Current Issues: Waste Management of Depleted Uranium: Disposal
(last updated 17 Oct 2017)
U.S. DOE to prepare Supplemental EIS for disposition of deconverted depleted uranium oxide at LLW disposal sites
"The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announces its intention to
prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for its
proposal to disposition depleted uranium oxide (DUOX)
conversion product from its depleted uranium hexafluoride
(DUF6) conversion facilities at the Paducah, Kentucky, and
Portsmouth, Ohio, sites at up to three offsite low-level waste disposal
facilities. The Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for
Disposition of Depleted Uranium Oxide Conversion Product Generated from
DOE's Inventory of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DOE/EIS-0359-S1; DOE/
EIS-0360-S1) will analyze potential environmental impacts from the
proposed action to identify a final disposition location or locations
for the DUOX conversion product from both operating
DUF6 conversion facilities.
The proposed scope of the draft SEIS includes an analysis of
potential environmental impacts from activities associated with the
transportation to and disposition of depleted uranium oxide at three
proposed disposition location alternatives: the DOE-owned low-level
radioactive waste disposal facility at the Nevada National Security
Site (NNSS) in Nye County, Nevada; the EnergySolutions, LLC (formerly
known as Envirocare of Utah, Inc.) low-level waste disposal facility in
Clive, Utah; and the newly identified location at the Waste Control
Specialists, LLC (WCS) low-level waste disposal facility in Andrews,
> Federal Register Volume 81, Number 166 (Friday, August 26, 2016) p. 58921-58923 (download full text )
> Federal Register Volume 81, Number 173 (Wednesday, September 7, 2016) p. 61674 (download full text )
> Access additional information (DOE)
U.S. NRC rulemaking for near-surface disposal of depleted uranium
NRC invites comment on regulatory analysis for rulemaking on near-surface disposal of depleted uranium:
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is requesting comment on the "Draft Regulatory Analysis for Final Rule: Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal," and seeking specific cost and benefit information to better inform the updated draft regulatory analysis.
Submit comments by November 16, 2017.
> Federal Register Volume 82, Number 199 (Tuesday, October 17, 2017) p. 48283-48285 (download full text
> Download: Draft final rule · Draft Federal Register notice · Draft final regulatory analysis
> Download: Staff Requirements - SRM-SECY-16-0106 - Final Rule , Sep. 8, 2017
> Access Docket ID NRC-2011-0012
NRC invites comment on Draft Proposed Rule on revisions to low-level waste disposal requirements to include disposal of depleted uranium:
Submit comments by September 21, 2015 (Comment period reopened).
> Federal Register Volume 80, Number 58 (Thursday, March 26, 2015) p. 16081-16125 (download full text )
> Federal Register Volume 80, Number 166 (Thursday, August 27, 2015) p. 51964-51965 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2011-0012
NRC issues Draft Proposed Rule for discussion purposes on revisions to low-level waste disposal requirements to include disposal of depleted uranium:
> Download Draft Proposed Rule for discussion purposes only at March 20, 2015, public meeting, 10 CFR Parts 20 and 61, Low-level radioactive waste disposal (447k PDF)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2011-0012
NRC invites comment on Draft Guidance for Conducting Technical Analyses for low-level waste disposal according to 10 CFR Part 61, including disposal of depleted uranium:
Submit comments by September 21, 2015 (Comment period reopened).
> Federal Register Volume 80, Number 58 (Thursday, March 26, 2015) p. 15930-15931 (download full text )
> Federal Register Volume 80, Number 166 (Thursday, August 27, 2015) p. 51964-51965 (download full text )
> Download: Guidance for Conducting Technical Analyses for 10 CFR Part 61, Draft Report for Comment, NUREG-2175 , U.S. NRC, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, March 2105 (14MB PDF)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2015-0003
NRC issues Regulatory Basis for Proposed Revisions to Low-Level Waste Disposal Requirements to include disposal of depleted uranium:
"In summary, the proposed rulemaking would solicit public comment on the following amendments to 10 CFR Part 61:
(2) Amend 10 CFR 61.42 to require Part 61 licensees to conduct an intruder assessment that considers the time period after the end of the period of active institutional controls.
