Morning Briefing - May 14, 2019
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May 14, 2019

Energy Dept. Waits for Congressional Action on GTCC Waste Disposal

By ExchangeMonitor

The Department of Energy is still waiting on action from Congress that would be necessary to carry out its legal requirement to dispose of the nation’s Greater-Than-Class C (GTCC) low-level radioactive waste, a senior official said last week.

The agency has largely been in a holding pattern since issuing a November 2017 report to Congress regarding the 2016 environmental impact statement on options for disposal of the U.S. stockpile of the waste type. That report was required by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985, which made DOE responsible for disposal of GTCC waste.

“The rule that asked us to do this report also said that we would await Congressional action, so we are awaiting that action,” Anne Marie White, DOE assistant secretary for environmental management, said under questioning by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) during a May 8 hearing of the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

White did not specify what action is required from Congress before the Energy Department could take its next steps on disposal. There was no word on the matter from DOE by deadline Tuesday for Weapons Complex Morning Briefing.

White, though, noted that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would also have to issue paperwork on the matter and determine whether disposal of the waste would be regulated at the state or federal level. “So we’re a ways down the road where we’ll have a disposal option for Greater-Than-Class C.”

Greater-Than-Class C waste is any low-level waste with a radionuclide concentration greater than Class C material, as regulated by the NRC. The Energy Department is on the hook for disposal of that waste and the similar GTCC-like waste.

In its environmental impact statement, the Energy Department identified the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico and/or generic commercial facilities as its preferred means of disposal. In a site-specific environmental assessment issued last year, DOE appeared to narrow its range of preferences to the Waste Control Specialists disposal complex in Andrews County, Texas.