August 12, 2002

By email to: Elizabeth Withers (

Ms. Elizabeth Withers,

NEPA Compliance Officer
Office of Facility Operations
Office of Los Alamos Site Operations
Los Alamos, NM 87544

Re: Draft Supplement Analysis dated July 23, 2002 "Modification of Management Methods for Transuranic Waste Characterization at Los Alamos National Laboratory"

Dear Ms. Withers:

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) makes the following comments on the draft Supplemental Analysis (SA) "Modification of Management Methods for Transuranic Waste Characterization at Los Alamos National Laboratory," dated July 23, 2002:

CCNS is surprised by the lack of contact information and specificity with respect to the comment period found in the July 23, 2002 SA cover letter. We compared the SA cover letter with a similar letter from your office dated the same day notifying CCNS about the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for constructing and operating two road segments within Technical Area 3 at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The second letter includes information about where the draft EA may be reviewed, the length of the comment period and contact information. Please explain why the contact information in the first letter was not as complete as that of the second.

CCNS understands that the New Mexico Environment Department, Hazardous Waste Bureau, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant section, requested a copy of the draft SA but did not receive it in time to comment before today's deadline. Please explain why.

CCNS believes that the draft SA inadequately addresses the substantial changes to the proposal as outlined in the 1999 LANL Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/EIS 0238) (LANL SWEIS) and the associated Record of Decision (ROD) and that there are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns. 40 CFR �.9(c)(1), 10 CFR �.314. The following points illustrate some of the reasons why DOE is required to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS):

1. The draft SA references the LANL SWEIS for accident analyses. In turn, the LANL SWEIS references the 1998 Performance Assessment and Composite Analysis for LANL Low-Level Waste Material Disposal G, LA-UR-97-85 (PA). The PA is incomplete and does not address all of the Area G issues. The PA is in the process of being revised.

The analysis is incomplete because the LANL SWEIS did not reference the Safety Analysis Report (SAR) for TA-54, Area G, (CST14G-REPORT-003. R.0, August 30, 1995), a report which CCNS believes is required for complete accident analyses. However, there are a number of problems with the SAR as evidenced by our April 23, 2002 emailed to Jim Orban, Albuquerque Operations Office (AOO), and Joe Vozella, Office of Los Alamos Site Operations (OLASO), which is attached and incorporated by reference to these comments. Our concerns include the status of the transuranic (TRU) waste database, the number of drums containing over 1% respirable plutonium particles, the status of the SAR update, questions arising as to who set the Evaluation Guideline allowing an "acceptable" release of 25 Rem from Area G and what regulatory authority was used for the decision, and wildfire temperatures and the possibility of spontaneous combustion of the drums or tents. Please also see Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD) August 12, 2002 comments to the draft SA about the Area G SAR.

We have not received a response to our April email, despite several reminders to the addressees. CCNS understands that a revision to the SAR is due to be released in September. The supplemental EIS should incorporate information included in the new TA-54, Area G SAR.

2. The LANL SWEIS did not analyze for terrorism. LANL SWEIS, G-21. Due to new information about terrorism, it should be analyzed in the supplemental EIS.

3. A supplemental EIS is required because there is no discussion of alternatives to the proposed action. One alternative for which CCNS and other groups have been asking DOE to analyze for is the construction and operation of a Hazard Category 2, Performance Category 3 secured nuclear waste storage facility at TA-54.

Another alternative is to immediately move the 300 high-wattage ash drums (representing 28% of the above-ground risk) and the 2,000 high wattage drums (representing 61% of the above-ground risk) to existing Hazard Category 2, Performance Category 3 facilities at LANL.

The SA claims that the waste drums will be removed from TA-54 by 2010. Even if this were true, in the interim tens of thousands of waste drums will remain on the mesa in fabric tents, during many upcoming fire seasons. DOE is required to compare the alternatives of building and operating secured storage, or moving the 2,300 drums immediately, with a 2010 project completion date.

New waste is generated at LANL everyday, and that waste is also stored at Area G. SA, p. 4. Where will this new waste be stored? Alternatives for the newly generated waste should be explored in the supplemental EIS. In our post Cerro Grande fire and 9/11 world, the key impact assessment parameters for the alternatives for all TA-54 waste must be explored through the EIS process.