- (a) Amend 10 CFR 61.41 to require 10 CFR Part 61 licensees to conduct a site-specific performance assessment for LLW disposal facilities to ensure that the facility can meet the dose requirements in this section. The analyses would be used to determine if a specific site is suitable for the disposal any LLW including DU and other waste streams containing large quantities of long-lived isotopes.
- (b) The analyses timeframes for site-specific performance assessment would consist of a two-tiered approach that establishes both a compliance period and a longer period of performance that is not a priori and is established to evaluate the performance of the site over longer timeframes.
- (c) In conducting any site-specific performance assessment, licensees should be allowed the flexibility to use the most recent recommendations of the ICRP.
(3) Amend 10 CFR 61.55 to allow licensees the flexibility of establishing a site-specific WAC [waste acceptance criteria] based on the results of the site's performance assessment in 10 CFR 61.41 and intruder assessment in 10 CFR 61.42." [emphasis added]
> Download Regulatory Basis for Proposed Revisions to Low-Level Waste Disposal Requirements (10 CFR Part 61), December 19, 2012
NRC discusses and invites comments on regulatory framework for disposal of large amounts of depleted uranium at low-level waste facilities:
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or the Commission) plans to conduct a public meeting to discuss possible revisions to the regulatory framework for the management of commercial low-level radioactive waste (LLW), in particular large quantities of depleted uranium (DU).
The first public meeting will be held on March 2, 2012, in Phoenix, Arizona.
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 35 (Wednesday, February 22, 2012), p. 10401-10403 (download full text )
The second public meeting will be held on May 15, 2012, in Dallas, Texas.
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 89 (Tuesday, May 8, 2012) p. 26991-26993 (download full text )
Another public meeting with an extended area of topics will be held on July 19, 2012, in Rockville, Maryland: "NRC staff is interested in gaining a
better understanding of the issues associated with specifying a
regulatory time of compliance for a low-level radioactive waste
disposal facility, allowing licensees the flexibility to implement
waste acceptance criteria as an alternative to the current waste
classification system, and revising the NRC's licensing requirements
for land disposal of radioactive waste."
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 133 (Wednesday, July 11, 2012) p. 40817-40820 (download full text )
> View Docket ID NRC-2011-0012
Comments should be submitted by July 31, 2012.
NRC staff proposal provides work-arounds to allow for continued disposal of large amounts of depleted uranium at low-level waste facilities:
While the NRC acknowledges that large amounts of depleted uranium were not considered when the low-level waste regulations of 10 CFR Part 61 were prepared...
"[...] the Commission recognized that there might be a situation in which a commercial waste stream could be created that was not contemplated as part of the original technical basis for Part 61, which is found in the Draft and Final Environmental Impacts Statements for the rule. [...]
Note: The mass of 629,000 MBq (17 Ci) of U-238 is 50.5 t, and the mass of 111,000 MBq (3 Ci) of U-235 is 1.4 t.
Some radionuclides, such as isotopes of uranium, were not expected to be generated in sufficient quantities or concentrations to warrant inclusion in the tables. The Part 61 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) [NUREG-0782 (NRC, 1981)] assumed that only 629,000 MBq (17 Ci) of U-238 and 111,000 MBq (3 Ci) of U-235 would be disposed of in one million cubic meters (35 million cubic feet) of waste over a 20-year generic LLW site operating life. Concentration limits for uranium were derived, but were not included in the final regulation because it was determined that the relatively small quantities of uranium waste expected to be generated by commercial facilities at the time did not warrant inclusion."
...the Commission ordered NRC Staff to prepare proposals for the amendment of the current regulations to allow for the intended continued disposal of depleted uranium in low-level waste deposits.
Two resulting staff papers were released on May 2, 2011. In particular, Staff recommends a "compliance period of no less than 20,000 years, with an annual dose limit of 25 mrem [0.25 mSv/a] TEDE" (total effective dose equivalent).
