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Oak Ridge
Site Specific Advisory Board

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Approved March 8, 2006 Meeting Minutes

 

The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 8, 2006, at the DOE Information Center in Oak Ridge, beginning at 6 p.m. A video of the meeting was made and may be viewed by phoning the Information Center at 865-241-4780.

 

Members Present

Ben Adams

Rhonda Bogard, Vice-chair

Darryl Bonner

Donna Campbell

Heather Cothron

Steve Dixon

Steve Douglas

Gloria Mei

Lance Mezga

Norman Mulvenon

Tim Myrick

Robert Olson

Kerry Trammell, Chair

David Wesolowski

 

Members Absent

Chris Grove

Meredith James1

Wade Johnson

Tonya Justice1

James Miller

Sandy Reagan2, Secretary

Ken Sadler

 

1Student Representative

2Second consecutive absence

 

Deputy Designated Federal Officer and Ex-Officios Present

Dave Adler, Ex Officio, Department of Energy – Oak Ridge Office (DOE-ORO)

Martha Berry, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 4

Steve McCracken, Deputy Designated Federal Officer

John Owsley, Ex Officio, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC)

 

Others Present

Daniel Axelrod

Luther Gibson

Spencer Gross, Spectrum

Mike Jugan, DOE

John Lyons, Bechtel Jacobs, Co.

Pete Osborne, Spectrum

 

Ten members of the public were present.

 

Presentation

Update on the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment

Mike Jugan, DOE project manager for the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) Remedial Action Project, provided the Board with a status report on activities at MSRE (Attachment 1).

 

His presentation included a review of the facility’s operational history, completed Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) projects, CERCLA projects to be completed, and the future of the MSRE facility.

 

The MSRE, located in Melton Valley near Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), operated from 1965-1969 to test the molten salt reactor concept.  When it was shut down a surveillance and maintenance program was put in place.

 

In 1994, monitoring indicated that uranium hexafluoride and fluorine gas had migrated through parts of the piping system and in a charcoal filter bed.  This migration of the uranium hexafluoride gas presented a potential criticality issue and fluorine gas in the charcoal bed could have caused an explosion.

 

In 1995, a time critical CERCLA removal action stabilized the charcoal bed to prevent criticality.  In 1997 the reactive uranium and fluorine gases were removed through a second time critical removal action.

 

A non-time critical removal action removed the uranium in the charcoal bed.

 

Currently, an interim record of decision (ROD) calls for the removal of uranium fuel and flush salts from three storage tanks.  The ROD calls for the uranium component to be separated from the salt and loaded on sodium fluoride traps.  The uranium would then be converted to a stable oxide.

 

The fuel and flush salts are to be removed and stored in Solid Waste Storage Area 5 in Melton Valley.  It is hoped the salts will eventually be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico for final disposition.

 

An explanation of significant difference has been proposed that would remove processing the sodium fluoride traps from the scope of the MSRE ROD and store them at Building 3019 at ORNL. 

 

 

Mr. Jugan said there have been delays in draining the fuel and flush salt storage tanks as a result of a plugged transfer line and several equipment failures.  He said a new transfer line will be installed in the tank with the plugged line.

 

Mr. Jugan said when the storage tanks are drained a decision will be made concerning the decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) of the MSRE facility.  A feasibility study proposes four alternatives.

 

The preferred alternative is a partial demolition with onsite disposal of debris.  Everything above ground would be dismantled and buried within below grade structures.  The debris would be grouted and the site capped and graded.

 

Other alternatives include surveillance and maintenance of the site for a period of about 10 years, leaving the facility largely intact.  Another option is partial demolition with onsite and offsite disposal.  The fourth option is complete demolition with offsite disposal of all debris.

 

After Mr. Jugan’s presentation a number of questions were asked.  Following are abridged questions and answers.

 

Question

Answer

Mr. Adams – These days this type of thing would come under great scrutiny.  I’m assuming it did not at that time.  Do you know what this is costing in modern terms?

 

 

 

 

Mr. Jugan – No, I don’t have those figures.  In the early days there were studies that showed that interim long-term storage would be safe.  They thought they had controls in place to prevent the generation of fluorine gas.  Since there was no place to put the salt, the decision was made to put it in the tanks.

