Morning Briefing - December 31, 2019
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December 31, 2019

Comment Period on Disposal of Savannah River Defense Waste Extended

By ExchangeMonitor

The U.S. Department of Energy is extending the comment period by more than a month on its draft environmental assessment for the plan to treat and dispose of about 10,000 gallons of recycled wastewater from the Savannah River Site at a low-level radioactive waste site located out of South Carolina.

Stakeholders now have until Feb. 10 to file comments on commercial disposal of recycled wastewater from the Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF). The prior deadline was Jan. 9.

The agency published the draft environmental assessment on Dec. 10. The comment extension notice was posted Monday.

Treating the Savannah River Site wastewater would be the first test of the Energy Department’s much-discussed June reinterpretation of what constitutes high-level radioactive waste (HLW).

According to the agency, the definition of high-level waste under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and the Atomic Energy Act means not all waste resulting from spent fuel reprocessing is highly radioactive. As a result, the agency is looking at options such as sending the material to low-level radioactive waste disposal sites run by EnergySolutions in Utah or Waste Control Specialists in Texas.

The waste could be grouted for stabilizaion either before or after it leaves the Savannah River Site. Prior to a disposal decision, the agency would determine if the recycled wastewater meets its new standards for disposal as non-HLW. The Energy Department is not officially redefining any high-level waste at SRS but rather saying some of it poses low-enough risk to be disposed of at a low-level site.

Eventually DOE will either issue a finding of no significant impact from the environmental assessment, or determine that a more comprehensive environmental impact statement is needed.

Comments can be mailed via the U.S. Postal Service to James Joyce, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management, EM-4.21, 1000 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20585. Comments can also be emailed to DWPFEA@em.doe.gov.