> Download Technical Basis for proposed rule to amend 10 CFR Part 61 to specify
requirements for the disposal of unique waste streams, including large quantities of depleted uranium (FSME-10-XXXX) (ADAMS Acc.No. ML111040419)
> Download Technical Analysis Supporting Definition of Period of Performance
for Low-Level Waste Disposal (ADAMS Acc.No. ML111030586)
> Download: Draft Environmental Impact Statement on 10 CFR Part 61 "Licensing Requirements for Land Disposal of Radioactive Waste", NUREG-0782 , September 1981
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducted two public workshops in September 2009 to solicit public views on major issues for new regulations on shallow-land disposal of unique radioactive wastes, including significant quantities of depleted uranium.
The first workshop was held Sept. 2-3, 2009, in Bethesda, Md. The second workshop was held Sept. 23-24, 2009, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
> View NRC news release Aug. 20, 2009
> View Potential Rulemaking: Unique Waste Streams (NRC)
> Download Bethesda, Md., transcripts: Sep. 2, 2009 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML092580469) · Sep. 3, 2009 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML092580481)
> Download Salt Lake City, Utah, transcripts: Sep. 23, 2009 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML092890511) · Sep. 24, 2009 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML092890516)
> Download Arjun Makhijani's notes on NRC's Sep. 2-3, 2009, workshop, Sep. 22, 2009 (75k PDF - IEER)
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) plans to conduct
two public workshops to solicit public input on major issues associated
with a potential rulemaking for land disposal of unique waste streams
including, but not limited to, significant quantities of depleted
uranium in near-surface radioactive waste disposal facilities.
Comments on issues for the agenda should be postmarked no later than August 1, 2009.
Comments on the issues and questions presented in this notice and discussed at the workshops should be postmarked no later than October 30, 2009.
> View NRC news release June 24, 2009
> Federal Register: June 24, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 120) p. 30175-30179 (download full text )
> Download NRC memo: Unique waste streams workshops (including depleted uranium)
September 2009, Key Messages and FAQs from Communication Plan for DU Workshop , Aug. 17, 2009 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML092290644)
> Open Docket ID: NRC-2009-0257
U.S. NRC leaves low-level waste classification of depleted uranium unchanged, initiates rulemaking for near-surface disposal
In a Staff Requirements Memorandum issued March 18, 2009, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission accepted the staff's recommendation that the agency continue to consider depleted uranium as Class A low-level waste (that is the least hazardous category), but amend regulations in 10 CFR Part 61 to require a site-specific analysis for the disposal of large quantities of depleted uranium and the technical requirements for such an analysis. The Commission also directed the staff to develop a guidance document for public comment that outlines the parameters and assumptions to be used in conducting the site-specific analyses.
In a dissenting vote, Commissioner Jaczko rather called for a (re)classification of depleted uranium (so far, depleted uranium is not listed and therefore by default considered Class A): "The disposal of large quantities of depleted uranium (DU) is a unique challenge because, unlike typical low-level waste, the doses increase over time rather than decrease."
> View NRC release March 18, 2009
> Download Staff Requirements Memorandum March 18, 2009 (PDF)
> Download Commission Voting Record March 18, 2009 (PDF)
> Download Response to Commission Order CLI-05-20 Regarding Depleted Uranium, SECY-08-0147, October 7, 2008 (920k PDF)
The decision made up to 1.4 million tons of DU potentially eligible to go to EnergySolutions' Utah site.
It also solves a problem for the blossoming uranium enrichment industry, which would have had no disposal options if NRC had labeled DU differently, because hotter waste is not permitted in Utah. (The Salt Lake Tribune March 18, 2009)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decision classifying depleted uranium as the least hazardous type of radioactive material is "unsupportable," the chairman of the House Environment and Energy Subcommittee said.
Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and subcommittee member Jim Matheson (D-Utah) demand that the NRC explain its decision in writing and provide records and communications that led to the vote. Deadline is April 2, 2009.
