The Presentation by the New Mexico Environmental Evaluation Group (EEG):

"The purpose of the New Mexico Environmental Evaluation Group (EEG) is to conduct an independent technical evaluation of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Project to ensure the protection of the public health and safety and the environment. The WIPP Project, located in southeastern New Mexico, is being constructed as a repository for the disposal of transuranic (TRU) radioactive wastes generated by the national defense programs. The EEG was established in 1978 with funds provided by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to the State of New Mexico. Public Law 100-456, the National Defense Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 1989, Section 1433, assigned EEG to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and continued the original contract DE- AC04-79AL10752 through DOE contract DE-AC04-89AL58309. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994, Public Law 103-160, continues the authorization.

"EEG performs independent technical analyses of the suitability of the proposed site; the design of the repository, its planned operation, and its long-term integrity; suitability and safety of the transportation systems; suitability of the Waste Acceptance Criteria and the generator sites' compliance with them; and related subjects. These analyses include assessments of reports issued by the DOE and its contractors, other federal agencies and organizations, as they relate to the potential health, safety and environmental impacts from WIPP. Another important function of EEG is the independent environmental monitoring of background radioactivity in air, water, and soil, both on-site and off-site."

Forward to EEG-68, "Evaluation of the WIPP Project's Compliance with the EPA Radiation Protection Standards for Disposal of Transuranic Waste," March 1998, iii.


Dr. Neill received a M.S. in Radiological Medicine, School of Public Health, Harvard University, 1962 and a M.E. in Mechanical Engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology, 1951. Mr. Neill is currently the Director of EEG.

MAGNESIUM OXIDE BACKFILL: Magnesium oxide (MgO) backfill is required by the EPA at WIPP. This backfill will limit the release of radionuclides, increase the pH of the waste environments, decrease the solubility of the actinides, and reduce the ability of the radionuclides to migrate. However, this backfill will have no bearing on the chemical behavior of the RCRA regulated VOCs, metals, or solvents. The DOE has deleted the requirement for magnesium oxide backfill in its written Comments. Accident scenario calculations were based on the presence of this backfill, and if it is eliminated, scenarios should be recalculated. Also, engineered barriers are desirable due to the inherent uncertainty of calculations in predicting the long-term behavior of the radionuclides. The mixed waste is respirable, soluble, and contained in drums without any longevity requirements.

PROHIBITION OF RH-TRU WASTE: EEG concurs with NMED to exclude RH-TRU waste from the current permit. There is uncertainty in future projections of quantities of RH-TRU waste and data are not available for the hazardous component in the RH-TRU waste. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has not yet certified a shipping cask, and characterization facilities do not exist yet for either the radiological or hazardous components in the RH-TRU waste. The Waste Analysis Plan, Quality Assurance Program Plan, and TRU Waste Characterization Sampling and Analysis Methods Manual are not applicable to RH-TRU mixed waste.

The dose rate is not the only difference between CH-TRU and RH-TRU waste. CH-TRU waste predominantly contains alpha- emitting radionuclides whereas RH-TRU waste contains primarily fission products that are beta and gamma emitters. Radiographic analysis of RH-TRU waste may not be viable.


Characterization of RH-TRU waste would be different because the radionuclide inventory is different, and there is a higher dose rate. The RTR of shielded RH containers is possible, but the RTR facility would be different from the CH-TRU facility. Gas generation sampling and analysis would be different. Alpha emissions cause RADIOLYSIS, which can create hazardous and flammable gases. RH-TRU waste has few alpha-emitters (except for Americium), so hydrogen and other gas generation would be less of a problem than in the CH-TRU waste.

Magnesium oxide backfill will be necessary only on the CH- TRU waste. The RH-TRU waste will be emplaced in the walls, and the salt itself will be a barrier. The most likely path of irradiation or contamination from the RH-TRU waste would be through the wall boring. The contamination would meet the magnesium oxide backfill when it moved into the closed room.

Isolation of radioactive waste usually uses multiple barriers. Much of the CH-TRU waste is respirable (less than 10 microns particle size). The DOE had a 20-year containment-life requirement for drums in the 1970s, but this requirement has been deleted from the draft Permit.

There are no requirements to solidify the waste (which EEG has recommended). The NRC has more restrictive rules for solidifying low-level waste (LLW). The Idaho Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) will have its CH-TRU waste treated and solidified at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant (Idaho). This facility will also process existing alpha-emitting LLW into TRU waste. Operation is planned to begin in 2006, but the schedule could slip.

There are respirable metals mixed in with the respirable radioactive waste in the Rocky Flats process residues.

There is also uranium in the WIPP inventory though, strictly speaking, uranium is not transuranic. It is not expected that there will be measurable quantities of tritium in the WIPP waste.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of the drums visually examined for the bin-scale tests were found to be incorrectly characterized. Even though there was a different WAC in place when the drums were opened in the early 1990's, the reasons for their exclusion under the WAC (free liquids, pressurized containers, etc.) have always been in the WAC. The transportation exclusions for excessive decay heat were related to an excess of hydrogen gas being in a drum. Therefore, 58% of the drums were indeed miscertified.

RCRA does not have any container longevity requirements for owners and operators of disposal facilities.

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