The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management has responded to a recommendation made earlier this year by the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board.
In May, the federally appointed citizens’ panel recommended that DOE continue to plan for additional on-site waste disposal capacity on the DOE Oak Ridge Reservation, or ORR, for low-level radioactive and chemically hazardous waste.
DOE currently operates the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility, or EMWMF, a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility in Bear Creek Valley near the Y-12 National Security Complex. When the facility began accepting waste in 2002, it was expected to handle all projected low-level waste from cleanup operations on the ORR. However, with the amount of demolition and work left to complete, EM requires additional disposal capacity onsite.
DOE has conducted a study to develop, screen, and evaluate alternatives for an additional waste disposal facility, with a working name of EM Disposal Facility, or EMDF. ORSSAB’s recommendation encouraged the agency to continue working toward adding disposal capacity and proposed recommendations for a new facility.
The ORSSAB encouraged DOE to minimize the need for additional on-site capacity when possible. In its response, DOE said it was examining the final cover design of the EMWMF to allow for extended capacity. The waste acceptance criteria for other so-called “sanitary landfills” on Chestnut Ridge are being evaluated for possible modifications to allow a wider variety of waste.
DOE also said it has practices in place to minimize disposal volumes. The agency uses a hierarchy for dispositioning waste that includes reusing or recycling where possible, followed by the use of the sanitary landfills, the EMWMF, and off-site disposal facilities.
The ORSSAB also recommended that the EMDF have sufficient capacity to accept all future waste generated by DOE cleanup of the ORR. DOE’s planning for the EMDF includes projected future remediation waste, plus an additional 25 percent contingency for any uncertainties in volume projections.
The board recommended that the proposed disposal area be engineered to operate safely and block migration of contaminants into adjacent groundwater, soil, and air. DOE said the facility design will undergo modeling and third-party review to demonstrate regulatory compliance and provide the necessary protection of the environment and human health.
The ORSSAB asked that the facility be located in proximity to existing waste burial sites. DOE said the proposed site is near EMWMF and other waste burial grounds. It said locating the EMDF near other disposal areas consolidates the burial sites for long-term stewardship purposes, improves cost benefits, and maintains current greenfield land for unrestricted use.
Finally, the board requested that DOE establish a trust fund for the EMDF similar to one in place for EMWMF. DOE said the expense of a trust fund for long-term stewardship is incorporated in the feasibility study for the facility’s life-cycle. The continuation of the trust fund concept is contingent on the State of Tennessee accepting such an agreement, but DOE will be responsible for the long-term stewardship of EMDF either through a trust fund or independently by DOE.
The complete text of the recommendation and DOE’s response is available online at http://energy.gov/orem/downloads/recommendation-223-recommendations-additional-waste-disposal-capacity.
ORSSAB meets the second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. at the DOE Information Center at 1 Science.gov Way in Oak Ridge. The meetings are open to the public. In August, ORSSAB will meet on Saturday, August 16 at 8 a.m. for its annual planning meeting. There was not a regular meeting on August 13.