(AP Mar. 20/Mar. 25, 2009)
> Download Markey/Matheson letter to NRC, March 19, 2009 (PDF)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is being granted an extension to turn over stacks of documents that might explain why it recently decided to classify large quantities of depleted uranium as the least hazardous type of low-level radioactive waste.
The deadline has now been extended to April 20.
(AP Apr. 2, 2009)
On April 9, 2009, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said classifying large amounts of depleted uranium as a more hazardous type of low-level radioactive waste without further study would not provide additional protections to public health, safety or the environment. (AP April 13, 2009)
> Download NRC letter April 9, 2009 (PDF)
NRC spokesman David McIntyre said Wednesday (April 22, 2009) three boxes worth of documents and an additional six expandable folders worth of information were delivered to the congressmen's offices on Tuesday. (Examiner April 22, 2009)
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is conducting a
strategic assessment of its low level radioactive waste (LLW)
regulatory program. The objective of this assessment is to identify and
prioritize activities that the staff can undertake to ensure a stable,
reliable and adaptable regulatory framework for effective LLW
management, while also considering future needs and changes that may
occur in the nation's commercial LLW management system.
The public comment period begins on July 7, 2006, and continues for 30 days.
Federal Register: July 7, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 130) p. 38675-38676 (download full text )
Strategic Assessment Issues Paper, DSI 5: Low Level Waste, Sep. 16, 1996 (1.8M PDF - ADAMS ML061700297)
Transcripts of NRC's Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste (ACNW): May 23, 2006 · May 24, 2006 (PDF)
U.S. NRC finds that depleted uranium is low level waste
> See here
U.S. NRC Petition for Rulemaking concerning control of disused DU counterweights
> See here
U.S. NRC Radiological Assessment of Exemptions for Source and Byproduct Materials
> See here
> See also Clive DU storage
Company asks state to suspend review process for depleted uranium disposal at Clive landfill site
EnergySolutions informally asked DEQ to suspend the review process until further notice
(Utah DEQ Feb. 5, 2016)
Company calls state's requirements for depleted uranium disposal at Clive landfill site "arbitrary and capricious"
A nuclear waste disposal company seeking permission to bury a type of nuclear material in Utah that grows more radioactive for 2 million years says the state's requirements are too stringent and go beyond the scope of federal guidelines.
Utah-based EnergySolutions takes particular umbrage with the stipulation that it must predict the effects out 10,000 years, rather than 1,000 years, shows a summary letter that highlights the company's response to a list of concerns brought up by state regulators earlier this year.
The company called that request "arbitrary and capricious."
After state regulators review the company's submissions, there will be 45-day period where the public can comment, providing Utah officials with feedback to help make a decision.
(Daily Herald Dec. 3, 2015)
> Access EnergySolutions' comments on the Safety Evaluation Report: EnergySolutions: Depleted Uranium Performance Assessment (Utah DEQ)
Company requests to put public comment period on disposal of depleted uranium in Utah landfill on hold
EnergySolutions has asked the state to put its approval process on hold after regulators raised concerns about the firm's plan to permanently dispose of the nation's stockpile of depleted uranium at its Clive landfill.
On Monday (Apr. 13), the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released a safety evaluation, citing eight conditions that the nuclear-waste processor must meet before Utah will allow hundreds of thousands of drums of radioactive material to be shipped to and buried at the Tooele County site 80 miles west of Salt Lake City.
(Salt Lake Tribune Apr. 13, 2015)
State regulators have agreed to delay public comment on a plan to bury in Utah's western desert a type of nuclear waste that grows more radioactive over a million years.
Utah's Department of Environmental Quality announced Thursday (Apr. 16) morning that it will give Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions more time to answer regulators' concerns about the company's plans to bury the waste.
DEQ did not announce the new dates for the public comment period, which started Monday.