 

Mr. McCracken – The question, as I understand it, is if we had done in 1969 what we are doing today, would it have been cheaper?  Intuitively, it probably would have been, but you would have to go through some sort of analysis that would include the cost of money, and so on to come up with a firm answer.

 

Mr. Jugan – One of the reasons they didn’t do it is because the cost of repackaging was expected to be significant.  And they didn’t want to package it in something that would not meet acceptance criteria for a to-be-determined disposal site.

Mr. Wesolowski – You indicated the final disposition of the MSRE is partial demolition with onsite disposal.  That’s a lot of radioactive material.  What is the long-term outlook for whatever you bury and grout?

 

 

 

 

 

The chemical form is not stable, though, is that right?  It’s still going to be as fluoride salts?

 

 

You mentioned blockages and things that don’t flow.  Do you really know what you have in nooks and crannies out there?

Mr. Jugan – We are taking the salt and fission products out.  A lot of what will be left are things like the activated reactor vessel and things that are not mobile.  All of these will be in hermetically sealed cells, reinforced concrete block, and grouted.  It’s going to be consistent with the general area out in Melton Valley.  I believe this will be better encapsulation than the general high tech disposal we already do.

 

Those are removed.  There will be trace quantities throughout the system, but the cans of salt will come out of there, put in interim storage, and hopefully put in final storage at WIPP.

 

We don’t know exactly, but we have done an inventory balance, and we’ll be able to do a better inventory balance after we work on those other two salt tanks.  Of the uranium we have gotten 23.5 of the 38 kilograms out.  We’re talking in the neighborhood of maybe 1 kilogram left in the system.

 

Mr. Lyons – When we finish the fuel salt removal we will have removed the uranium from the salts.  The ROD says we’ll get down to less than 50 parts per million.  We expect to be closer to 10 parts per million, so the residual uranium is going to be very low.  We think we’ll get 99 percent of the salts out of the tank.  So the residual material inside the building at the time of D&D will be small heal quantities in each of the three tanks, internal surface contaminants inside the process lines, and several places where there were spills during reactor operations.  We’ve inventoried all of that, and our best judgment is we’re going to have something less than 5,000 curies of residual radioactive materials in the facility, about half of which is related to activated metals in the reactor vessel.  The inventory will be sufficiently low that if we grout those materials in place they will be fixed and will not be releasable to the environment.  The radioactive materials will still be inside the 3½-foot thick concrete foundation and walls and inside a stainless steel barrier.  That was the basis we looked at in developing the alternatives and comparing the costs of the alternatives that we reached the preferred alternative.

Mr. Myrick – When we did the first long range plan back in the 1980s, I think I estimated less than $20 million to do the whole job.  Do you have a cost figure for how much you’ve spent on the fuel salt removal and how much the D&D will add to that?

Mr. Jugan – The recommended D&D is in the neighborhood of $50 million. The greenfield option (complete demolition with offsite removal) is over $100 million.  The fuel salt removal is about $55 million, but I haven’t included the charcoal and time critical removal actions in that.

 

Mr. Lyons – Our last estimate was about $110 million for the remedial action scope, plus the D&D at about $42 million with a 20 percent contingency on top of it.

Mr. Douglas – Does WIPP not recognize the fuel salts as defense related?  Is that what’s holding it up from going to WIPP or is it more of a waste acceptance issue with remote-handled transuranic (TRU) waste?

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I understand the baseline inventory report, it’s pretty broad and includes just about everything that was generated at the lab.  Couldn’t it just be rolled into existing activities that have already been accounted for in the baseline inventory?

Mr. Jugan – There are some concerns that there is not enough defense related material to go there, and there are concerns that it may not meet the definition of TRU waste.  Is it spent nuclear fuel, high level waste, or TRU waste?  All three of those can have amounts of contaminants that define TRU waste.  We certainly have enough americium and plutonium to do that.  But do we meet the other definitions?  Those are all legal types of questions that WIPP isn’t ready to answer at this point.

 

Mr. McCracken – We are making our very best argument that this is defense waste so that it can go to WIPP.  That’s really the only path that we have identified at this point.

 

One thing I want to say.  You realize that the work we’re really focused on is removing the salts and removing the uranium.  The decision on how to demolish the facility is yet to come.  There will be other discussions on which alternative is best for D&D.

