Many Voices Working for the Community

Oak Ridge
Site Specific Advisory Board

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Approved April 9, 2003, Meeting Minutes

The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, April 9, 2003, at the DOE Information Center in Oak Ridge, beginning at 6:00 p.m. A video tape recording of the meeting was made and may be viewed by calling the ORSSAB support office at 865-576-1590.

Members Present

Jake Alexander
Dick Berry
Jeanne Bonner
Donna Campbell, Secretary
Jenna Carignan1
Heather Cothron
Amy DeMint
Luther Gibson
Pat Hill
David Johnson1
John Kennerly
Steve Kopp
Bob McLeod
John Million
David Mosby, Chair,
Luis Revilla
George Rimel
Kerry Trammel
Charles Washington

1Student representative

Members Absent

Ben Adams
Colin Loring
Norman Mulvenon Vice Chair

Deputy Designated Federal Official and Ex-Officios Present

Dave Adler, Ex Officio, DOE-Oak Ridge Offices (DOE-ORO)
Jay Bassett, Ex Officio, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Gerald Boyd, Deputy Designated Federal Officer, DOE-ORO
Pat Halsey, Federal Coordinator, DOE-ORO
John Owsley, Ex Officio, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC)

Others Present

Jim McBrayer, Bechtel Jacobs Company LLC (BJC)
Pete Osborne, (BJC)
Judy Ullmann, Temp Systems

Fourteen members of the public attended the meeting.


Mr. Adler presented an overview of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE). The presentation included a historical review of the MSRE project and an update on current and planned activities. A copy of the presentation is included as Attachment 1.

MSRE operated at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) from 1965 to 1969. MSRE was shut down in 1969 and the salts were drained into the three fuel drain tanks. During routine surveillance and maintenance, uranium hexafluoride (UF6) migration through the MSRE off-gas system to the charcoal beds was discovered. The migration of the UF6 from the fuel tanks to other elements and the resulting generation of fluorine gas were first detected in the 1980s. Corrective actions for the uranium deposit removal from the charcoal beds were initiated to mitigate the risks of a nuclear criticality at MSRE or contaminant release. The fluorine gas and UF6 in the off-gas system was removed and collected in sodium fluoride traps. The traps are depressurized and material removed for disposition. A record of decision was signed in June 1998 for removal of the fuel and flush salts. Preliminary plans are in place to demolish the facility below grade, entomb, and cap the two acre area.

Following his discussion of MSRE, Mr. Adler reviewed other reactors in the Environmental Management (EM) Program, and he distributed a table (Attachment 2) providing information on each reactor’s history, status, current activities, decision document, remedial action/cost, and schedule.

After the presentation, the following questions were asked by members of the Board and the public, and the following responses were given by Mr. Adler.




Response (abridged)

Ms. Hill - I’d like to review the process of liquefying the salt with the probe. When you melt the salt in MSRE to accomplish remediation of the reactor, won’t that release volatile gases?

The probe will heat and liquefy the salt. Uranium will be stripped from the fuel tanks by bubbling gas through the liquid. There is an increased risk once the salt is melted. Off-gases will be managed, monitored, and contained.  The salt is hazardous to begin with, and yes, when it’s melted it will be even more so. This must be done, however, to defuel the reactor. I expect the challenge to be manageable. We’ve done a lot of planning to anticipate any problems.

Ms. Hill - Why does it show in your handout that the timeline for taking down all the reactors is the same?

That’s a general timeframe; each project will start and end independently. There will be some concurrent activity.

Mr. Gibson - The UF6 was removed into sodium fluoride traps and turned over to ORNL for conversion. Can you provide an update? Is this process of removing the UF6 and fluorine gas by using the sodium fluoride traps being handled within the EM Program? What will be the disposition of the uranium-233 from the traps? What is the most feasible disposal?

One of the early things we did was to build in these traps, and we have a program in place to depressurize them. Six or seven have been done, and others are near the pressure level at which they will be ready for depressurization.

Mr. Gibson - What will be the disposition of the uranium-233 from the traps?

The activity of trapping the fluorine gas and UF6 in sodium fluoride traps is funded by EM and implemented by ORNL.  Six to seven of the sodium fluoride traps have been depressurized to remove fluorine gas. There is a range of options for disposition of the uranium material: re-use for medical and commercial purposes or land disposal.

Mr. Kopp - What’s the volume of the salt you’ll be removing from the fuel drain tanks? Will the material be removed from these tanks be managed as remote- or contact-handled waste? Where will the material be stored until ultimate disposition?

I don’t know the exact volume of the salts in the fuel drain tanks, but the tank size is approximately 8 feet by 11 feet by 8 feet. Molten salts from the tanks will be placed in salt cans and placed in compliant storage in existing facilities on the reservation. It will be managed as remote-handled transuranic waste and will ultimately be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

Mr. Kopp - Will there be any fissile material?

At this point we will have removed as much uranium from the salt as possible. Criticality concerns are always a part of any storage activity, so they will be considered in planning for storage. In this situation, criticality is unlikely.