(The Tribune Apr. 16, 2015)
> Access: EnergySolutions: Depleted Uranium Performance Assessment (Utah DEQ)
Utah releases Safety Evaluation Report on proposed depleted uranium disposal at Clive landfill site
A long-awaited safety evaluation on the proposed disposal of depleted uranium in Tooele County's western desert was released Monday (Apr. 13), citing several areas of concern and detailing a list of conditions that must be met before any of the waste is received.
Ultimately, the report notes that none of the concerns in multiple areas - including the adequacy of the site's cover - cannot be resolved and that protection of the general public from radioactivity is sufficient.
But environmental groups say the report should send a clear signal to regulators and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert that the waste should be rejected outright, adding that its many concerns should doom EnergySolutions' plans.
(KSL Apr. 13, 2015)
Utah invites comment on performance assessment submitted by EnergySolutions on long-term aspects of depleted uranium disposal at Clive landfill site
In supplemental documents submitted on March 10, 2015, EnergySolutions claims that wind deposition of sediments, and, after the expected return of Lake Bonneville, lake sediment deposition will counteract an increased release of radon, that will result from the ingrowth of uranium decay products within the deposit over time.
The public comment period will start on April 13, 2015 and end on May 29, 2015 - Comment period suspended.
> Access: EnergySolutions: Depleted Uranium Performance Assessment (Utah DEQ)
Citizens asking questions about proposed disposal of large amounts of depleted uranium at Clive landfill site
The state is currently in a review process for the proposal and running tests to see how safe uranium storage would be. This evening there was an open house where Utahans were asking questions. There is no public comment allowed on the issue until next July. Wednesday's (Nov. 13) meeting was the beginning of a yearlong process.
The first batch ESA is looking to receive is a lot of 35 hundred tons of depleted uranium. Eventually that amount could significantly rise if ESA is approved in their process of disposal, allowing the company to take in hundreds of thousands of tons of nuclear waste. The waste is Grade "A" the lowest form of hazardous waste, but depleted uranium which is proposed to come to the state will only get more dangerous over time.
As the waste breaks down it becomes more radioactive not less. Millions of years later it could still be an issue. That is why a scientific study into the safety now and later is so important.
Bill Thurber of SC&A of Virginia has been hired by the state to research what will happen if uranium is stored in the west desert. Thurber looks at a lot of scenarios, including, "if there is water that seeps into the depleted uranium waste it could get into the ground water." Thurber knows nature could take its toll and help radon escape as time passes. Burrowing animals or event ants could become an issue if the radon were allowed to escape.
(KUTV Nov. 13, 2013 - emphasis added)
Utah permits DU storage rather than disposal at Clive disposal site
> See here
EnergySolutions submits engineering report claiming large amounts of depleted uranium can safely be disposed at Clive landfill site
The Utah Radiation Control Board approved a new rule on April 14, 2010, that requires EnergySolutions to conduct a performance assessment before disposing of depleted uranium. The performance assessment was delivered to the Division of Radiation Control on June 1, 2011, and is currently under review. It has been posted online on June 20, 2011.
> Download EnergySolutions: Depleted Uranium Performance Assessment, June 1, 2011 (Utah DEQ)
DOE cancels search for interim storage site for depleted uranium rejected by Utah
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has scrapped its search for temporary storage for two shipments of depleted uranium and is now looking for another place to bury the low-level radioactive waste permanently.
Spokeswoman Jen Stutsman said her agency still wants “safe and cost-effective disposition” of depleted uranium (DU) from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, but the agency hasn’t settled on a path forward after delays that began about a year ago when Gov. Gary Herbert asked the DOE to stop sending the Savannah River waste here after the first of three shipments had already rolled into Utah.
(Salt Lake Tribune Dec. 21, 2010)
Energy auditors suggest keeping depleted uranium rejected by Utah at Savannah River Site, rather than sending it to Texas for interim storage
A plan to temporarily store two trainloads of Savannah River Site's depleted uranium in Texas after it was rejected by Utah's governor might be unnecessary and could waste taxpayers' money, according to the U.S. Energy Department's Inspector General.
