The Energy Department is giving interested parties additional time to weigh in on the proposed new interpretation of high-level radioactive waste (HLW).
After the department began taking comments in October, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and dozens of advocacy groups last month asked Assistant Energy Secretary for Environmental Management Anne Marie White for an extension of 120 days.
The Atomic Energy Act and the Nuclear Waste Policy Act currently define high-level waste as “the highly radioactive material resulting from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, including liquid waste produced directly in reprocessing and any solid material derived from such liquid waste that contains fission products in sufficient concentrations.”
The agency seeks to modify its interpretation so that reprocessing waste would not be classified as high-level if it meets one of two standards. Either it would not exceed concentration limits for Class C low-level radioactive waste, or it would not require disposal in a deep geologic repository.
White has articulated the DOE position that HLW should be classified more on its radioactive traits and less on where it comes from. The agency has said such a change could speed final disposal of some high-level waste.
The waste potentially affected by the change is held at the Hanford Site in Washington state, Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Idaho National Laboratory, and the West Valley Demonstration Project in New York state.
Critics have called for DOE to provide more details on its proposal, including how much waste is currently considered high-level and how much this would change under the revised definition.