Many Voices Working for the Community
The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 13, 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.
Steve Douglas - Secretary
Lance Mezga - Chair
Norman Mulvenon – Vice chair
2Second consecutive absence
Deputy Designated Federal Officer and Liaisons Present
Dave Adler, Liaison, Department of Energy – Oak Ridge Office (DOE-ORO)
John Owsley, Liaison, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC)
Todd Butz, Isotek Systems
Martha Berry, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 4
Becky Brunton, Spectrum
Tom Conley, UT-Battelle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Marc Garland, Geonuclides, Inc.
Spencer Gross, Spectrum
Saed Mirzadeh, Geonuclides, Inc.
Pete Osborne, Spectrum
Twelve members of the public were present.
Environmental Management Program Activities for the U233 Project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Mr. Adler said the Building 3019 Complex at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was built during the Manhattan Project and that Building 3019-A has been used to store uranium-233 (U233) since 1962. He said DOE has declared that the U233 is excess inventory and Congress has directed DOE to dispose of the material. The original plan was to extract thorium from the inventory for medical research and downblend the U233 with depleted uranium for long-term storage. The new plan no longer calls for thorium extraction, but to downblend the U233 with depleted uranium for final disposal rather than storage.
Mr. Adler said continued storage of U233 would require major capital upgrades to Building 3019 and retrofits to the criticality safety systems. He said storing the material in its current form requires significant annual operating expenses to meet material handling requirements and provide protection against accidents or theft.
Mr. Adler said when Congress directed DOE to terminate the medical isotope production responsibility to dispose of the material in Building 3019-A was given to Environmental Management (EM). He said in order for DOE to meet its objectives the inventory must be processed to eliminate criticality safety concerns and reduce the threat of theft prior to dispositioning.
He outlined what has been transitioned to EM during the year (Attachment 1, page 3). The transition included design changes resulting from no longer extracting thorium and increased doses in the downblended material; initiated rebaselining the project consistent with the disposition mission; and working to obtain funding in FY 2007 to accomplish the mission.
He also noted the changes in the project as a result of the Congressional mandate (Attachment 1, page 3). The primary changes are no longer extracting the thorium and downblending and packaging for final disposal rather than storage. He said the material will be stored temporarily in two buildings adjacent to the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) in Melton Valley
Mr. Adler explained the link between activities at Building 3019 and at MSRE. He said MSRE used sodium fluoride traps to manage gaseous waste from the reactor. The traps contain U233 and have been stored at Building 3019. Disposition of the traps will become part of the U233 processing.
He said when processing of the material is complete, which could take as long as 10 years, the building will be decontaminated and decommissioned (D&D) under the Integrated Facilities Disposition Project.
He said DOE provides quarterly updates to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board on activities at Building 3019.
Mr. Adler said there were no requirements from Congress on how or when the project was to be completed other than moving forward with the downblending of the uranium and removing the security risks.
He said the location for the final disposition of the material has not been determined, but most likely will go to a DOE facility in the western United States.
After his presentation a number of questions were asked. Following are abridged questions and answers:
Mr. Douglas – Is the waste radiological only or do you expect to get some hazardous waste or PCB constituents? Mr. Adler – I don’t know of any element in the processing that would introduce PCBs. There is a large amount of acid used, but I’m not familiar enough with that to know how much would be generated. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some hazardous wastes were generated. If so we would have to plan for that. I will get back to you on it.
Mr. Olson – There were two different batches of U233. The first was very highly radioactive. The second was not. Has anyone considered that the second batch be treated in a different way that would be more economical? Mr. Adler – I will find out. We have not converted the contract with Isotek from the old mission to the new one. I would hope there would be discussions on alternative designs and costs and we’d pick the best one.
Mr. Mezga – There have been some delays in funding for the project. Has that impacted the schedule for cleanup of MSRE and at what point will there be a schedule impact? Mr. Adler – It hasn’t been impacted yet because all we’re doing is generating an occasional sodium fluoride trap at MSRE and taking it to Building 3019 for storage, and there is capacity for storage. If we didn’t get funding in a timely manner we would have to come up with a way of managing some uranium laden charcoal at MSRE. But right now I don’t see any schedule linkages between 3019 and MSRE.
Mr. Mezga – On the schematic (Attachment 1, page 4) it shows the material being put in shielded overpacks. What kind of contact dose rate are you expecting on this material? Mr. Adler – High enough to be managed as remote handled waste.