Ms. Bonner - Will the MSRE facility be demolished to below grade following remediation?

Yes, 2 feet below grade.

Ms. Bonner - How much equipment is underground?

Piping, salt tanks, and some ancillary equipment.

Ms. Bonner - Will the underground equipment and piping be grouted in place?

Yes, some will. Some equipment will be pulled out and directed for disposal at the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility.

Ms. Bonner - Will the cap placed over the site be concrete?

No, it will be a 2-acre, multilayer RCRA cap, such as those placed over hazardous landfills. It will be a permanent entombment requiring long-term surveillance and maintenance.

Ms. Bonner - Who will be responsible for long-term maintenance?

The federal government, as part of a larger stewardship responsibility for the Oak Ridge Reservation. The cap will be monitored by a federal agency with oversight by the State of Tennessee and EPA.

Mr. Trammell - Is the remote-handled salt waste already factored into inventories planned for disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant?


Mr. Trammell - What if fuel from the other reactors is deemed remote-handled waste?

All the other reactors have been defueled except the Tower Shielding Facility. It’s fuel will not be managed as waste; it will likely be reused at another reactor.

Mr. Kennerly - Is it known how the uranium is distributed throughout the carbon in MSRE?

It’s at the front end where the flow through the system began.

Mr. Kennerly - Isn’t that a problem?

It’s a condition we addressed very quickly to eliminate. Ninety percent of the activity was located in the first few feet of the approximately 30 feet of tubes, so luckily it was there to be accessed.

Ms. Hill - Do you have any idea why the carbon crusted?

It’s my understanding that after 30 years the carbon had naturally annealed, causing a crusting.

Mr. Million - When you grout, do you plan to fill any voids?

Yes. We plan to eliminate voids that promote subsidence by using a cementitious mix that effectively provides in situ stabilization.

Ms. Bonner - Have you used grouting before?

Yes, at many places around the reservation. Grouting often decreases the risk of exposure and decreases the cost of remediation over the risk and cost of excavating and shipping waste for disposal.

Ms. Cothron - How much and what types of contamination will be left in place?

The final closure of MSRE is still a subject of decision-making under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) process. We believe there are 500 grams of uranium left in the charcoal and residual amounts in the salt. This will be the main extent of contamination to be discussed with the regulators.

Mr. Gibson - Have you anticipated any waste loading into grouting activities?

The grout will not contain waste, and it will act as a barrier.

Deputy Designated Federal Officer and Ex-Officio Comments

Mr. Boyd presented plaques of appreciation to student representatives Jenna Carignan and David Johnson, whose terms of service on the Board end in April.

Mr. Boyd made four announcements:

           The reorganization of the EM Program to better align with the Accelerated Closure Program initiative will be finalized soon (see Attachment 3). The largest organizational change was the de-layering of managers by elimination of three deputy positions.

           The selection of a new DOE-ORO Assistant Manager for EM should be announced in the next few days.

           Work is progressing on the BJC closure contract. It should be ready for signature by June 1.

           If requested, a presentation on the Depleted UF6 Program can be given at the May 14 Board meeting. The presentation could include some discussion of conversion plants, transportation of cylinders, and risk associated with cylinders, cylinder yards, transportation, etc. The presentation would be very timely because a transportation plan for the UF6 cylinders is in development now. The plan calls for transporting cylinders that contain depleted UF6 from the East Tennessee Technology Park to DOE’s Portsmouth, Ohio, facility for conversion. Parts of the plan will be classified, but a version without the classified material will be distributed to the public.

Public Comment


Announcements and Other Board Business

The next Board meeting will be Wednesday, May 14, 2003, at the DOE Information Center. The presentation will focus on impacts of the FY 2003 EM Program Budget. (The topic was subsequently changed by the Executive Committee to a review of the state’s monitoring program, as related to the Tennessee Oversight Agreement.)

Minutes of the March 12, 2003, Board meeting were approved without change.

The Board considered a draft letter by Mr. Alexander to Assistant Secretary of Energy for EM Jessie Roberson, “ORSSAB Endorsement of the City of Oak Ridge’s Application for Renewed Annual Assistance Payments Pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954” (Attachment 4). The Board voted to send the letter to the Environmental Restoration Committee to add verbiage that (1) ties the letter more directly with the Board’s EM Program mission related to stewardship and land use and (2) provides more historical background on the Oak Ridge annual assistance payments and reasons for the current request.

Ms. DeMint reported that at its March meeting the Environmental Restoration Committee heard a presentation on Corehole 8. Some errors in the Environmental Restoration Committee minutes provided in the Board notebooks have been noted, and she will ask staff to revise them. Mr. Gibson noted that one of the participants in the committee’s meeting, Brian Spalding, was misidentified as Dick Spalding.

