Many Voices Working for the Community
Approved December 10, 2008 Meeting Minutes
The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, December 10, 2008, 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.
John Coffman - Secretary
Steve Dixon - Chair
Ted Lundy - Vice-chair
Deputy Designated Federal Officer, Liaisons, and Federal Coordinator Present
Dave Adler, Liaison, Department of Energy-Oak Ridge Office (DOE-ORO)
Pat Halsey, DOE-ORO Federal Coordinator
Connie Jones, Liaison, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4
Steve McCracken, DOE-ORO Assistant Manager for Environmental Management (EM) and Deputy Designated Federal Officer
John Owsley, Liaison, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC)
Susan Gawarecki, Local Oversight Committee (LOC)
Spencer Gross, Spectrum
Norman Mulvenon, LOC
Pete Osborne, Spectrum
Bill Tewes, Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Assn. (ORHPA)
Sixteen members of the public were present.
Deputy Designated Federal Officer and Liaison Comments
Steve McCracken – DOE Oak Ridge has received approval of the critical decision 1 document for the Integrated Facility Disposition Project (IFDP), which allows DOE Oak Ridge to begin planning for all the work that needs to be done to complete cleanup of the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR).
Demolition of the K-25 Building at East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) is scheduled to begin Tuesday, December 16.Ceremonies marking the occasion will be held prior to actual start of the demolition work.
Mr. McCracken said he has to advise Bechtel Jacobs, Co. (BJC) by the end of March 2009 on the status of the North Tower of K-25, whether it will be retained or if it will be demolished. Before he can direct BJC, a meeting will be held among the K-25 memorandum of agreement consulting parties about the fate of the building.
Mr. McCracken said it appears Steve Chu will be nominated as the secretary of energy in the new presidential administration.
Mr. Martin asked what percentage of uranium-235 (U-235) is expected to be recovered from K-25. Mr. McCracken said he would have to find that figure. He said the objective in being able to demolish the building is to establish criticality incredible or having no chance of a critical incident during demolition.
Mr. Dixon asked about the status of the Toxic Substances Control Act Incinerator (TSCAI). Mr. McCracken said plans are to close the incinerator in May. He said it will operate beyond that time but only for the purpose of closing under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) permit. The equipment will be cleaned and the residue of the cleaning will be burned in the incinerator, but no outside waste streams will be accepted after May.
Mr. Bonner asked about the process lines at ETTP that are not covered under the facilities safety basis document. Mr. McCracken said tie lines that run between buildings and are in the way of demolition of the west wing of K-25 have been removed. There are other tie lines still in place that will be removed in the future.
Dave Adler – no comments.
Connie Jones – no comments.
John Owsley – no comments.
Mr. Mulvenon encouraged board members to ask questions about the Trench 13 presentation. He said everyone should understand the situation at Trench 13 and what the solution will be.
Mr. Tewes said ORHPA and the American Museum of Science and Energy is planning a 60th anniversary celebration in March 2009 of the opening of the gates of Oak Ridge. He said there will be a reenactment of the gates opening, a parade, and reception marking the event. He asked if anyone had photographs of that period that they be made available to the museum for scanning. Mr. Tewes provided copies of the telephone number to call (Attachment 1).
He also said the museum has acquired a war-time era flat top house of the style that was built on the ORR for workers on the Manhattan Project. He said furnishings of that period are need and asked if anyone had furniture from that time that could be donated.
Mr. Trammell encouraged everyone to read the series of articles on the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee that has appeared in the Oak Ridger newspaper. He said the series provides good information and background on the organization.
Trench 13 in Melton Valley
Trench 13 was part of a collection of trenches dug in Melton Valley for the disposal of transuranic (TRU) wastes. Remediation of Melton Valley to prevent movement of TRU waste out of the area and into White Oak Lake was completed in 2006. However, during remediation activities a flare-up occurred during work in Trench 13. All work was stopped at that site. While TRU materials were removed from all the other trenches, at Trench 13 materials were left in place in a safe condition by placing shoring blocks around the trench and covering the excavated and unexcavated material with a layer of coke and sand (Attachment 2, page 3).
Mr. Adler explained the work underway at Trench 13 when the flare-up occurred (Attachment 2, page 4). A cover was placed over the trench to help contain airborne transmission of TRU material. The TRU waste was contained in stainless steel cylinders that had degraded over time after being buried. When the excavator penetrated the area of one of the cylinders, the flare-up occurred resulting in a brief flame 5 to 8 feet high.
