Morning Briefing - January 10, 2019
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January 10, 2019

Groups Favor Change to DOE Interpretation of High-Level Waste

By ExchangeMonitor

Both the Energy Communities Alliance and the U.S. Nuclear Industry Council favor changing the Energy Department’s interpretation of high-level radioactive waste to focus less on how it was produced and more on its hazard profile.

The comment deadline was set to end Wednesday for DOE’s proposed reinterpretation of what constitutes high-level waste (HLW).

“We are writing in strong support of DOE’s finding that the statutory term may be interpreted such that reprocessing wastes are managed appropriately based on their hazard and not by arbitrarily imposing management requirements definitionally based on the origin of the waste.” Nuclear Industry Council leaders said in comments Wednesday.

“Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) strongly supports DOE’s efforts to move forward with its proposed interpretation” of the HLW definition laid out in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, ECA Nuclear Energy Policy Director Kara Colton said in comments dated Tuesday.

Congress has limited the definition of HLW to materials that are both “highly radioactive” and “resulting from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.” This can also include material the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has found needs “permanent isolation,” according to Congress.

While the Energy Department’s defense-related HLW poses major risk to human health and the environment, “its only legal disposition path is a geologic repository [Yucca Mountain in Nevada] that has been stalled for decades by political opposition,” ECA said.

Both groups share the view that a large amount of nuclear material is now over-classified as HLW, when it shares similar characteristics with less-radioactive transuranic waste. The Energy Department has not to date produced information on the amount of high-level waste in the weapons complex and how much of it might drop to a less restrictive category under the reinterpretation.