Morning Briefing - May 15, 2019
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May 15, 2019

DNFSB Postpones Hearing on Idaho, WIPP Incidents

By ExchangeMonitor

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) has postponed its scheduled May 22 public hearing in Washington, D.C., on past radioactive waste accidents at the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory and its Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

In a notice on its website, the DNFSB said the half-day public hearing is being rescheduled “to maximize panelist participation.” A new date will be posted shortly, although it is not yet set, DNFSB General Manager Glenn Sklar said by email Tuesday. He declined to say how many or which of the eight suggested witnesses could not make attend the meeting next week.

Invitees include DOE Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management Anne Marie White, Carlsbad Field Office Manager Todd Shrader, and Idaho Cleanup Project Deputy Manager Jack Zimmerman.

The public hearing will focus on understanding the April 2018 radioactive-waste drum breach at INL, as well as the February 2014 underground radiological release that closed WIPP for nearly three years.

The WIPP accident involved an improperly remediated drum of TRU waste from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The site resumed waste emplacement in January 2017 and began taking shipments from other DOE properties three months later.

At the Idaho accident, four drums of waste overheated and blew off their lids hours after the contents were exposed to air during repackaging. The sludge waste, initially generated at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in Colorado, was stored for decades at INL prior to repackaging. Fluor Idaho just started sludge waste repackaging at the Accelerated Retrieval Project 5 facility.

The DNFSB wants to improve records used for transuranic waste facilities and strengthen federal subject matter expertise. The board also seeks to minimize the chance of any unwanted chemical reactions during waste handling operations.