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A Model for a National Low Level Waste Program

[+] Author Affiliations
James A. Blankenhorn

URS - Washington Division, Los Alamos, NM

Paper No. ICEM2009-16372, pp. 495-500; 6 pages
  • ASME 2009 12th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management
  • ASME 2009 12th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, Volume 1
  • Liverpool, UK, October 11–15, 2009
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division and Environmental Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4407-6 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3865-X
  • Copyright © 2009 by ASME


A national program for the management of low level waste is essential to the success of environmental clean-up, decontamination and decommissioning, current operations and future missions. The value of a national program is recognized through procedural consistency and a shared set of resources. A national program requires a clear waste definition and an understanding of waste characteristics matched against available and proposed disposal options. A national program requires the development and implementation of standards and procedures for implementing the waste hierarchy, with a specific emphasis on waste avoidance, minimization and recycling. It requires a common set of objectives for waste characterization based on the disposal facility’s waste acceptance criteria, regulatory and license requirements and performance assessments. Finally, a national waste certification program is required to ensure compliance. To facilitate and enhance the national program, a centralized generator services organization, tasked with providing technical services to the generators on behalf of the national program, is necessary. These subject matter experts are the interface between the generating sites and the disposal facility(s). They provide an invaluable service to the generating organizations through their involvement in waste planning prior to waste generation and through championing implementation of the waste hierarchy. Through their interface, national treatment and transportation services are optimized and new business opportunities are identified. This national model is based on extensive experience in the development and on-going management of a national transuranic waste program and management of the national repository, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The Low Level Program at the Savannah River Site also successfully developed and implemented the waste hierarchy, waste certification and waste generator services concepts presented below. The Savannah River Site services over forty generators and has historically managed over 12,000 cubic meters of low level waste annually. The results of the waste minimization program at the site resulted in over 900 initiatives, avoiding over 220,000 cubic meters of waste for a life cycle cost savings of $275 million. At the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the low level waste program services over 20 major generators and several hundred smaller generators that produce over 4,000 cubic meters of low level waste annually. The Los Alamos National Laboratory low level waste program utilizes both on-site and off-site disposal capabilities. Off-site disposal requires the implementation of certification requirements to utilize both federal and commercial options. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is the US Department of Energy’s first deep geological repository for the permanent disposal of Transuanic waste. Transuranic waste was generated and retrievably stored at 39 sites across the US. Transuranic waste is defined as waste with a radionuclide concentration equal to or greater than 100 nCi/g consisting of radionuclides with half-lives greater than 20 years and with an atomic mass greater than uranium. Combining the lessons learned from the national transuranic waste program, the successful low level waste program at Savannah River Site and the experience of off-site disposal options at Los Alamos National Laboratory provides the framework and basis for developing a viable national strategy for managing low level waste.

Copyright © 2009 by ASME



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