Mr. Adler reviewed the work in the other trenches where no incidences occurred (Attachment 2, page 5). Because the casks containing the waste were placed in a hillside, they were accessed by digging away the side of the hill. They were taken out of the ground and put in additional shielding casks and taken to the TRU Waste Processing Center for processing for eventual shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.
Mr. Adler showed an example of loose waste in Trench 13 (Attachment 2, page 6). He said 50-75 jars of TRU waste placed in drums were in Trench 13. Most of the waste in the drums was uranium filings. Attachment 2, page 7 shows some glass jars containing TRU waste that had been buried in the trench.
Mr. Adler said now that all the trenches around Trench 13 in the area have been removed, Trench 13 itself is actually above grade (Attachment 2, page 8).
Mr. Adler said BJC has done a study to determine options for completing work at Trench 13 (Attachment 2, page 9). Mr. Adler said EPA and TDEC expect the removal the contents of all the trenches. However, with some of the problems that have been encountered with Trench 13, DOE believes there is basis for reconsideration of the solution for Trench 13. He said there is an agreement among DOE and the regulators to have all material from Trench 13 removed by the end of the year. Mr. Adler said that is unlikely because no plan or budget is in place to complete removal.
The options include continuing removal as planned but with precautions to prevent additional flare-ups. Another option is to cap the site.
Mr. Adler said if the material is removed another challenge is managing it safely. Because the material is transuranic, pyrophoric, and flammable there is no DOE facility currently available to handle the material, and as such the waste could be described as having no pathway for disposal.
Mr. Adler said the options presented by BJC have only recently been completed and provided to TDEC. He said DOE and TDEC will work to find a solution. A DOE proposal on how to remediate Trench 13 is due in March.
Following Mr. Adler’s presentation a number of questions were asked and comments made. Following are abridged questions and answers.
Mr. Mezga – Were remote technologies considered for retrieval of the material? Mr. Adler - BJC did not do a thorough evaluation of retrieval approaches. BJC looked at it conceptually but it would likely be one of the more attractive approaches. Mr. Mezga – When Idaho National Laboratory did its retrieval project did they encounter any pyrophoric material? Mr. Adler – I’m not aware of any pyrophoric incidents. Uranium is a pyrophoric so there is always that risk. What we had here was an organic vapor fire, probably methane and acetylene. Mr. Mezga – If the decision is made to leave the material in place under a cap what is the lifecycle of the hazard? Mr. Adler – It’s probably consistent with the lifecycle of the other burial grounds in Melton Valley. There is some TRU, which lasts a very long time. The fire hazard would probably go away if the jars were compromised over time and the gases would slowly diffuse away, but it would be decades before that was gone. Mr. Mezga – For certification purposes, has the material that has gone over to the TRU Waste Processing Center been shown to be greater than 100 nanocuries per gram transuranic? Mr. McCracken – We’re finding that a lot of it is not TRU. We’re finding a lot that we thought was remote-handled TRU is contact-handled TRU. We’re finding a lot that we thought was contact-handled is low-level waste.
Mr. Olson – How well did you know what was in the trenches? Mr. Adler – We do have records of the people who packaged the material and put it in the trenches. We know there are no criticality issues. We know what types of isotopes are there. We know, within grams, how much is there. We recognized the possibility of a flare-up, but thought it unlikely.
Mr. Westervelt – If you leave the material in place there will be some costs of surveillance and monitoring. Did the BJC study look at the cost of that and the cost differential of removing the material? Mr. Adler – The study doesn’t give a lot of definitive cost information. My understanding is that removal, possibly using robotics, could be in the single digit million dollar range – no one thinks it would cost more than $10 million. The cost of leaving it in place would be an incrementally small amount based on what we already have to spend monitoring Melton Valley, which is about a $1 million a year. So it wouldn’t be a significant add-on, but any add-on run out over a number of years would be a significant amount of money. It’s probably ultimately cheaper to leave it in place. Mr. Westervelt – Does anyone know why material was put in jars and then placed in drums? Mr. Adler – The material was put in the jars, which was placed in an oil type matrix to prevent burning during handling. The jars were then placed in the drums and surrounded by vermiculite to prevent jostling and breakage during transportation.
Mr. Stow – Could you expand on the amount of transuranics in the trench, either in regard to curies or by weight? Mr. Adler – I’ll have to get that information. It’s in grams, not pounds. Mr. Stow – Can you expand on the isotopes found? I had heard the uranium was enriched uranium. Mr. Adler – There was some enriched and natural uranium and some very, very small quantities of plutonium in the gram range.