4. CCNS is unclear about which waste drums are being described in the SA. Over the past several months, there have been a number of presentations about the high-wattage waste drums. However, the numbers keep changing. This is also evidenced in the SA and in the Radioactive Air Emissions Analysis of Waste Characterization Activities at TA-54, LA-UR-02-4138 (hereinafter referred to as the "Rad Air Emissions Report").1 SA, p. 2 (9,000 cubic meters), and p. 5 (15,000 legacy drums, 4,000 need repackaging). January 28, 2002 Pre-Construction Notification Package, p. 1 of 20 (19,000 containers) and p. 10 of 20 (4,000 drums might not meet the WIPP Waste Acceptance Criteria). The supplemental EIS should clarify which waste drums are within the proposal.

5. Before DOE gave itself an exemption, the waste drums were limited to 1% respirable particles. Now, DOE may fill waste drums with 100% respirable particles. Do any of the proposed drums contain 100% respirable plutonium particles? If so, does this fact break the bounding analyses found in the LANL SWEIS?

6. What analysis has been done to support the statement that WIPP is the safest place for the defense-generated TRU waste? SA, p. 1.

7. There is no analysis of the hazardous components of the waste. Over 70% of the waste is mixed (radioactive and hazardous). Analysis of both the radioactive and hazardous portions of the waste should be included in the supplemental EIS.

8. Please include in the supplemental EIS the audit and shipping requirements LANL must meet under the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

9. The draft SA claims that there will be a $500 million savings on life-cycle costs and 3,000 fewer shipments to WIPP. SA, p. 2. What are the bases for these statements? Please provide the baseline for comparison.

10. A Hazard Category 2 building, the Radioactive Assay and Nondestructive Test (RANT) Facility, is located at TA-54-38. LANL SWEIS, p. 2-108. Activities done in that building include waste characterization, passive and active neutron assay, real-time radiography, and waste loading. Id. There is a statement about the need for new headspace gas and gas generation rate analysis units in TA-54-33. SA, p. 4. How do the activities in TA-54-38 and 54-33 relate? Will there be any duplication?

11. What is the status of the Hazard Control Plans? When were they last updated for TA-54, Area G? or TA-54 in general? SA, p. 5.

12. It is unclear in the SA what impacts will result from the construction of some sort of pad for the modular units (MUs). SA, p. 5. The SA does not state if the proposed location is contaminated, if it is located over a disposal site(s), or if there is a possibility of worker exposure from the construction activities. Will there be soil resuspension because of the construction? Construction impacts will have to be more fully analyzed in the supplemental EIS.

13. Please define "protective shell." SA, p. 5.

14. The draft SA incorrectly references the year 2000 LANL air emissions for comparison. SA, p. 7. LANL did not operate during the full year because LANL facilities and operations were shutdown for various periods of time due to the Cerro Grande fire. Restarts and recovery operations varied. The reference to air emissions in 2000 should be corrected in the supplemental EIS. January 28, 2002 Pre-Construction Notification Package, p. 8 of 20.

For the reasons stated above, the draft SA is incomplete, there are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns, and therefore, a supplemental EIS is required. 40 CFR �.9(c)(1), 10 CFR �.314.

CCNS also has several concerns about the Rad Air Emissions Report that is referenced in the SA. CCNS's concerns are listed below:

1. The waste inventory is based on RRES-MAQ staff talking with the TA-54 facility point of contact. 8/12/02 telephone conversation with Dave Fuehne, LANL RRES-MAQ. The public requires a readily available written document to serve for the inventory. One possibility may be the TRU database referenced in CCNS's April 23, 2002 email to Jim Orban and Joe Vozella.

2. CCNS believes that the MUs must be continuously monitored at the stack because each MU is a separate point source and the amount of radiation expected for release is close to the 0.1 millirem per year monitoring threshold. An alarm should be required on each stack. The assumptions made in the January 28, 2002 pre-construction application may outweigh the conclusions.

The proposed MU location is next to San Ildefonso lands and Pajarito Road, a road well traveled by the public. The draft SA references the AIRNET monitoring system as being sufficient for monitoring, along with the HEPA filtration on the MUs. However, AIRNET is not the best system for emergency conditions. As we learned during the Cerro Grande fire, AIRNET does not provide "real-time" data. Moreover, the filters are changed every two weeks and it takes some time for the quality control/quality assured results to be available to the public. A more complete analysis of the air emissions and monitoring is required.

