Morning Briefing - June 05, 2019
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June 05, 2019

Energy Dept. Still Views WCS as Effective Storage for Mercury

By ExchangeMonitor

The Waste Control Specialists (WCS) site in Andrews County, Texas is still an attractive potential home for thousands of metric tons of elemental mercury.

That’s according to a supplemental analysis published Monday by DOE’s Office of Environmental Management. The document says facilities at WCS would still be a good option for storage of up to 6,800 metrics of elemental mercury.

Waste Control Specialists could continue to store low-level and mixed low-level radioactive waste within the same container storage building where it would put the mercury – eliminating the need for construction of additional buildings. The building has 10 separate, bermed container storage areas to separate the various types of material and prevent potential interactions, according to the new analysis.

The document, signed by departing Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management Anne Marie White, supplements prior environmental reports done by DOE in 2011 and 2013.

In 2011, the agency’s environmental impact statement looked at the suitability of eight locations, not including WCS, for storage of up to 10,000 metric tons of mercury. In 2013 DOE issued a supplement which looked at three more alternatives locations, two located in or near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M., and the other being Waste Control Specialists.

Since those documents were issued, the Energy Department has identified the WCS grounds as a possible location for disposal of 12,000 cubic meters of greater than class-C low-level waste. In addition, WCS is currently home to 258 stranded containers of transuranic waste from the DOE Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. These drums of TRU waste are separated by a berm from the licensed disposed wastes at WCS, according to the recent report.

In January, DOE issued Waste Control Specialists a “request for task proposal” for long-term storage and management of elemental mercury.

The Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008 sought to reduce availability of elemental or metallic mercury in the United States and abroad. This hazardous material has to be sent somewhere and the same act also requires DOE to set up a long-term domestic storage site.

Within DOE, the Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, Tenn., used much mercury for lithium separation in the 1950s and ‘60s for nuclear bomb development.