Mr. Mezga – If we proceed on schedule and don’t have the final disposition point identified, we will have packaged the material, placed it in overpacks, and placed it in storage without having it certified to a disposition end point, which might suggest it would have to be run through a Foster Wheeler type facility to be certified for wherever it is to go. Mr. Adler – That’s a good point. I understand they are working to minimize that problem through the form they end up with and the storage they employ in Melton Valley. It isn’t a certainty that they will be able to completely avoid double handling of the material.
Mr. Mezga – The question is, are we going have transuranic waste categories or below that? So that suggests some of the material would end up at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico? I thought some of the material stored in 3019 was commercial in origin. Mr. Adler – I think 80-90 percent of the material is expected to have transuranic constituency to levels above the 100 nanocuries per gram level.
Mr. Mezga – So that suggests some of the material would end up at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico? Mr. Adler – If they can’t use it for some other purpose or can’t find alternatives, but that has not been selected yet.
Mr. Mezga – I thought some of the material stored in 3019 was commercial in origin. Mr. Conley – It’s all defense.
Ms. Mei – Originally the conversion process was to go from UO3 (a stable form of uranium) to U3O8 (a more stable form of uranium). Why has that been deleted from the process? Mr. Butz – The decision to not go to U3O8 was based on it not having to meet long term storage requirements. That eliminates a step in the process. It’s a very stable form of uranium.
Mr. Adler – If we had stayed in the medical isotope business would we have been in a long term storage mode for the U3O8? Mr. Butz – In the medical isotope business, the functional criteria would be to store that material 20 to 30 years for daughter in-growth and have it around a much longer time for some other use or disposition.
Mr. Bonner – You said this will be remote handled transuranic waste. Will the 55 gallon drums still be vented? Mr. Conley – The drums will have a vent or hold-up system for radon generation.
Mr. Axelrod –I’m opposed to downblending weapons grade highly enriched uranium or U233, and I propose it be shipped to Idaho National Laboratory until needed as seed for a heavy water breeder reactor. My question is why don’t we need the thorium for medical isotope use any more? Mr. Adler – I asked Donald Wierwille, the project manager for this, and he said that need is being met by Idaho National laboratory.
Mr. Mirzadeh- I currently supply actinium-225, which comes from thorium-229, to Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for use in treatment of blood cancer. It’s heartbreaking to see thorium-229 disposed this way. To answer the chairman about radiation: radiation comes from the thorium; uranium has no radiation whatsoever, so if you take the thorium out of the uranium then you have a window of about five years that the material will be very cool and you can transport it safely, with a minimum amount of shielding.
There currently is no alternate route for thorium-229. Everything is going to be about 10 times more expensive and more complex and most likely is going to generate more waste than you are going to get rid of.
Mr. Garland – (to Mr. Butz) If a private company came forward and offered a concurrent processing plan with your processing of uranium to extract thorium-229 and didn’t delay or have minimal impact on the project, would you be interested in talking with that company?
My second comment is DOE keeps claiming it was given direction by Congress to not extract the thorium. If you would show us the specific language. I’ve read the appropriations bill and it does not say that. I think it’s disingenuous for DOE to claim that it does. What it does say is this project is being mismanaged. You need to step back, think about what you are doing, and come back with a plan that says how you are going to meet the design basis threat of that facility. If you interpret that to mean stopping the thorium removal, you would also have to interpret that to mean stopping downblending, which you are not doing. Mr. Adler – It is my understanding that we were directed by Congress. I’ve not read the language. I’m interested in talking with you more about what it says. Everything I’ve heard is that we were asked to shift toward disposition. Perhaps it could mean disposition through isotopes.
Mr. Mezga – Rather than have Mr. Butz respond to the first part of that question, would DOE be interested in having someone involved in the thorium extraction? Mr. Adler – That would be a decision from someone above me. If someone came in and showed a better, faster, cheaper way that benefited ill people, I can’t imagine DOE wouldn’t, but my assumption was those deliberations had already taken place. That’s just my speculation.
Mr. Mezga – If they are seriously interested in pursuing that, who should they talk to? Mr. Adler –Steve McCracken, he is over the Environmental Management division.