3. What is the failure rate for the pressure sensors? January 28, 2002 Pre-Construction Notification Package, p. 4 of 20.

CCNS may supplement these comments based on conversations next week with RRES-MAQ staff during the third audit of LANL's compliance with the Clean Air Act as part of the CCNS v. DOE Consent Decree (D.N.M. 94-1039 JP/WWD).

CCNS requests a response to our comments. CCNS also requests a copy of the determination and any final documents. 10 CFR �.314(c)(3). Should you have any comments or questions, please contact me.

Joni Arends
Waste Programs Director

1The Rad Air Emissions Report includes the January 28, 2002 Pre-construction Notification Package to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); January 28, 2002 DOE-OLASO letter to EPA Region VI; January 28, 2002 ESH-17 letter to DOE-OLASO; March 6, 2002 EPA approval letter to DOE-OLASO.

Attachments: April 23, 2002 email to Jim Orban and Joe Vozella, follows.

Dear Jim and Joe,

Thank you for meeting with us on April 10 to discuss the Quick to WIPP. We have had the opportunity to review the 8/30/95 SAR for TA-54, Area G, GCT14G-REPORT-003, R.O. and have the following questions. We would appreciate your reply at your earliest convenience. Thank you.

1. The SAR states that there is a TRU database which gives detailed information on each drum received for storage. We would like to have a summary of this information. That is, we don't need to know the information for each individual drum, but would like to know percentages of radionuclides, particulates etc. What are the total curies of each radionuclide in each dome, and in each drum category (300, 1700, remaining 40,000-plus)? How many of each kind of container are now in storage compared to what was in storage in 1995 and how many of each kind are in each dome? How many domes are there now?

How many containers include more than 1% respirable particles? How many containers are 100% respirable and what form exactly are they (soot, fines etc.)? Does DOE/LANL know any more details of quantities of respirable waste in the inventory? (e.g., 20% of all drums are 40% respirable; 70% are 1% or less, etc.)

We would like all this info broken down in the categories of the 300 drums, the 1700 drums and the remaining 40,000 drums.

Of the 1700 and 300 drums respectively, in addition to the above details, we would like to know the waste forms in these drums (again, in percentages) if they are not all debris waste.

Also, how many containers and what kind of waste is currently stored in the low level mixed waste (LLMW) dome?

2. Since this SAR was done in 1995, is there an update? Does that update adjust for the increased amount of respirable Pu allowed now and the increased number of drums in storage? Can we get a copy of the updated SAR as soon as possible?

3. Is there a separate SAR for the risk of wildfire? Did DOE/LANL prepare some kind of report before the last fire? Can we get a copy?

4. Is there a separate SAR for soil and water releases? Can we get a copy?

5. What drum strength study and exactly what drums were used as the basis for their analysis of how many drums would breach? Is it the same study that was used for the WIPP Performance Assessment?

6. How did DOE/LANL determine that 25 rem was an acceptable release amount for the EG? Who has the authority to set this Evaluation Guideline (EG) and what is that authority based on?

7. In 1995 the fissile gram equivalent (FGE) limit for weapons-grade Pu (material type PU52) waste generated by the Lab was restricted to approximately 25 PE-Ci per drum. Is this still true? If not, what is it now? In 1995 the average content of radioactive material in a container was 8.9 PE-Ci, what is it now?

8. Is there any TRU waste that is also contaminated with tritium? If so, how much?

9. How do other hazardous and toxic materials in the waste affect the risk from fire or accident? Eg. asbestos, hazardous metals that could vaporize, PCBs etc.

10. If there is a massive wildfire around Area G, even if the domes don't burn, could the temperature be raised sufficiently to cause pyrophoric materials (especially turnings and fines) to spontaneously combust? Has DOE/LANL done calculations for this, or do they just have assumptions?

11. Why didn't DOE/LANL consider re-suspension, food pathways etc. when calculating the dose? Why didn't DOE/LANL do modeling sufficient to see if other people farther away would actually be more effective? Why didn't they consider, as a worst-case scenario, a huge fire that burns the domes plus a following thunder storm which washes everything not air-borne into the Rio Grande?

To receive a copy of the Supplement Analysis Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for Continued Operation of Los Alamos National Laboratory: Modification of Management Methods for Transuranic Waste Characterization at Los Alamos National Laboratory please contact Ms. Elizabeth Withers, NEPA Compliance Officer, Office of Los Alamos Site Operations.