Mr. Myrick – Is what is in the trench significantly different from what is in the casks that have been moved to the TRU Waste Processing Center; could there not be some no-path for disposal waste in those casks? Mr. Adler – The material that has been put in storage is not believed to be pyrophoric or carbide-coated material that would have the methane/acetylene issues. So the material that was placed in storage is fundamentally different and the processing that has been done at the TRU Waste Processing Center bears that out.
Mr. McCracken – Once the material reacts like the one in Trench 13, is it still no-pathway for disposal or can we do something with it? Mr. Adler – After it reacts that makes things easier, but there still remain uranium filings, which is pyrophoric, so you still have a pyrophoric waste stream.
Mr. Owsley – The presentation did not describe the laws and regulations that currently apply to this material. It is post-1970 TRU waste and was expected to be put in retrievable storage for eventual placement in a geologic repository. The material is subject not only to the Atomic Energy Act, but also to RCRA.
More than half of the material was above ground and put in overpacks before the flare-up occurred. DOE asked the state if it could be put in interim storage while work continued to remediate the remaining trenches. So what was already excavated was put in interim storage.
I also want to point out that a final decision on long-lived radionuclides in Melton Valley has not been made. A significant portion of the area was capped because greater than 95 percent of the risks associated with those burial grounds were the fission products that would attenuate over a reasonable period. That still leaves 5 percent associated with long-lived radionuclides. There are no fission products associated with this material; leaving it in the ground will not allow the risk to be dissipated. So I just wanted to point out that the statement in the presentation that leaving the waste in place is ‘consistent with the remedies selected for other buried waste sites in Melton Valley’ (Attachment 2, page 9) is not correct. The decision for long-lived radionuclides has not been selected.
Mr. Mezga – Is it possible to obtain a copy of the BJC study? Mr. Adler – I think so, but I’ll check it out to make sure and get a copy to the board.
Mr. Murphree – Are there any concrete casks remaining in Trench 13 or just the jars? Mr. Adler – All of the concrete casks have been removed. All that remains is the loose material. Mr. Murphree – What is the total volume if it were it were excavated? Mr. Adler – It’s in the 100 cubic yard range.
Mr. Owsley – It’s my understanding that none of the concrete casks from the 22 trenches have been processed at the TRU Waste Processing Center. Is that correct? Mr. Adler – Some have been processed because water has been found in some of them. Mr. McCracken – The most significant problem we’ve had to date is water in the casks, then drying the waste material, and getting rid of the water.
Ms. Gawarecki – I have noticed over the years that when DOE has an incident associated with a cleanup project that they throw up their hands and say it’s too dangerous and can’t be done. It seems like you just need to step back and do your analysis and use your smart people and get back to work. There are always going to be uncertainties and challenges and incidents in this line of work. I get discouraged when unexpected incidents put projects on hold for years or turn things in new directions that cost an order of magnitude of money. I think there are better ways to handle them.
Mr. McCracken – I strongly disagreement with those comments. To say we throw up our hands when we encounter an incident mischaracterizes all the work, all the dangerous work, that has been done over the last several years on the ORR. I think it makes sense to stop, for whatever amount of time is required, and make sure before you move forward you’re doing it in a way that won’t hurt anybody and that it won’t be worse than the condition you’re currently dealing with. There have been times that we’ve taken a different direction when we encountered problems. I think we would be criticized worse if we stayed the course whenever we find unknown conditions out there, which we find all the time.
Mr. Tewes – I just want to remind you that this isn’t the first time DOE or its predecessors have had to deal with fine pyrophoric uranium. The solution in the past has been to surround the uranium with an inert powder and then allow oxygen to slowly diffuse in and in a low temperature slowly form an oxide layer. Mr. Adler – Much of this had been passivated prior to being put in the jars and in the trenches. The issue, I believe, is the carbide coating on some of this material that produces the methane/acetylene gas.
Mr. Dixon asked the EM committee discuss the presentation and determine if any comments or recommendations are warranted.
Announcements and Other Board Business
ORSSAB will have its next meeting on Wednesday, January 14 at 6 p.m. at the DOE Information Center, 475 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Oak Ridge, Tenn. The main presentation topic is to be determined
The minutes of the November 12, 2008 meeting were approved.
Board Finance & Process – Ms. Owen said the committee met on November 20 and the discussion centered on the board’s FY 2010 budget request. The committee reviewed the flow chart of the yearly budget development and allocation process. The standing committees will generate their FY 2010 budget requests at their December meetings and submit those requests to the Board Finance & Process Committee in January. The committee will finalize the complete budget request and submit it to the Executive Committee for approval and submittal to DOE.
