Recently Asked Questions

The questions below were submitted via a Question Card or were raised during the INL Site EM CAB meetings. Answers to the questions are provided by DOE-ID staff.

February 13, 2017

The following questions were submitted by a CAB member via email during the research phase of a newsletter article. Answers to the questions are provided by DOE-ID staff.

Recent Power Point presentations make a distinction between EM managed spent fuel and fuel from EBR-II and ATR. But then suggest that EM is somehow involved in moving it. So, the question is: When is SNF the “management responsibility” of EM?
Spent nuclear fuel (SNF) managed by DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is that spent fuel assigned to EM for final dispositioning within the inventory considered during the completion of the 1995 spent nuclear fuel environmental impact statement and the associated Records of Decision (RODs). This same inventory was used within the Idaho Settlement Agreement (ISA).
DOE-EM completed the task of moving all EM-managed spent fuel from wet to dry storage, as required by the ISA, in June of 2010. EM is working with the Office of Nuclear Energy to remove the remaining fuel out of the spent fuel basins at CPP-666 and into dry storage by the ISA deadline of 2023. The remaining fuel stored in the basins includes fuel that come from EBR-II and ATR. The EBR-II spent fuel will be transferred by Fluor Idaho to the Materials and Fuels Complex for electrometallurgical treatment, or to dry storage at the Idaho site. The ATR spent fuel currently stored in CPP-666 will be transferred by Fluor to INTEC for dry storage.
Before consolidation at INTEC, EM was “managing” SNF at 11 different sites at INL (according to a briefing). Were those all sites of reactors, closed or operating?
Some of the facilities (not sites) were reactors or the associated canals. Other facilities included storage areas (wet and dry) located across the INL site. With the exception of the facilities associated with the Advanced Test Reactor, all of the facilities have been closed.
Presumably, SNF is being generated by NE work. Does it become EM spent fuel or are the different waste streams (NE, Navy, legacy SNF) all moving through different silos?
The only SNF currently received by EM from NE is ATR SNF. That fuel is managed by NE. Spent fuel is not considered a waste stream. DOE practice is to consider it a resource until such time as it is declared a waste and is dispositioned to an operating repository.
My draft article assumes SNF sources as Navy, research related sent in, Idaho research generated, 3-Mile Island, Ft. St. Vrain. Are there other sources?
In general, your categories cover the sources of spent nuclear fuel now stored in Idaho.

