The following updates provide a history of depleted uranium (DU) shipments to Utah and Division of Radiation Control (DRC) rulemaking on DU disposal, including the requirements to prepare a performance assessment (PA) and other relevant documents.
Update: December 8, 2010
EnergySolutions Seeks Extension on DU Performance Assessment
EnergySolutions has asked for an extension to submit a performance assessment that analyzes whether its site is suitable for large quantities of depleted uranium. The assessment was due December 31, 2010, but EnergySolutions is asking for another two months, in part to take into account the input received during a series of scoping meetings that have taken place earlier this year.
Update: April 20, 2010
DRC Board Approved New Rule
The Radiation Control Board on April 14 approved a new rule, the Depleted Uranium Performance Assessment Rule, R313-25-9, “Technical Analysis,” that requires EnergySolutions to conduct a performance assessment before disposing of depleted uranium.
Update: April 5, 2010
Test Results Complete: DOE Drums of Depleted Uranium Meet Legal Limits
An Oakridge, Tennessee lab notified the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) today that the samples of depleted uranium at EnergySolutions’ low-level radioactive waste disposal facility meet health and safety standards set by the State.
The Division of Radiation Control (DRC) last month conducted its own tests at the direction of Governor Gary Herbert. The material was shipped to Utah in December from the Department of Energy’s Savannah River, South Carolina, cleanup.
Eberline Services, Inc. analyzed 171 samples randomly collected from the 5,400 drums. DRC used an Environmental Protection Agency method under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act that determines the number of samples for a statistical approach to find out whether the waste concentrations exceed EnergySolutions’ Class A license.
“We took a much more conservative and thorough approach to sampling,” said Amanda Smith, Executive Director of DEQ. “We believe that given questions raised about the nature of this waste, the State should do its due diligence and perform additional tests.”
Depleted uranium is classified as Class A low-level waste by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but the Savannah River waste also contained trace amounts of other radioactive elements, including Technetium, which, if concentrations are too high, would be prohibited from disposal under State law.
The Radiation Control Board is promulgating a rule that would require a performance assessment to determine if depleted uranium can be safely disposed above ground at EnergySolutions. The waste material from Savannah River will continue to be monitored until the performance assessment is completed.
Update: February 25, 2010
DEQ Uses a Statistical Analysis to Test Depleted Uranium
Salt Lake City, Utah—The Division of Radiation Control (DRC) on Tuesday initiated the sampling of the depleted uranium at EnergySolutions’ low-level radioactive waste disposal facility, using a federally-accepted statistical approach to determine whether the waste meets the safety hazards set by the state.
Sampling will continue next week, weather permitting, said Amanda Smith, executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. At the request of Governor Herbert, Smith directed DRC staff to conduct its own tests of the depleted uranium that the Department of Energy (DOE) shipped to Utah in December from its Savannah River, South Carolina cleanup.
It’s a highly laborious process, said Smith. Samplers pop the lid off the 55-gallon drums, and skim 250 grams of the depleted uranium, a powder substance, into a container. The samples are randomly taken from 171 of the 5,400 drums and will be sent to Eberline Services, Inc. in Oakridge, Tennessee for analysis, which will take a couple of weeks to a month to complete.
“We believe that given the questions raised about the nature of this waste, the state should do its due diligence and perform additional testing to assure with statistical confidence that the 5,400 drums do not exceed federal or state standards for radioactivity,” said Smith.
Dane Finerfrock, director of DRC, said DEQ is using an Environmental Protection Agency method under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) that determines the number of samples for a statistical approach to find out whether the waste concentrations exceed EnergySolutions’ Class A license.
Depleted uranium is classified as Class A low-level waste by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission but becomes more hazardous over time, up to 1 million years. Depleted uranium consists of many isotopes, including technetium-99, that if concentrations are too high would be prohibited under state law. The Radiation Control Board is currently completing a rule-making that would place specific conditions on depleted uranium disposal.
“We have reviewed the shipping documents and the analytical results from the generator and have no reason to believe at this time that waste exceeds the Class A limits. At the Governor’s request DRC is conducting an independent analysis, and we have chosen a much more conservative and thorough approach to sampling.”
Governor Herbert stopped the Energy Department from shipping additional trainloads of depleted uranium from Savannah River under an agreement he negotiated with DOE earlier this week. The Energy Department also agreed to take the depleted uranium back if testing shows the material exceeds the Class A limit.
Update: February 23, 2010
Governor Succeeds in Keeping Second and Third Depleted Uranium Trains Out of Utah
Planned shipments of depleted uranium from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site will not be shipped to Utah under an agreement negotiated Monday by Governor Gary R. Herbert.
“This is a monumental win for the State of Utah,” Governor Herbert said. “At one point, we were told these trains were all but on the tracks, making their way to Utah. The Department of Energy has now agreed, after we registered our concerns, that those trains will head elsewhere.”
The Governor emphasized that, in addition to halting planned shipments, “the Department of Energy has agreed it will take back the depleted uranium it sent in December if we cannot implement disposal processes that ensure the long-term health and safety of all Utahns.”
The Governor met Monday in Washington D.C. with Ines Triay, DOE’s Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management. As a result of that hour-long meeting, the Department of Energy has agreed to divert two train loads of depleted uranium originally intended for storage at EnergySolutions’ facility in Clive, Utah.