"The only apparent driver in this case was a Recovery Act-related goal established by the Department to accelerate the general disposition of the SRS material," said the report, released Tuesday (April 13) as a "management alert" based on information received from a "reliable and credible" department source.
The radioactive material, left over from decades of nuclear weapons production, was stored in 15,600 drums that were to be disposed of at an EnergySolutions site in Clive, Utah.
After the first shipment -- 5,408 drums -- was sent to Utah in December, the state's governor protested further shipments. The Energy Department then idled two trainloads that remain at SRS.
According to the Inspector General's report, the newest proposal calls for moving the material to a facility owned by Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas, for interim storage.
"Clearly, this choice carries with it a number of significant logistical burdens, including substantial additional costs for, among several items, repackaging at SRS, transportation to Texas, storage at the interim site, and, repackaging and transportation to the yet-to-be determined final disposition point," the auditors wrote.
Citing information from the unnamed source within the department, the auditors questioned that plan and suggested that it might be better to keep the material at SRS, where it has been safely stored for decades, until a permanent disposal solution is found.
(Augusta Chronicle Apr. 14, 2010)
> Download Audit Report: Management Alert on Environmental Management's Select Strategy for Disposition of Savannah River Site, Depleted Uranium Oxides, OAS-RA-10-07, April 2010 , U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, Office of Audit Services (244k PDF)
No excessive technetium-99 found in South Carolina depleted uranium sent for disposal in Clive, Utah
Samples of the depleted uranium waste from a government cleanup in South Carolina show that it meets a key safety limit, said the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
State regulators heard about the test results Monday (Apr. 5) from a Tennessee laboratory, which sampled 171 of the 5,400 drums sent most recently to Utah from the Savannah River Project cleanup for technetium-99, a waste product of reprocessing.
(Salt Lake Tribune Apr. 5, 2010)
IEER Report: South Carolina depleted uranium likely unfit for disposal in Clive, Utah
More than 10,000 drums of nuclear waste that have been buried in Utah likely include some radioactive material that's too hot to be buried under state law, according to an environmental group's report released Wednesday (Mar. 3, 2010).
The U.S. Department of Energy has been disposing of depleted uranium from a nuclear weapons complex near Aiken, S.C., since 2003 at EnergySolutions Inc.'s facility about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City. It also has disposed of some material at the Nevada Test Site, about 65 miles north of Las Vegas.
The report commissioned by Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah says that out of the original 33,000 drums from the Savannah River Site, as many as 5,600 could include material that violates state standards for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste.
That's because the material includes radionuclide technetium-99, a man-made product that results from the fissioning of nuclear fuel in a reactor to make plutonium for nuclear weapons. State law only allows for certain levels of the material to be disposed of in Utah.
(AP Mar. 3, 2010)
> Download IEER Memorandum Feb. 16, 2010 (1.6MB PDF - Heal Utah)
Salt Lake County Council passed resolution against depleted uranium transports
The Salt Lake County Council passed a resolution 8-0 on Tuesday (March 2) that, although nonbinding, prohibits the transport of depleted uranium through the county.
(The Salt Lake Tribune Mar. 2, 2010)
No further shipments of depleted uranium from South Carolina for disposal in Clive, Utah
About 6,500 tons of low-level radioactive waste from South Carolina won't be coming to Utah as originally planned, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Monday (Feb. 22) in announcing a verbal agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy.
Herbert said in a statement that the agreement will keep two trainloads of depleted uranium from the Savannah River Site from being disposed at EnergySolutions Inc.'s facility in Utah's west desert.
It wasn't immediately clear if the low-level radioactive waste would remain in South Carolina or be disposed of elsewhere. In a Nov. 17 presentation given to the Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board, the DOE said if shipments to Utah were interrupted, the waste would be diverted to the Nevada Test Site, about 65 miles north of Las Vegas.
(Denver Post Feb. 22, 2010)
Radiation expert blasts EnergySolutions for misleading public on hazards of DU disposal at Clive
The former chairman of the Radiation Control Board says EnergySolutions is misleading the public. Geochemist Stephen Nelson says the company falsely portrays its critics as anti-nuclear activists who don't know science.