Mr. Johnson – You mentioned one of the fears was this material getting into the hands of the ‘bad guys.’ Is that the reason this is not proceeding as originally planned? Mr. Adler – I don’t know enough about the decision making process and what drove it in the direction it is now.
Mr. Mulvenon – (to Mr. Mirzadeh) Is there a scarcity of thorium-229? Mr. Mirazadeh – There is no other source at this time except from Russia. You can expect the same amount of U233 in Russia that we have here.
Mr. Adler- (to Mr. Mirzadeh) Do you know about the source that was mentioned at Idaho National Lab? Mr. Mirazadeh – That source is about a million times more complex than what we are proposing to do here.
Ms. Bogard – I think there is enough reason to have DOE report back to us and let us know about the driver behind the change and whether there is any flexibility in terms of changing the decision. Mr. Adler – Steve McCracken could come back and answer those questions and provide the department’s position.
Mr. Mezga – To say that another way, we’re looking for a business case analysis that supported not downblending and not extracting the isotopes and pursuing the direction of disposal.
Mr. Dixon - Does EPA or TDEC have a position on this issue? Ms. Berry – This is not a CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Restoration, Compensation, and Liability Act) project but an operational activity at the lab. Mr. Owsley – The state doesn’t have any authority in the project. In this particular case the issue of isotope extraction or disposal, the state is neutral. If DOE chose to pursue isotope extraction or disposal our concerns would be the same – compliance with their orders in the safe handling of the material and the completed disposal of the waste generated noted that there would be hazardous waste generated in the process. The state does regulate that material. An issue we’d be interested in is the fact that DOE has indicated that it would take 10 years to process the material. They have a plan to complete CERCLA by 2015. If they plan to take the building down under CERCLA, those dates don’t add up…Mr. Adler – We’re saying eight to 10 years. As we’ve discussed recently we don’t really have an end date on CERCLA.
Mr. Owsley – The state chooses to end CERCLA as quickly as possible. CERCLA was designed to remedy a problem, not continue to make it easy to dispose decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) waste on the Oak Ridge Reservation. Any delays in completing CERCLA for a business purpose would require an evaluation by the state. I don’t know that we’d have any influence on the final decision, but it would be our effort to complete CERCLA as soon as possible. In this case if you proposed keeping the building more than 10 years we would advocate taking it out of CERCLA.
Our focus is on compliance with environmental regulations. Most regulations are very specific about what can be done with a particular waste. The exception is CERCLA, which provides flexibility in the final solution. That flexibility is based in part on public acceptance of the remedy. It’s very important to the state to hear the public’s and this board’s position on a proposed remedy. We are influenced by the public’s position. So while I’m here to provide information, I’m also here to listen.
Mr. Mezga – We would have a number of questions, such as the disposition of the material at the end knowing that it’s going be at a remote-handled level, probably transuranic, with no disposition point clearly identified and no certification process clearly identified. Hopefully those things will be identified before the processing begins. Also I didn’t hear anything suggesting the waste would be managed as CERCLA waste. So we look forward to future discussions on the disposition and management of residuals.
Deputy Designated Federal Officer and Liaison Comments
Mr. Adler said he had just gotten more information regarding the disposition of U233 at Building 3019-A. He said he learned that Congress did not specifically direct DOE to stop making isotopes, but to cancel the separation project, transfer the project to DOE Environmental Management, and dispose of the material.
He said the Congressional mandate asks for a report on what the plan would be. That report has been sent but no response from Congress has been received. Mr. Adler noted that budget for the project has been increased, indicating approval of the plan.
Mr. Adler said the change in the mission may be related to focus shifting away from radiological treatment of cancers to genetically engineered treatments.
Mr. Adler said the engineering evaluation/cost analysis on the K-1007 Ponds at East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) is available for public comment. He said the public comment period ends October 11.
He said a letter that had been sent from DOE to EPA and TDEC characterizing the milestone impacts on the FY 2007 budget. He said DOE is proposing to slow down two projects, the centrifuge D&D project and the work associated with shielded transfer tanks at Melton Valley.
Mr. Mezga asked how the deferrals impact the overall schedule. Mr. Adler said they not will affect the overall schedule as they are not critical path milestones.
Mr. Adler said the Recommendation for Long-term Stewardship on the Oak Ridge Reservation has been signed. The recommendation has not yet been received by the board.
Responses to Recommendations 145 and 148 were distributed at the meeting (Attachment 2).