April 27, 2016

What will the RWMC Pad A future feasibility study be about? When? Wouldn't removal of Pad A make soil cap design easier?
The Pad A focused feasibility study will evaluate alternatives to:
• lower the profile of the Pad A waste/soil pile (if feasible) to simplify the overall soil cover design and reduce construction costs;
• reduce subsidence (during and after construction of the soil cover) (if feasible) to improve soil cover performance and reduce maintenance costs.
The study is anticipated to occur as early as 2017.
The CERCLA Record of Decision (ROD) did not consider removal of Pad A, because Pad A does not exceed risk threshold values.  The ROD’s intent is to integrate Pad A into the comprehensive remedial action for the entire SDA and, to the extent possible, provide a stable foundation for the evapotranspiration surface barrier.  At a minimum, additional cover material will be included to incorporate Pad A and its cover into the larger surface barrier that will be constructed over the entire SDA.
The annual radiological air emissions have not usually said where specific radionuclides came from, especially plutonium and americium – is it from the RWMC? Is it newly released? Is it trended?
The Annual INL Site Environmental Report (ASER) summarizes airborne effluents released from INL Site facilities.  Table 4-2 of the calendar year 2014 report lists the radionuclide composition of INL Site airborne effluents by major facility area.  Similar information has been published since at least calendar year 1973 in annual monitoring reports.  Among the radionuclides listed in Table 4-2 are isotopes of americium and plutonium.  Radiological airborne effluents may change from year to year dependent upon specific projects and operations conducted at the INL Site.  As stated in the calendar year 2014 ASER, overall radioactive airborne effluent releases showed a downward trend.  Radioactive airborne effluent data are used to calculate effective dose to the maximally exposed individual in compliance with Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40, “Protection of the Environment,” Part 61, “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants,” Subpart H, “National Emissions Standards for Emissions of Radionuclides Other than Radon from Department of Energy Facilities.”  A list of INL Site air emissions sources used to calculate effective dose to the maximally exposed individual can be found in DOE/ID-11441(2015), National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants – Calendar Year 2014 INL Report for Radionuclides, June 2015.  Reports are available in the INL Public Reading Room https://inldigitallibrary.inl.gov/PRR
The 12 INL drinking water wells are said to be all reported in the annual EM reports – some years this is true, but not all years. Where is the data? Even if below MCL or OF standards. Please cite specific reports for the last 20 years.
The INL Site has 12 public drinking water systems (PWS):  1) Experimental Breeder Reactor I (PWS#ID6120009), 2) Gun Range (PWS# ID6120025), 3) Critical Infrastructure Test Range Complex (PWS# ID6120019), 4) Test Area North/Technical Support Facility (PWS# ID6120021), 5) Main Gate (PWS# ID6120015), 6) Central Facilities Area (PWS# ID6120008), 7) Materials and Fuels Complex (PWS# ID6060036 ), 8) Advanced Test Reactor Complex (PWS# ID6120020), 9) Test Area North/Contained Test Facility (PWS# ID6120013), 10) Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (PWS# ID6120012), 11) Naval Reactors Facility (PWS# ID6120016), and 12) Radioactive Waste Management Complex (including Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project) (PWS# ID6120018).  Monitoring data for these systems are summarized in various annual reports, including the Annual INL Site Environmental Report (ASER).  ASERs for calendar years 1994-2014 are numbered DOE/ID-12082(CY), where CY is the specific calendar year covered in the report.  In addition to the ASERs, other published reports also summarize drinking water and groundwater monitoring data.  For example, INEEL/EXT-01-00447, “2000 Environmental Monitoring Program Report,” also summarizes drinking water monitoring.  These and other reports that were responsive to a recent Freedom of Information Act Request are available in the INL Public Reading Room https://inldigitallibrary.inl.gov/PRR
What is DOE’s response to the fact that the in-soil Americium and alpha inventory levels at the ATR Complex were underestimated in the analyses of the new replacement facility for the RWMC?
CERCLA site TRA-80 within the fence line at the Advanced Test Reactor Complex was identified in 2014.  It is associated with buildings that were demolished.  Americium and alpha have been detected there.  TRA-80 will be evaluated in accordance with the CERCLA process.  Sampling will be performed to determine if potential contaminants exceed CERCLA remediation goals.  If so, appropriate remediation will be performed.  The new Remote Handled Waste Disposal Facility under construction is more than 800 feet outside of the ATR Complex fence line.  Residual contamination at the ATR Complex will be accounted for in the new facility’s groundwater analysis.  Any contamination that might remain at the ATR Complex upon completion of the CERCLA process is not expected to affect groundwater concentrations at the new facility.
Why is it ok that the Idaho Settlement Agreement’s stipulation that DOE-ID lead DOE SNF has been removed from INL and defunded?
The Idaho site is still DOE’s lead lab for spent nuclear fuel research.  DOE designated the Idaho site as the lead lab for DOE spent nuclear fuel research in accordance with the requirements of the 1995 Idaho Settlement Agreement and that designation remains.  In fiscal years 2015 and 2016, Congress provided funding to Idaho National Laboratory for the upgrade and maintenance of the National Spent Nuclear Fuel Database.  Spent nuclear fuel missions at the Idaho site also include research in treatment methods for spent nuclear fuels such as electro-refining, and storage of much of the inventory of the department’s stainless steel-clad spent nuclear fuel.

April 8, 2015

Underground waste at Radioactive Waste Management Complex (RWMC) and at the Idaho CERCLA Disposal Facility and Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (INTEC) Tank farm appear to rely on caps. Yet many studies conclude that caps are ineffective over the long term. Why is the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) relying on caps – yet not using a cap for the INL Replacement Remote Handled-Low Level Waste facility.
The final closure systems for RWMC, ICDF and INTEC have not been designed yet, and may differ from each other based on waste type, waste form and subsurface mobility of the wastes. As the closure systems are designed, the designers and regulatory agencies will review the latest information on cover performance to ensure the most effective design is developed for each of the facilities. To assure long-term performance, the CERLCA process will continue to use a 5-year-review cycle to ensure the remedies remain protective of human health and the environment.
The Remote-Handled Low-Level Waste Disposal Facility will also use an engineered cover for final facility closure. The required functions of the final engineered cover are discussed in the Environmental Assessment for the Replacement Capability for Disposal of Remote-Handled Low-Level Radioactive Waste Generated at the Department of Energy’s Idaho Site DOE/EA-1793, which resulted in a Finding of No Significant Impact signed on December 21, 2011. This final engineered cover will be designed to promote evapotranspiration in order to limit infiltration into the cover and to provide long-term disposal site stability
Why are long-lived radioactive contaminants given no or little attention in USGS or INL contractor vadose or aquifer monitoring? Examples: Tc-99, I-129, others. From 1998 Beasley USGS report.
Idaho Cleanup Project contractor monitoring in groundwater and perched water depends on the levels of contaminants found at a facility and long-term monitoring trends. Contaminants such as Tc-99, I-129, and other long-lived radionuclides mentioned in Beasley, 1998 USGS Report are monitored at the INL. In addition, the USGS routinely monitors for plutonium and americium isotopes at selected wells near the Radioactive Waste Management Complex (RWMC) and the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (INTEC). All the contaminants that are monitored for at INTEC and the RWMC, as well as the results of this monitoring, are publicly available and can be located at http://ar.inl.gov.
Information on ICP contractor monitoring at INTEC and RWMC can be found in the following reports:
WAG 3 OU 3-14 Tank Farm Soil and INTEC Groundwater Long-Term Monitoring Plan (DOE/ID-11334),
WAG 3 OU 3-14 Tank Farm Soil and INTEC Groundwater Monitoring Report (DOE/ID-11500), and
OU 7-13/14 Monitoring Report (DOE/ID-11507).
For the IWTU penalties for missing milestones "stipulates penalties will not accrue if the problem is treatment was stopped to protect human health and the environment" (see presentation). Basically any clogging, pressure control, or basic design problem can be argued to be a safety problem and penalties waived. What ground rules for this is there?
DOE remains committed to open communication with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) as we complete the testing, commence the operation of the IWTU, and treat the sodium bearing waste. Should a condition occur that requires treatment to be stopped to protect human health and the environment, DOE will notify DEQ. If requirements are affected, the application of the objective standard in the clause will be negotiated between DOE and DEQ.