The committee discussed DOE Oak Ridge EM quarterly progress reports and whether that information can be shared with the board.
The committee reviewed expenses for October and November.
The committee will not meet in December, but will meet again on January 29.
EM – The committee met on November 19 and received a presentation from Mr. Adler on prioritization and re-sequencing of work related to IFDP. There is a public meeting on IFDP tentatively planned in January. Mr. Adler asked ORSSAB to help sponsor that meeting. Mr. Mezga agreed to act as the contact person for the board regarding that meeting.
At its Wednesday, December 17 meeting, the committee will receive and update on the K-25/K-27 decontamination and decommissioning activities as well as an update on the ETTP Ponds remediation.
Public Outreach – Mr. Westervelt said the ORSSAB annual report has been completed and will be printed soon. The committee reviewed a draft editorial plan of the next Advocate newsletter, which will be coming out in January. Ms. Owen, Mr. Stow, and Mr. Westervelt participated in a presentation to the Knoxville Health Physics Society on December 9. Mr. Westervelt said 45-50 stakeholder surveys were completed by the group.
The committee will meet next on Thursday, December 18.
Stewardship – The committee heard a presentation by Mr. Owsley at its November meeting on applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements and how ORSSAB can help monitor those requirements.
Mr. Mulvenon is still trying to set up a meeting with the City of Oak Ridge to discuss the city’s role in stewardship on the ORR.
The next meeting will be Tuesday, December 16. The presentation will be on options to preserve the history of the K-25 Building.
Executive Committee- Mr. Dixon said the committee met in November and discussed with the standing committee chairs about their current work plan topics. The committee approved a travel request for Ms. Owen to attend the Perma-Fix Conference in Nashville.
Mr. Dixon said he had been asked by DOE Headquarters to participate on the DOE EM transition team for the new administration.
· Oral history – Mr. Stow said the steering committee for the Center for Oak Ridge Oral History continues to meet monthly at the Oak Ridge Public Library. He said there is not much substantive work underway until a budget transfer is made from DOE to the City of Oak Ridge.
Federal Coordinator Report
Ms. Halsey reported on the status of several outstanding recommendations:
Recommendation on Historic Preservation of the K-25 Building on
o A response is being prepared.
· Recommendation 171: Recommendation on the Waste Information Management System
o This recommendation has been sent to DOE Headquarters for the response.
· Recommendation 172: Recommendation to the DOE-ORO EM on Lessons Learned from Efforts to Preserve the North Tower of the K-25 Building for Historic Purposes
o DOE Headquarters involvement is necessary in the response letter.
· Recommendation 175: Recommendation on the IFDP
o Assigned to the IFDP team for response.
Additions to the Agenda
EM SSAB Spring Chairs Meeting
Mr. Lundy reported on the conference call for the EM SSAB Chairs planning meeting. The next chairs’ meeting will be March 17-19 in Augusta, Ga. The 17th is set aside for a tour of the Savannah River Site. March 18-19 will be meeting days. The focus of the meeting will be on the effects on DOE EM as a result of the new presidential administration. He said the planning committee is requesting questions from the individual boards to put before the various presenters prior to the meeting.
Mr. Lundy invited other members of the board besides the officers to attend the meeting.
Intergovernmental Meeting Reports
Ms Jones said the meeting in November in Utah brought together a number of groups that had an interest in EM topics. She said some areas of discussion included waste disposition and ways and means of setting priorities and meeting milestones on a tight EM budget.
Mr. Murphree said the meeting provided an opportunity to hear from groups that ORSSAB doesn’t typically interface with including the Energy Communities Alliance, the Environmental Council of States, the National Association of Attorneys General, the National Governors’ Association for Best Practices, and the State and Tribal Government Working Group. Of topics related to EM he said shipments of contact- and remote-handled TRU to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant were discussed. Also discussed were Building 3019 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and closure of TSCAI. He said funding for ORR in the coming years was discussed. He said the meeting provided an overview of where the ORR is in relation to the rest of the DOE complex in terms of priorities and funding.
Ms. Owen said she the meeting was a good way to learn about how budgets are created and how the Oak Ridge budget compares to other DOE sites.
Mr. Juarez and Mr. Mezga were not present for the vote.
Mr. Coffman moved to approve the minutes of the November 12, 2008 meeting. Mr. Olson seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
The meeting adjourned at 7:50 p.m.
Attachments (2) to these minutes are available on request from ORSSAB support office.