Mr. Mezga – What is the schedule for completion of removal of uranium and transfer to Building 3019 for down-blending?

 

Is there any impact on the current schedule of operations in 3019 and the closure plan for 3019?

Mr. Lyons – The operational schedule has us completing that in the fall.

 

 

Mr. McCracken – No.  Our intent is to work on design modifications to the 3019 project to allow us to down-blend this material that will be in the sodium fluoride traps.  That’s not delaying the 3019 project at this point.  We do have to deal with that from the standpoint of what additional design requirements are there and get those installed in the plant as we build it to down-blend all the material in 3019.

Mr. Olson – What is the contingency plan if WIPP never agrees to take the salts?

Mr. McCracken – I think at this point storage is our only option.  That’s why we’re working hard to build the argument that this is defense related.

 

Mr. Jugan – The feasibility study did go into other alternatives associated with further processing and hopeful disposal at Yucca Mountain.

Ms. Mei – Do any of the D&D options involve the dismantlement of equipment?  And what about contamination control?  Is that an issue?

Mr. Jugan – It’s definitely an issue that needs to be addressed.  And there will be long-handled tools associated with radiation fields.  But only the greenfield option has us taking the reactor core and the drain tanks out.  Those have the highest fields associated with them, and the radiation concerns will be left in for the other options.  There are ways of putting in enough shielding and using multiple crews to keep within regulatory limits, but it does add hazard if we go to greenfield.

Mr. Axelrod – Based on your experience in cleanup, what would you recommend for the future of molten salt reactor projects, or have you come across any technically insurmountable obstacles that would suggest you shouldn’t go with molten salt reactors?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would appreciate it if you would forward my question and see if they can come up with an answer.

Mr. McCracken – We in environmental management are not qualified to answer that.  Our job is to clean up legacy problems.  We focus on the contaminants we have and where they are, and how best to deal with them in a safe way.  To understand what the future of reactors is and how they would benefit the need for energy sources, we’re just not in a position to address that.  I think you really need to go to another part of the department to understand where they believe we need to go for that kind of thing, and primarily it would be the nuclear energy part of the department.

 

 

Mr. Bonner – What are the disposition pathways for the charcoal and fuel and flush salts?

Mr. Jugan – The fuel and flush salts will go into interim storage and we’ll work the WIPP problem.  On the charcoal, we’re still studying options and we don’t have solution at this point.

Mr. Wesolowski – How does the area around the reactor look in terms of contamination of soil, water, vegetation, things like that?

Mr. Lyons – There have been remarkably few releases over the operational lifetime of the reactor.  The areas around it are not contaminated.  We had a small contaminated area outside the building that was remediated this past year.  We have no identified sources of leakage outside the building.  The material is all contained very nicely.

 

Deputy Designated Federal Officer and Ex-Officio Comments

Mr. McCracken complimented the Board and the organizers of the teacher’s workshop for the Stewardship Education Resource Kit held in February.  He said it was a worthwhile endeavor and another should be done.

 

He said work has not stopped at Building K-25 at East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) as a result of an accident in January.  He said work continues in portions of the building away from the accident site.  He said better ways are being sought to work safely in the area where the accident occurred.

 

Mr. Adler had no comments.

 

Ms. Berry reported that the Record of Decision for Phase II Interim Actions for Contaminated Soils and Scrapyard in Upper East Fork Poplar Creek (DOE/OR/01-2229&D2) was ready for signature by EPA.

 

Mr. Owsley commented on the MSRE presentation by saying a number of precedent-setting decisions will be made on the facility.  He said the Board and public consideration of those decisions will be paramount to the state’s position on the final disposition of the facility.

 

Mr. Adams asked if in situ containment of the MSRE D&D was an acceptable alternative.  Mr. Owsley said the MSRE is on the edge of the area designated as waste management.  He said the material would have to be removed, rather than contained, to maximize the land for eventual reuse.  He said if the material remained there would have to be a resolution to the state’s position on assured funding for long-term stewardship.  More importantly, he said the public would have to play a large role in the final decision of whether or not to leave waste in place.

