Australian news, and some related international items

Dispute in USA over reclassifying some high level nuclear waste

If USA can change some high level nuclear waste to “low level”, might not ANSTO be tempted to do the same for Lucas Heights’ nuclear waste? 
State and top fed official at odds over Hanford high level radioactive waste, Tri City Herald,  ANNETTE CARY

A top Department of Energy official is fighting what he says are misconceptions about a new policy on which Hanford and other nuclear weapons complex waste must be treated and disposed of to the stringent standards required for high level radioactive waste.

The DOE undersecretary for science, Paul Dabbar, said as of now there is no change proposed for waste handled as high level at Hanford.

“We’re proposing nothing here,” he said. “We don’t have any plans to propose anything in Washington state.”

But key state of Washington officials are not buying his explanation……..

When the new DOE policy on classifying high level waste was announced earlier this month, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a joint statement that all options would be considered to stop “this reckless and dangerous action.”


Bellon said after the meeting with Dabbar that he claimed the new interpretation for high level waste currently only applies to certain waste in South Carolina.

But there was no exclusion for Hanford in the policy change as announced by DOE in the Federal Register, she said.  “So as it stands, the Federal Register notice could be used to make substantial and potentially harmful changes to the ongoing cleanup at Hanford,” she said.

She and other state leaders “are concerned that the Department of Energy’s high level waste reinterpretation will be a mechanism for it to do less than what is legally required,” she said.

Congress has passed laws that define high level waste that results from processing irradiated nuclear fuel if the waste is “highly radioactive.”

At Hanford, chemicals were used to separate plutonium from irradiated fuel at huge reprocessing plants for the nation’s nuclear weapons program from World War II through the Cold War.

The fuel reprocessing left 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical waste stored in underground tanks until it can be treated for disposal, which is now handled as high level waste. In addition, an estimated 1 million gallons of the processing waste leaked or spilled into the ground in central Hanford.

DOE’s change of policy would allow waste from fuel reprocessing to be classified as low level waste if it can meet radioactive concentration limits set for low level waste and could be safely disposed of at a site other than a deep geological repository, as required for high level waste……..

DOE now is moving forward with an initial look at whether up to 10,000 gallons of recycled wastewater at Savannah River could be classified as low level radioactive waste rather than high level radioactive waste. As high level waste it must be turned into a stable glass form and stored until the nation has a deep geological repository, such as proposed at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

If the waste is classified as low level, it could be turned into a concrete-like grout form and disposed of off site, possibly at the Waste Control Specialists site for low level waste in Texas.

Dabbar said risk would be reduced by disposing of the waste sooner………..


Protecting the Columbia River from the radioactive sludge has been one of the priorities of the Hanford Advisory Board, a board with representatives of Hanford workers, local residents, local governments, environmental groups and others that provide advice to DOE and its regulators on environmental cleanup.

It is among the federal advisory boards that DOE will be evaluating after a June 14 order by the president that all federal agencies evaluate the need for each of its federal advisory committees and disband at least a third of them to reduce costs and improve government efficiency.

Dabbar has had no DOE conversations on which of the many DOE boards may be cut, he told the Herald.

The Hanford Advisory Board would be considered in conjunction with the umbrella board for different DOE cleanup sites, the Environmental Management Site Specific Advisory Board.


June 30, 2019 - Posted by | General News

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