Additionally, a DOE representative will travel to Utah to address the state’s Radiation Control Board and will work closely with state regulators to develop a site-specific performance assessment to determine if depleted uranium can be safely stored in the State of Utah. That process is expected to take up to two years.
The first DOE shipment of approximately 3,500 tons of material arrived in December from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. It is being held in temporary storage until acceptable parameters for permanent storage are put in place.
If proper storage procedures cannot be achieved to the state’s satisfaction, or if independent testing of the barrels reveals the waste exceeds Class A levels, the Department of Energy will immediately remove the depleted uranium from the state.
“The Department of Energy will be actively engaged in this process, and has committed to me, personally, that it will be responsible if the waste is not what it purports to be,” Governor Herbert said. “I appreciate federal officials’ time and attention to this matter and their understanding of its critical importance to the people of Utah.”
The Governor’s Office is currently working on a written document to memorialize the terms of the agreement.
Update: January 13, 2010
DRC Staff Conducts Independent Sampling
At the direction of Governor Herbert, the Division of Radiation Control staff will conduct independent sampling of the first shipment of depleted uranium, which arrived at EnergySolutions’ Clive landfill last month from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Savannah River cleanup. The samples will be sent to an outside lab for testing. Meanwhile, Governor Herbert is still negotiating with DOE regarding two remaining shipments slated for the EnergySolutions’ landfill.
Update: December 21, 2009
DOE Negotiates a Deal
Governor Gary Herbert and the U.S. Department of Energy negotiated a deal last week that allows a trainload of depleted uranium to be temporarily stored at EnergySolutions’ landfill, but not disposed, until a safety analysis deems DU can be safely buried at EnergySolutions up to 10,000 years in the future. Additional shipments of DU from Savannah River, South Carolina are suspended pending the site safety review that is under way.
Update: December 16, 2009
Governor Herbert Asks DOE to Halt Shipments
Governor Gary Herbert is asking the U.S. Department of Energy to halt shipments of depleted uranium from Savannah River in South Carolina to EnergySolutions’ landfill in Clive, Utah. In a December 15 letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Herbert said Utah regulators need more time to make sure the EnergySolutions site can safely dispose of the waste.
Update: December 14, 2009
DOE Announces Plans to Ship Depleted Uranium
The Department of Energy announced last week that it plans to ship 11,000 tons of depleted uranium from the Savannah River cleanup in South Carolina to EnergySolutions’ low-level radioactive waste facility in Clive, Utah. Included in a pending license condition is a requirement that EnergySolutions would have to remove the waste if the site safety analysis demonstrates that depleted uranium could not be safely disposed at the landfill for at least 10,000 years. Get more information on the license amendment.
Update: December 9, 2009
Radiation Control Board Moves Forward with Rulemaking
On Tuesday, Dec. 8, the Radiation Control Board moved forward with rulemaking on the disposal of depleted uranium, looking 10,000 years in the future. The rule is subject to a 30 day public comment period after the rule is published in Administrative Rules.
Update: November 23, 2009
DRC Requesting Public Comment
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Radiation Control (DRC), on behalf of the Utah Radiation Control Board, is requesting public comment regarding an amendment to EnergySolutions’ Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal License (RML UT2300249). The License Amendment is proposed to impose certain requirements regarding the receipt and disposal of Depleted Uranium (DU). The Proposed License Condition No. 35 will be available for review and/or copying between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday, at:Utah Department of Environmental Quality
Division of Radiation Control
Room 212, Airport East Business Building (#2)
168 North 1950 West
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-4850
A 30-day public comment period will commence on November 23, 2009. Written comments will be accepted until the close of business on December 23, 2009. Written comments should be sent to the address listed above. All comments received within the 30-day comment period will be considered when making a final decision regarding this License Amendment.
Update: November 12, 2009
Radiation Control Board Seeks Rulemaking to Conduct Performance Assessment
The Radiation Control Board at its November 10th meeting decided to seek rulemaking that would require EnergySolutions’ to conduct a performance assessment (safety analysis) before disposing of significant amounts of depleted uranium. Considering the regulation wouldn’t go into effect for 90 to 120 days, EnergySolutions could still take depleted uranium under an amended license.
Update: October 13, 2009
Radiation Control Board Requires Performance Assessment
In its meeting, the Radiation Control Board decided to require that a performance assessment (safety analysis) be provided to the Division of Radiation Control prior to receiving depleted uranium for disposal. The decision reverses the Board position taken at the September meeting.
Update: September 24, 2009
Radiation Control Board Seeks Temporary Moratorium on DU
On September 22, the Radiation Control Board voted against pursing rulemaking that may have resulted in a temporary moratorium on depleted uranium (DU) disposal at EnergySolutions. The Board directed that the Utah Division of Radiation Control amend EnergySolutions’ license to include a performance assessment on the suitability of DU disposal. This would require Energy Solutions to assure that any DU taken prior to final NRC rulemaking is ultimately disposed of in compliance with future performance standards.
Update: March 15, 2007
Governor Jon Huntsman and Steve Creamer, CEO of Energy Solutions, signed an agreement (later known as the Huntsman Agreement), that limited EnergySolutions to the disposal of waste volumes that were already approved at the time of the Agreement.