 

Mr. Trammell asked what the time frame would be for making those decisions.  Mr. Adler responded saying the ROD would be at least two years away.

 

Mr. Myrick asked if either Mr. Adler or Mr. McCracken could comment on the engineering evaluation/cost analysis (EE/CA) on the K-1007 Ponds Alternative at ETTP.  Mr. McCracken said the issue is a question of when to remediate the ponds, either before or after cleanup work is complete at ETTP. He said cleanup work is usually done upstream first, but in this case he said because of the nature of the work being done at ETTP it is logical to think the ponds could be remediated without additional contamination.  He said he believed the primary issue was determining what action to take, rather than when to take it.

 

Mr. Myrick wondered how the decision process on the ponds would be affected since the remedial investigation/feasibility study for the ETTP site wide ROD has been delayed.  Mr. McCracken felt like a decision on the ponds should not be impacted by a later site wide ROD.

 

Mr. Myrick asked if the Board should wait until the comments by EPA on the ponds EE/CA are addressed by DOE before issuing its own comments or recommendations.  Mr. Adler said the Board could comment on the ponds before or after an agreement between DOE and the regulators is reached.  Mr. Adler said the fundamental question of what action to take on the ponds isn’t entirely linked to comments made by EPA on the EE/CA.  Both Mr. Adler and Mr. McCracken said it was important to receive input from the Board before a decision is made on the ponds.

 

Mr. McCracken said he would like to resolve the comments made by EPA on the EE/CA and report the resolution to the Board. 

 

Mr. Mulvenon said he had some information on similar work that had been done in the United States that he would provide to Mr. McCracken.

 

Public Comment

Mr. Axelrod read a statement to the Board, which is Attachment 2.  He said he was a former member of the Stewardship Working Group and is currently the Constructive Party candidate for president of the United States.  He recommended that the name of the ORSSAB newsletter be changed from ‘The Advocate’ to ‘The Adviser.’  He said the Stewardship Education Resource Kit should contain more qualitative information, and he suggested several ways to use the kit in the classroom.  He requested a video of his remarks and previous appearances before the Board.  He suggested reducing the budget for Oak Ridge environmental monitoring from $10 million a year to $2 million.

 

Mr. Gibson announced a joint meeting of the Air and Waste Management Association and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers on March 17, 2006 (Attachment 3).

 

Announcements and Other Board Business

The next Board meeting will be Wednesday, April 12, 2006, at 6 p.m. at the DOE Information Center. The topic will be the new DOE document “Oak Ridge Reservation Planning – Integrating Multiple Land Uses.”

 

The minutes of the February 8, 2006, meeting were approved.

 

The Recommendation on Independent Verification at ETTP was approved (Attachment 4).

 

The Recommendation on the Fact Sheet for the Explanation of Significant Difference for the MSRE at the DOE Oak Ridge Reservation was approved (Attachment 5).

 

No motion came from the floor to vote on James Miller’s two consecutive absences.

 

Committee Reports

 

Board Finance – Mr. Dixon reported that the committee met on February 23 and addressed all the items on its agenda.  He said the committee reallocated $15,000 from the ‘Other’ category in the FY2006 budget to ‘Outreach’ to help cover expenses for the teacher’s workshop.  He said $5,000 was reallocated from ‘Other’ to ‘Technical Adviser.’

 

EM – Mr. Mezga said the committee heard a presentation on contact-handled and remote-handled TRU wastes.  The committee revised the wording of the recommendation on independent verification of cleanup at ETTP, which was approved on this date.  The committee discussed questions to ask Mr. McCracken on this date concerning the K-1007 Ponds Alternatives.  Committee members were asked to think about possible actions the Board could take regarding transfer of responsibility of newly generated wastes on the Oak Ridge Reservation from DOE’s Environmental Management program to other programs. Members are to report ideas at the March 15 meeting.

 

Public Outreach – Ms. Cothron said the teacher’s workshop for the Stewardship Education Resource Kit held on February 9 and 11 was successful.  She said the teachers were very receptive to the material and engaged in the workshop activities.  She said committee membership was dwindling and she asked Board members to fill out the questionnaire on outreach activities (Attachment 6) to help determine what the committee should focus on. 

 

Ms. Cothron said the committee has developed a 6-month planning calendar to help keep Board membership informed on upcoming activities.