Mr. Million reported that the Stewardship Committee’s April meeting was cut short because the featured presenter, Ralph Skinner, had to cancel because of a death in the family. Mr. Gibson asked if the Stewardship Committee had any output from reviewing the “Official Use Only” policies for some information provided to the SSAB members. Mr. Million replied that the committee is continuing efforts on this topic in the area of information management.

Mr. Gibson reported that the Waste Management Committee had discussed some transuranic waste issues at its March 16 meeting, but the committee has not received information requested from DOE in order for the committee to have an informed discussion on the topic. The committee developed general comments on the Comprehensive Waste Disposition Plan and will work on them more in April. The main focus of the April meeting is a tour of the EM Waste Management Facility. A short business meeting in the facility’s conference room will follow the tour.

Mr. Mosby reported that at its March 25 meeting the Executive Committee learned that the Board’s budget had been cut by DOE-Headquarters by twenty percent. This has immediately impacted the Board’s ability to send members on travel, and requests for travel to the IT3 conference have been put on hold pending further information on the matter from Ms. Halsey at the end of April. Ms. Halsey added that cuts have been put into effect for all SSABs and that this issue had been discussed at the EM SSAB Chairs Meeting held March 27-29 in Denver.

Mr. Mosby reported that at the Chairs Meeting not all boards signed the joint recommendations on transuranic waste, so the recommendations will be sent without unanimous agreement. The Paducah delegation requested that transmittal be delayed until after their Board’s April meeting, at which time the recommendations will be considered. The Chairs agreed to send a letter to Assistant Secretary Roberson transmitting results of discussions at the meeting on intersite transfer of waste and materials. Mr. Mosby distributed a copy of the letter (Attachment 5).

Mr. Osborne made several announcements:

           Mr. Mulvenon delivered the ORSSAB presentation to two advanced placement environmental sciences classes at Oak Ridge High School on April 1.

           Mr. Berry and Mr. Kopp delivered six presentations to ecology and chemistry classes at Farragut High School on April 8.

           The ORSSAB FY 2002 Annual Report is at the printer’s and should be mailed soon.

           The March ORSSAB meeting will be broadcast on Knoxville cable channel 12 on April 11 at 9:30 p.m.

           The April ORSSAB meeting will be broadcast on Oak Ridge cable channel 12 on April 14 at 8:30 p.m.

Mr. Revilla reported that the Board Process Ad Hoc Committee had requested a technical edit of the ORSSAB Bylaws, but it was not ready yet. Mr. Mosby added that a proposed change to the Bylaws that was to be presented this evening would not be ready till the Board’s May meeting.

Ms. Hill and Mr. Berry reported on the Atomic Heritage Foundation workshop held March 26-27, 2003, at the American Museum of Science and Energy. Ms. Hill distributed a report on the event (Attachment 6). A memo regarding the event from Mr. Berry was distributed in the meeting notebook.

Ms. Halsey discussed the March 15 submittal of preliminary Federal Facility Agreement (FFA) Appendix J milestones for FYs 2006-2018 (ORSSAB Incoming Correspondence Item 248). This marks the first time DOE has supplied preliminary milestones for these “out years.” The revised Appendix J supplies the initial startup of work activities, the decision document to be signed, and the completion date. Subprojects following signing of a record of decision are not listed because of the long timelines. Normally the March 15 submittal comes after negotiations among the FFA parties on “current” milestones (in this case FY 2003-2005). But DOE did not receive its FY 2003 allocation in the normal timeframe, so negotiations had not taken place before the March 15 submittal. In the text of the submittal DOE asks for the opportunity to renegotiate the Appendix J milestones following receipt of the FY 2003 allocation.

Mr. Gibson asked DOE to comment on the public involvement statement found in the charters for closure project core teams. Mr. Adler remarked that it is a general statement; specific involvement activities will be defined as usual as activities are undertaken. These include review of CERCLA documents, access to DOE project personnel, access to regulator personnel, and involvement of the SSAB.

The meeting adjourned at 9:15 p.m.



Ms. Campbell moved to approve the minutes of the March 12, 2003, Board meeting. Ms. Hill seconded the motion, and the motion was approved by a vote of 15 in favor, none opposed (Mr. Alexander and Mr. Washington were absent for the vote).


Mr. Million moved to send Mr. Alexander’s letter to the Environmental Restoration Committee for further work. Mr. Gibson seconded the motion, and the motion was approved by a vote of 11 in favor, 5 opposed (Mr. Alexander, Mr. Berry, Ms. Hill, Mr. Kopp, Mr. Revilla). Mr. Washington was absent for the vote.

Respectfully submitted,

Donna L. Campbell, Secretary


Attachments (6) to these minutes are available upon request from the ORSSAB support office.


1.    Staff will revise the April 17 Environmental Restoration Committee minutes. Action canceled 4/10/03 by Ms. DeMint; minutes are OK as submitted with the exception of change regarding Brian Spalding

2.    The Environmental Restoration Committee will rework Mr. Alexander’s letter. Completed 4/17/03

3.    Mr. Liedle will provide Mr. Washington with the radiological readings on the K-25 converters. Carryover item from 3/12/03