In 2009, EnergySolutions requested a license amendment for the disposal of large quantities of depleted uranium (DU) at its facility. DU is a unique form of low-level radioactive waste that becomes more radioactive with time. State rules promulgated in 2010 require the company to complete a performance assessment (PA) to determine whether it can meet federal and state performance standards to protect public health and safety before accepting DU at the facility. EnergySolutions submitted a site-specific performance assessment in 2011, and DWMRC, in recognition of the inherent scientific and technical complexities, hired outside contractor S. Cohen & Associates (SC&A) in August 2013 at the request of the licensee to provide technical support in evaluating the PA for adequacy.
DWMRC and SC&A conducted meticulous reviews of the PA and submitted detailed questions, observations, and concerns regarding technical and regulatory issues surrounding the disposal of DU. EnergySolutions requested, and was granted, several extensions to perform and submit additional analyses and respond to the various items raised in the technical evaluations conducted by DWMRC and SC&A.
DEQ’s consultant finalized its Safety Evaluation Report (SER) (Volume 1 (3.4 MB) and Volume 2 (4.6 MB)) in April 2015. The SER identified eight issues in the PA that remained unresolved and stipulated seven conditions to be met to move the project forward. A public comment period was initiated, and EnergySolutions requested additional time to address these issues. DWMRC subsequently held two public information meetings on the SER to provide the public with the opportunity to discuss report findings with DEQ and its consultants. In late November 2015, EnergySolutions submitted a revised model (version 1.4 (6.8 MB)) in response to issues raised in the April 2015 Draft Safety Evaluation Report (SER), general comments on the content and scope of the SER, and specific technical comments and edits to the SER.
At the request of EnergySolutions the review of model 1.4 was placed on low priority beginning February 2016 while the company pursued the purchase of Waste Control Specialists. The project was elevated to high priority beginning in January 2017. DWMRC completed an interrogatory of the version 1.4 model (2.58 MB) in May 2017.
EnergySolutions provided DWMRC with responses to the May 2017 interrogatory in April 2018. At this time, DWMRC is preparing the draft final of the SER (version 2). This document will be used to solicit public comment.
Depleted Uranium Munitions Exemption
EnergySolutions asked to dispose of approximately 10,000 metric tons of solid, depleted uranium metal from the disassembly of munitions (depleted uranium solid-metal penetrators, also known as DU Penetrators) from the Department of Defense. Under state rules, a performance assessment is required to demonstrate that performance standards will be met prior to disposal of more than one metric ton (total accumulation) of concentrated depleted uranium. If the exemption was granted as requested, EnergySolutions would not have been required to complete the performance assessment.
The Waste Management and Radiation Control Board instructed the Director of DWMRC to solicit public comment on this request. The Division received almost 300 comments on EnergySolutions’ request. More than 200 comments were opposed to the request to take depleted uranium munitions. Comments ranged from emotional pleas to technical responses. During the October 25, 2018, Board meeting, it was discovered that approximately 70 comments in favor of the request were sent to the Governor’s office rather than the DWMRC public-comment email address.
On October 25, 2018, staff from DWMRC made a lengthy presentation to the Board (1.2 MB) on depleted munitions disposal. Concerns raised by staff included the geochemically unstable nature of DU metal, its reactivity in a moist, carbonate-rich environment such as at Clive, and its ability to react to form explosive substances. The Division said it could not support the exemption without a specific DU metal performance assessment that demonstrated that there would be no undue hazards to public health and safety or the environment and performance objectives would be met.
Consultants from SC&A shared their analysis of data (364 KB) provided by EnergySolutions. SC&A stated that Utah’s regulation on the matter was clear: a performance assessment is required for disposal of more than one metric ton of depleted uranium. They also noted that the performance assessments cited by EnergySolutions were not site-specific for DU. Finally; they stated that EnergySolutions had not demonstrated that an exemption from this regulation would not result in undue hazards to public health.
The Waste Management and Radiation Control Board, while expressing confidence in the company’s ability to store depleted uranium munitions, denied EnergySolutions‘request for an exemption to state regulations requiring a performance assessment prior to the disposal of depleted uranium metal penetrators.