 

Stewardship – Mr. Bonner reported that the discussion at the February 21 meeting included a report on the Stewardship Education Resource Kit teacher’s workshop.  He said the Status Report to the Community on Long-Term Stewardship on the Oak Ridge Reservation is now ready for presentation to community groups.  He said Ralph Skinner, DOE, provided an update on two outstanding recommendations that originated in the Stewardship Committee.  Mr. Bonner said a formal response has since been received on the recommendation for standardized language submitted to land record authorities of land with notices of contamination.  He said DOE adopted the recommendation with one minor change.

 

Mr. Skinner reported in the committee meeting that almost all of the elements of the recommendations for long-term stewardship on the Oak Ridge Reservation had been addressed through other procedures and documents.  Those that were not addressed will be included in the development of a long term stewardship directive and a DOE-ORO Environmental Management long term stewardship plan.  He said a formal response to the recommendation is forthcoming.

 

Executive – Mr. Trammell said the committee spent a lot of time discussing how to keep Board members involved in committee work.  He asked committee chairs to encourage members to attend meetings and participate.  He also asked mentors to encourage their protégés to attend and participate.

 

He said he attended the Waste Management Conference in Tucson, Ariz., February 26-March 2.  He said Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management James Rispoli talked about reorganization of DOE.  He said, however, that Rispoli emphasized safety in all areas of work.  He said a group will be working with contractors with inadequate safety records to improve performance.

 

Mr. Trammell attended a session led by Mark Frei of DOE headquarters, who suggested continued involvement at the local level to ensure funding is in place to continue cleanup work at ETTP and ORNL.

 

He said he attended a session that dealt with wastes that have no pathway to disposal.  He said it was mentioned a number of times that the operation of the Toxic Substances Control Act Incinerator might be extended even more to handle some of these wastes.

 

Mr. Trammell said the discussion also touched on waste treatment activities going on in the Oak Ridge area outside of the Oak Ridge Reservation boundaries.  He said a lot of material will be coming into Oak Ridge for treatment.  Mr. Trammell said he hoped TDEC will be able to monitor that activity.

 

Board Process

No report.

 

Federal Coordinator Report

No report. 

 

Additions to the Agenda

No additions.

 

Motions

3/8/06.1

Mr. Adams moved to approve the agenda.  Mr. Dixon seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

3/8/06.2

Mr. Dixon moved to approve the minutes of the February 8, 2006 meeting.  Mr. Myrick seconded and the motion carried unanimously.

 

3/8/06.3

Mr. Douglas moved to approve the Recommendation on Independent Verification at ETTP.  Mr. Bonner seconded and the motion carried unanimously.

 

3/8/06.4

Mr. Adams moved to approve the Recommendation on the Fact Sheet for the Explanation of Significant Difference for the MSRE ROD at the Oak Ridge Reservation.  Mr. Myrick seconded and the motion carried unanimously.

 

The meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.

 

Action Items

  1. Mr. McCracken will report on the resolution of comments made by EPA on the K-1007 Ponds EE/CA.
  2. Mr. Mulvenon will provide Mr. McCracken information on pond remediation activity in the United States.
  3. Mr. McCracken will forward Mr. Axelrod’s question concerning the future of molten salt reactors.
  4. Mr. Trammell will address Mr. Axelrod’s request for videos of his previous appearances before the Board.
  5. Mr. McCracken will report when Foster Wheeler begins processing Oak Ridge generated contact-handled TRU waste. Status.  Scheduled to begin processing on March 20.
  6. Mr. McCracken will see if someone from Y-12 can speak to the Board concerning plutonium contamination of uranium. Carryover item.
  7. Mr. McCracken will check to see if higher than expected levels of radiation have been detected at Trenches 5 and 7. Carryover item.
  8. Ms. Hughes will provide the 2005 ASER guidance when it becomes available. Carryover item.
  9. Mr. McCracken will get more information about what non-ORO wastes will be shipped to the Toxic Substances Control Act Incinerator for disposition. Carryover item.
  10. Mr. McCracken will keep the Board informed on the start date and the estimated cost of completion for new work outside the accelerated closure plan. Carryover item.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Sandy Reagan, Secretary

RS/rsg

 

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