TESTIMONY OF BONNIE BONNEAU; March 5, 1999.
Ms. Bonneau received a B.S. in Journalism, University of
The DOE objected to all of Ms. Bonneau's testimony on the
grounds that it was not technical testimony but should be
public testimony instead. The DOE also objected to her
intention to talk about facilities other than WIPP, which
the DOE claimed had no relevance to WIPP. Ms. Bonneau said
that accidents in other facilities illustrate what could
happen at WIPP or with WIPP waste, so this topic is
relevant. Also, some other sites Ms. Bonneau would describe
were generator/storage sites for WIPP. The Hearing Officer
allowed her testimony but limited her time to speak.
There is a possibility that cold fusion might neutralize
radioactive waste in a short period of time, but the DOE has
blocked experiments exploring this possibility.
Problems caused by gas generation at WIPP were thought to
be great enough to lead to design changes or modification of
the waste. The level of gas generated is 25 to 50 times
more than what was originally considered acceptable. There
have been explosions at Hanford and at Russian mixed-waste
facilities. There were at least 2 accidents involving mixed
waste in Russia. In 1993 at the Tompsk Plant in the former
Soviet Union, design flaws led to an improper mixing of
chemicals, which caused an explosion in the reprocessing
plant. In the Hanford tanks, because of the effects of high
radiation fields on the chemicals, pockets of hydrogen gas
build up within the solids in the tanks. Sometimes inert
gas must be pumped into a tank to preclude explosions when
sampling from the bottom of a tank.
Steel containers of plutonium have ruptured
spontaneously, driven by unexpected chemical reactions.
More ruptures could occur in the future as stored plutonium
ages. Officials at the Los Alamos National Laboratory
(LANL) admit to having hundreds of containers of such
The Pit Fabrication Facility at LANL will generate TRU
waste under the Stockpile Stewardship and Management
WIPP needs more radiation detection devices. Area G at
LANL has more monitoring devices than are planned for
There is great pressure for WIPP to open whether it is
safe or not. WIPP is the DOE's answer for their transuranic
waste problem, and they have developed no contingency plans
to handle transuranic waste if WIPP does not open. The
DOE's clean up and decontamination problems are enormous.
Decontamination is needed at several thousand DOE
facilities. The interiors of some buildings are too
radioactive for unshielded workers to enter, and robotic
technologies will have to be used for decontamination and
dismantling of these structures.
Processing technologies are being evaluated to prepare
plutonium residues and scrub alloy stored at Rocky Flats for
disposal as transuranic waste at WIPP. Safeguard Termination
Limits variances have been granted for some of these
materials to allow them to have up to a 10% concentration of
plutonium and still be shipped to WIPP for disposal.
There was no cross-examination of Ms. Bonneau.