort levels towards their superiors in general versus senior management officials, the results demonstrated that 30% of employees feel comfortable questioning their superiors while 65% believe that they can question senior management decisions. Additional statistical findings were highlighted in a report in addition to recommendations on promoting safety at the site.
A government programs manager for DOE’s Richland Operation Office in Washington has proposed that a 600-mile reservation should be open to the public, as it is anticipated that most of the site should be clean by the end of next year and could become a tourist attraction. It is anticipated that DOE will hold future meetings and receive public input on how the land should be used.
IDAHO NATIONAL LABORATORY
The DOE has released a new plan to manage waste at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Work at INL is currently being done under two contracts, both of which will expire in September 2015. Under the new plan, the work will be split into four separate contracts, valued anywhere from $25 million to $1 billion. The DOE will begin to meet with prospective bidders later this year, and will award the bids during the fourth quarter of 2015.
PADUCAH SITE - KENTUCKY
Demolition of the last of 32 inactive facilities at the Paducah Site is ahead of schedule, in part, due to efficiency measures and extra funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Among the efficiencies used in the demolition are the use of larger shears and equipment designed for demolition, directly loading covered railcars on location to transport materials, and having a crew on-site to perform preventative maintenance. The demolition, which just began on May 13, is already roughly one-third complete.
MOAB URANIUM MILL TAILINGS REMEDIAL ACTION PROJECT - UTAH
To assist re-vegetation efforts at the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project site, a contractor initiated two Italian honeybee hives at the site after noticing a lack of natural pollinators. It is anticipated that the bees will increase pollination this year, and, starting next year, that they will produce 30-40 pounds of honey, in addition to helping with pollination in the area.
Kurion, Inc. has hired Matthew McCormick as the Project Director for the deployment of the new Kurion Mobile Processing System (KMPS) at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In addition to being the manager of Richland Operations for the DOE at the Hanford site for the last 4 years, McCormick has had executive leadership roles at the Savannah River Site and the Rocky Flats site. With Kurion, McCormick will be responsible for the commissioning and operational oversight of the KMPS at the Fukushima Plant.
This month the Michigan Senate unanimously passed a bill and a series of resolutions opposing the proposed building of a Deep Geological Repository in Kincardine, Ontario, near Lake Huron. The various resolutions passed called on the International Joint Commission, President Obama, the Secretary of State, and Congress, among others, to assist in halting or evaluating plans for the nuclear waste dump by Canadian officials. The bill also prohibits nuclear waste from being imported to Michigan. There will be public hearings scheduled to begin in September and last for 2 weeks. Among many other things, the hearings will look at the methodology used to determine potential adverse environmental effects, particularly focusing on any lessons that may be learned from the February 2014 radiation leak at WIPP.
Nuclear Waste News is a monthly publication of the National Association of Attorneys General. All rights reserved. Jeanette Manning is the Editor of Nuclear Waste News, and she can be reached at 202-326-6258.