July 10, 2014

How much material was released during the recent WIPP [Waste Isolation Pilot Plant] event?
The station B sample collected during the release showed 57,000 dpm, which would imply a total release of about one millicurie (0.001 Curie), made up primarily (~90%) of Am-241. For more information, please visit the WIPP recovery website at http://www.wipp.energy.gov/wipprecovery/path_forward.html.

April 17, 2014

  1. How likely was a roof fall of an active panel predicted to be in an active panel in the DOE Safety Analysis?
  2. Is the safety culture training at WIPP in remedy of upper level management ignoring fire protection audit reports?
  3. Is upper level safety culture being addressed and are these problems unique to WIPP?
Inasmuch as your questions are specific to Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) operations and issues, we refer you to their website, http://www.wipp.energy.gov/wipprecovery/path_forward.html During the WIPP presentation at our meeting, the interactive nature and opportunity to engage with WIPP managers, in real time and by posting questions, was discussed in detail. You have the ability to dialogue during their weekly town meetings and be involved in that process through the website. Your questions are applicable to WIPP operations and can most thoroughly and appropriately be answered by them.

February 12, 2014

What is the status of Tc99 water contamination at INTEC?
In September 2004, a report was published entitled Evaluation of Tc-99 in Groundwater at INTEC: Summary of Phase 1 Results (ICP/EXT-04-00244 Rev. 0). This report is available in PDF format on the Administrative Record website at: http://ar.inel.gov/
The 2004, the Tc-99 report summarized the results of investigations into the occurrence of Tc-99 in groundwater at INTEC, and presented the following conclusions:
  • Groundwater at INTEC aquifer monitoring well ICPP-MON-A-230 contained Tc-99 at concentrations between 2,000 and 3,000 pCi/L, which exceeded the Tc-99 derived Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 900 pCi/L. At that time, ICPP-MON-A-230 was the only groundwater monitoring location where Tc-99 exceeded the drinking water standard.
  • The evidence strongly suggested that the source of the elevated Tc-99 activity in the groundwater near well ICPP-MON-A-230 was historical liquid waste releases at the tank farm, in particular the accidental liquid waste release that occurred at the tank farm in November 1972 (CERCLA Site CPP-31).
  • The most likely mechanism for transport of Tc-99 from contaminated soils at the tank farm to the aquifer is downward movement of contaminated water through the vadose zone to the water table.
  • The former INTEC injection well (plugged in 1989) likely constituted an earlier source of Tc-99 to the aquifer, but the resulting groundwater Tc-99 concentrations did not exceed the MCL. A dilute Tc-99 plume that extends south and down gradient of INTEC is most likely primarily the result of service waste discharges to the former injection well and not contaminated soils at the tank farm.
As a follow-up to the 2004 investigation, two additional aquifer monitoring wells were installed at INTEC in 2005, wells ICPP-2020 and ICPP-2021. Groundwater samples collected from these wells in May 2005 indicated that groundwater from well ICPP-2021 contained elevated Tc-99 levels of approximately 1,200 pCi/L, which exceeded the Tc-99 MCL of 900 pCi/L.
As part of ongoing CERCLA activities, Tc-99 concentrations in the vicinity of INTEC have been monitored closely in subsequent years, including annual sampling of both the perched water (within the vadose zone), and the underlying Snake River Plain Aquifer groundwater. CERCLA Operable Unit (OU) 3-14 annual reports have included Tc-99 concentrations and trend plots for groundwater samples collected at and down gradient (south) of INTEC. The most recent of these annual reports is Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Operations and Maintenance Report for Operable Unit 3-14, Tank Farm Soil and INTEC Groundwater, DOE/ID-11476, Rev. 0, June 2013. This report is available on the Administrative Record website (see link above).
As of March 2012, Tc-99 concentrations in groundwater at and near INTEC had declined to approximately half the maximum concentrations observed during 2004-2005, which were approximately 3,000 pCi/L.
In 2012, Well ICPP-MON-A-230 reported Tc-99 concentrations of 1,450 (±83.5) pCi/L and well ICPP-2021 reported Tc-99 concentrations of 1,070 (±61.8) pCi/L). These two wells have been the only INL wells that have ever exceeded the Tc-99 MCL.
If current trends continue, we expect that groundwater at all monitoring locations will drop below the Tc-99 MCL (900 pCi/L) within a few years.
The ICP contractor will continue to monitor and report Tc-99 trends in INL groundwater.