"Well, I am, in fact, not opposed to nuclear power," Nelson says.
He's also an expert on radioactive isotopes.
"What I am for is the proper disposal of the byproducts of nuclear power," Nelson says.
He says the proper place for depleted uranium is a deep geologic formation, like a New Mexico salt deposit that will entomb the waste for millions of years. The wrong place, he says, is EnergySolutions' shallow landfill.
"I just don't think that squares with good science or with common sense," Nelson says.
He says the company falsely portrays the waste as benign, like natural uranium. In 50,000 years, he says it will be 13 times more radioactive.
Geochemist Stephen Nelson says the wrong place, he says, is EnergySolutions' shallow landfill in Tooele County.
Nelson's nightmare scenario is a dramatic rise in the Great Salt Lake. If Lake Bonneville returns, just enough to flood the north end of the Salt Lake Valley, it will also flood the landfill 60 miles to the west.
Nelson says that scenario is likely sometime in the next 100,000 years.
"There's a virtually 100 percent probability," he says.
An aerial photo shows Lake Bonneville once cut a bench 100 feet wide into solid bedrock. The landfill cover of concrete and rock, Nelson says, wouldn't stand a chance of holding radioactive waste in place.
"There's a very good chance that those piles would be very rapidly obliterated," Nelson says.
(KSL Television & Radio Jan. 12, 2010)
Depleted uranium to be disposed in Clive might contain reactor waste concentrations in excess of state limit
A Utah environmental group has scheduled a meeting with Gov. Gary Herbert to press its case that more testing is needed to make sure depleted uranium coming to Utah is not too hot.
HEAL says it reviewed shipping papers for some Savannah River, S.C., cleanup waste already in Utah and discovered that the DU, as depleted uranium is often called, contains reactor waste in concentrations that might top the radiological hazard limit set in state law.
But, according to the group, it's hard to say for sure because the U.S. Energy Department has sampled too few of the DU drums from its Savannah River cleanup in South Carolina -- just 33 of 33,000.
(Salt Lake Tribune Jan. 9, 2010)
Protest held against depleted uranium shipment to Clive disposal site
Two dozen protesters braved the cold Saturday (Dec. 19) morning to protest plans to ship more than 3,000 tons of depleted uranium through the state to Utah's western desert.
The protest was organized by the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah as a train carrying the first of three planned shipments of depleted uranium nears the state.
"We cannot allow this waste to be buried here, and we are asking Gov. Herbert to help us turn these trains around," said Christopher Thomas, policy director for HEAL Utah.
Thomas said a compromise worked out between Gov. Gary Herbert and the U.S. Department of Energy Thursday is inadequate.
(Deseret News Dec. 19, 2009)
DOE agrees to suspend depleted uranium disposal at Clive
The Department of Energy said Thursday (Dec. 17) that it has struck a deal with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert that would prohibit radioactive waste from South Carolina from being permanently buried in Utah until stricter state guidelines are put in place.
The first train, carrying 5,408 55-gallon drums of waste, won't be stopped or turned around, DOE spokeswoman Jen Stutsman said. But the DOE agreed to place its waste in temporary storage once it arrives in Utah, rather than permanently disposing of it.
The waste is expected to arrive in Utah in the next two weeks.
Stutsman said Utah regulators will have two months to develop new guidelines for disposing of the material. During that time, the empty train will make its way back to South Carolina to load up more waste. In all, nearly 10,000 metric tons of depleted uranium will be disposed of in Utah. The final two rail shipments are expected to be completed by late spring, but they won't leave for Utah until the new disposal guidelines are set.
(AP Dec. 18, 2009)
Utah asks U.S. DOE to halt depleted uranium shipment to Clive disposal site; DOE goes on unimpressed
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is sending Energy Secretary Steven Chu a letter asking him to halt the shipment of nearly 15,000 drums of low-level radioactive waste from South Carolina for disposal in Utah.