Mr. Owsley said the changes in milestones that Mr. Adler mentioned have not yet been reviewed by the Federal Facility Agreement (FFA) parties.
Ms. Berry said EPA is undergoing a divisional reorganization. She said the waste division is being split into two divisions, but will have no effect on the FFA. She said the changes should take effect in the next two weeks.
Mr. Mezga asked if there were any personnel changes related to the reorganization. Ms. Berry said there would be a new division director and a couple of branch chiefs.
Ms. Berry said that board and Stewardship Committee members who served between October 2004 and September 2005 received certificates in recognition of their work related to EPA’s Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award. She brought the certificates, which were handed out to members in attendance. The remaining certificates will be mailed to former board and Stewardship members.
Mr. Gibson said he was pleased to hear that DOE would sponsor a public meeting on the K-1007 Ponds engineering evaluation/cost analysis (EE/CA) because he felt the public needed more information about the project. He said the recommendation that came out of the EM committee was based on supporting the preferred alternative. He felt like the recommendation needed more discussion. He said he hoped Arcadis would be used more effectively as a resource to provide information so the committee would be able to do its own research. He wished information about such projects was more readily available. He said Brookhaven National Laboratory has similar information online.
He noted a press release from the Perma Fix Corporation to treat a large organic waste stream stored at the Savannah River Site. He said it appears the disposition is through ETTP for stabilization and then shipment for final disposal. He thought it would be beneficial to have a presentation to the board on the subject.
Mr. Gibson said he thought the draft National Waste Disposition Strategy presented at the fall SSAB Chairs’ meeting did not have a sufficient intermediate process in Oak Ridge. He thought better use could be made of the commercial operations in Oak Ridge.
Announcements and Other Board Business
The next board meeting will be Wednesday, October 11 at 6 p.m. at the DOE Information Center. The presentation topic will be “The Cowboys Wore White Hats.”
The minutes of the August 12, 2006, meeting were approved.
Board Finance – Mr. Dixon said the committee made final adjustments on the FY 2006 budget to make sure all line item categories were within budget. He said the board was well within budget for the fiscal year. He said the committee developed its FY 2007 work plan. Mr. Dixon said he was elected committee chair and Ben Adams the vice-chair.
EM – Ms. Bogard reported that she had been elected chair of the committee and Mr. Myrick vice-chair. She said the committee developed its FY 2007 work plan and assigned issue managers. She said the topic for the September meeting will be on the Foster Wheeler TRU Waste Processing Facility.
Ms. Bogard said the committee approved a recommendation on the K-1007 Ponds at ETTP and a set of comments on the revised method of demolition of Buildings K-25/K-27. She said because of lingering questions about the preferred alternative, the recommendation on the ponds was tabled by the Executive Committee before sending to the full board. She said the EM committee will reconsider the recommendation at its September meeting. She requested that DOE have a public meeting on the ponds EE/CA because of sufficient public interest. Mr. Adler said he thought that could be done. Mr. Mezga asked that an action item be placed in the minutes for DOE to hold a public meeting on the ponds.
She said the comments on K-25/K-27 were remanded by Executive Committee as well for further consideration with a suggestion that the comments be reconsidered as a verbal request to have DOE provide the committee with quarterly updates on the progress of the demolition.
Public Outreach – Ms. Cothron reported that the committee currently does not have a chair and she was filling in as past chair. She said the committee developed its FY 2007 work plan. She asked for additional members to serve on the committee.
Stewardship – Mr. Bonner said the committee developed its 2007 work plan and elected himself and Ms. Campbell as chair and vice-chair, respectively. He said the September meeting will have two topics. One is the land use control public notification on Melton Valley. The second presentation will be by Tim Shelton, Anderson County registrar of deeds, who will do an update on notices of contamination in land records.
Mr. Mulvenon noted the passing of Josh Johnson, one of the Stewardship Committee members. Mr. Johnson died of a heart attack at the end of August. Mr. Mulvenon said Mr. Johnson worked on stewardship issues up to the day he died.
Executive – Mr. Mezga said Ms. Halsey and Mr. Douglas continue to try to make contact with Mr. Grove to determine if he plans to continue on the board. He said the committee discussed having a D&D workshop and said Ms. Halsey would have more to say in her report. The committee decided that one of the student representatives on the board to replace Mr. Purdy when his term ends will be selected from Oliver Springs High School. The other student representative to replace Ms. Lewis will be from Oak Ridge High School. Mr. Mezga said the committee suggested some modifications in facilitation activities for the committees and the board.
