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Briefing Date:02/28/2005
Topic:Board on Radioactive Waste Management Reports

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Division on Earth and Life Studies
Board on Radioactive Waste Management
Committee on Opportunities for Accelerating Characterization and Treatment of Waste at
DOE Nuclear Weapons Sites
and
Committee on Risk-Based Approaches for Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste

*******

Briefing for Congressional Staff Only on Two Academies’ Reports
Monday, February 28, 2005
SC-6, The Capitol Building -- 1:00 p.m.

*******

Improving the Characterization and Treatment of Radioactive Wastes for
the Departemnt of Energy’s Accelerated Site Cleanup Program

by

Milton Levenson, Bechtel International (retired) and Chair, Committee on Opportunities for Accelerating Characterization and Treatment of Waste at DOE Nuclear Weapons Sites, Board on Radioactive Waste Management, The National Academies

This report describes technical approaches that the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) can implement immediately to save time and money as EM seeks to complete its accelerated site cleanup program by 2035. EM’s end game for site closure will require trade-offs between shutting-down facilities to meet schedule commitments and maintaining adequate capability for processing wastes that will be produced by the site closure activities themselves. To help address this challenge, EM requested this report to identify opportunities for making more effective use of existing capabilities and facilities for waste characterization, treatment, or disposal and eliminating self-imposed requirements that have no clear technical or safety basis. EM also requested the report to identify near-term technology investments that could improve its current waste characterization and treatment capabilities. The study focused on waste streams for which current characterization, treatment, or disposition pathways are difficult and/or expensive, and for which improvements would help reduce costs, schedules, and hazards to workers, public, or the environment.

and

Risk And Decisions About Disposition of Transuranic
and High-Level Radioactive W
aste

by

Micah D. Lowenthal, Senior Program Officer, Board on Radioactive Waste Management and Study Director, Committee on Risk-Based Approaches for Transuranic and High-Level Radioactive Waste, Board on Radioactive Waste Management, The National Academies

Should DOE be allowed to dispose of some transuranic and high-level radioactive waste in a manner other than in a deep geologic repository? If so, how should risk be used in selecting disposition options for transuranic and high-level waste? What makes a risk assessment supporting the deliberative process on transuranic and high-level waste useful and credible? The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that it has approximately 340,000 cubic meters (m3) of high-level radioactive waste containing approximately 875 million curies of radioactivity, and at least 287,000 m3 of transuranic waste containing more than 3.1 million curies of radioactivity at its sites requiring some form of treatment and disposal. The wastes that make up these totals are highly varied and some have been characterized to only a modest extent. DOE expects to spend several tens of billions of dollars managing and disposing of these wastes. DOE is considering seeking alternatives to deep-geologic disposal some waste streams. DOE asked the National Academies to provide advice on technically sound approaches for using risk in selecting disposition paths, including alternatives to deep-geologic disposal, for its transuranic and high-level waste. The study examined the following issues: Key elements of a risk-based approach; criteria for risk assessment; potential alternatives to geologic disposal for disposition of low-hazard waste; compatibility with current regulatory regimes; knowledge and technology gaps for implementation; and broader implications, if any, for disposition of other DOE wastes. The study also examined the application of risk-based approaches to selected DOE waste streams to assess their practical usefulness.

This briefing is for members of Congress and congressional staff only. The reports were released to the public on Tuesday, March 1, 2005. They can both be found, in their entirety, via the Web site of the National Academies Press.

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