The committee prepared a list of issues that were presented at the fall SSAB Chairs’ meeting in Santa Fe earlier in September.
Board Process – Mr. Douglas reported that Board Process began revising the ORSSAB bylaws to be in compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act Charter. He said the first revision will go to the Executive Committee and then before the full board in October for a first of two readings. He said the board is under a deadline from DOE headquarters to have the bylaws revised by December 15.
He said the committee heard a summary of comments from members on the annual retreat. Comments were positive with some recommendations for improvement. Mr. Douglas said the committee will review the comments and determine any appropriate actions.
Mr. Douglas said the committee discussed indoctrination of new members to ensure they get an understanding of what is done and why. He said a plan is being developed and will be implemented with the next new member.
Mr. Douglas requested more members to participate on the committee. He said the committee will need help with the indoctrination program and bylaws.
He said the bylaws require the selection of a chair. However, since he was the only committee member present at the meeting it was not possible to select a chair. Election of a chair was postponed until the October meeting as was the development of a work plan.
Federal Coordinator Report
Ms. Halsey said she is pursing the D&D training Mr. Mezga mentioned during the Executive Committee report. She said she has sent the information to Patty Dockery, who is in charge of DOE related training, and asked her to determine cost of training and the time frame.
Ms. Halsey stated again that DOE headquarters has provided guidance that the board bylaws must be consistent with the Federal Advisory Committee Act charter. She also encouraged members to participate on the Board Process Committee.
She reported that she had received a request from the EM committee to contract with Arcadis for additional support on the K-1007 Ponds recommendation. Representatives from Arcadis will attend the September EM committee to assist in the discussion of the recommendation.
Ms. Halsey said she had been informed that the EM Advisory Board (EMAB) will hold a meeting in Oak Ridge March 6-8. She said the public will be invited to attend, and the chair of the ORSSAB will have an opportunity to address the group. She said DOE Assistant Secretary for EM James Rispoli and Principal Deputy Assistant Charlie Anderson will be attending. She said it’s a good opportunity for members of ORSSAB to interface with members of EMAB.
She noted that Mr. Adler had indicated at the beginning of his presentation on the U233 project that two of the pictures in the presentation were designated as official use only. While the board members are allowed to have the materials in the presentation, she asked that they not share the photographs with anyone not affiliated with the board or DOE.
Mr. Mezga said if members preferred not to have responsibility for safeguarding the material he asked them to leave it for staff to collect. He asked staff to email a revised presentation with the photos deleted to board members.
Additions to the Agenda
Mr. Mulvenon provided a report on the fall SSAB Chairs’ meeting in Santa Fe, N.M. Mr. Adams, Mr. Adler, Mr. Dixon, and Mr. Osborne also attended. Mr. Mulvenon and Mr. Osborne distributed trip reports (Attachments 3 and 4).
Mr. Mulvenon said a groundwater workshop was held the afternoon of the first day. The workshop covered general monitoring and sampling of groundwater.
Mr. Mulvenon said a draft of the National Low Level Waste/Mixed Low Level Waste Disposition Strategy was distributed at the meeting (Attachment 5). He said document maps mentioned in the report but not included could be accessed online at http://wims.arc.fiu.edu/wims.
Mr. Mulvenon reported that Assistant Secretary Rispoli said EM will remain the landlord of contaminated sites rather than transferring to the Office of Science or the National Nuclear Security Administration. Mr. Mulvenon said this answered some questions about how stewardship activities would be handled at continuing mission sites like Oak Ridge.
Mr. Mulvenon said the chairs crafted a letter of recommendation to DOE to have local forums on technology development and deployment at DOE sites.
Mr. Adams noted the displeasure voiced by the Paducah site with its DOE management. He said it shows how well DOE Oak Ridge is responsive to the ORSSAB.
Mr. Adams moved to approve the agenda with one addition. Mr. Dixon seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Bonner moved to approve the minutes of the August 12, 2006 meeting. Mr. Olson seconded and the motion carried unanimously.
The meeting adjourned at 8 p.m.
Attachments (5) to these minutes are available on request from the ORSSAB support office.