Herbert says the Department of Energy is circumventing state regulators' efforts to ensure a private disposal facility in Utah's west desert can safely dispose of the depleted uranium.
(AP Dec. 15, 2009)
Despite Gov. Gary Herbert's eleventh-hour plea to stop it, the first shipment of depleted uranium is expected to arrive in Utah before the end of December. The first of three planned rail shipments has left the site and will reach Utah in the next two weeks. The second and third shipments are slated for 2010, according Energy Department spokesman James R. Giusti.
(Deseret News Dec. 17, 2009)
DOE ready to start shipments of depleted uranium for disposal in Utah, inspite of ongoing rulemaking process
A Department of Energy official on Thursday (Dec. 10) informed U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, that 11,000 tons of the low-level radioactive waste -- packed in 14,800 drums -- is ready to be shipped from the Savannah River cleanup in South Carolina.
Rubbish from bomb-making and enrichment, the Savannah River waste will be buried at EnergySolutions Inc.'s specialized landfill in Tooele County. Both state and federal regulators are looking at what measures are needed to make sure shallow disposal sites like EnergySolutions' can safely contain large amounts of DU, as depleted uranium is often called.
In its decision Thursday, DOE cited a Dec. 1 letter by Utah Director of Environmental Quality Amanda Smith, who noted that EnergySolutions is licensed to accept DU even as the state updates its site-safety requirements for DU over the next few months. Smith said she had not seen the letter informing Matheson about the imminent shipments.
(The Salt Lake Tribune Dec. 10, 2009)
Public comment invited on Utah's revised proposal to impose additional conditions on depleted uranium disposal at Clive, until NRC's rulemaking process on DU disposal is completed
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Radiation Control (DRC), on behalf of the Utah Radiation Control Board, is requesting public comment regarding an amendment to EnergySolutions, LLC Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal License (RML uT230024e).
The License Amendment is proposed to impose certain requirements regarding the receipt and disposal of Depleted Uranium (DU).
Written comments will be accepted until the close of business on December 23, 2009.
> Download Utah DRC Public Notice - License Amendment, Nov. 19, 2009 (PDF) · license condition 35 (PDF)
The license amendment was issued on March 2, 2010.
> Download License Amendment No. 7: Radioactive Material License UT 2300249 (2.7M PDF)
The Utah Radiation Control Board signed off on a new rule Tuesday (Apr. 13) that imposes additional restrictions on the disposal of depleted uranium.
The rule, which requires the Clive facility to conduct a performance assessment for disposal of the radioactive material, will be published May 1 and go into effect by June 1.
(Deseret News Apr. 13, 2010)
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Radiation Control (DRC), on behalf of the Utah Radiation Control Board, is soliciting public comment regarding a proposed change to Utah Radiation Control Rule R313-25-8.
This rule incorporates language regarding a site-specific performance assessment for facilities that accept depleted uranium for land disposal, prior to the disposal of significant quantities of depleted uranium.
Written comments will be accepted until the close of business on February 2, 2010.
> Download DRC Public Notice Dec. 30, 2009 (PDF)
> Download proposed Utah Radiation Control Rule R313-25-8 (PDF)
Utah's Radiation Control Board is moving forward with efforts to require a company that wants to dispose of depleted uranium in the state to first submit a report confirming that additional safeguards will work.
The board voted Tuesday (Nov. 10) to develop new rules requiring EnergySolutions Inc. to complete a "site performance assessment" before additional depleted uranium comes to Utah.
The rule-making process is expected to take up to 120 days.
Nearly 15,000 drums of the low-level radioactive waste were slated to start arriving in December at the company's facility about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City.
But the company doesn't expect the updated assessment to be done until December 2010.
(The Salt Lake Tribune Nov. 10, 2009)
Shallow landfill disposal of depleted uranium at Clive "absurd", geologists say
Three scientists say federal nuclear regulators owe Utahns an apology -- and a policy change -- for allowing shallow burial of depleted uranium, including the 49,000 tons already at EnergySolutions Inc.'s landfill in Tooele County.
Geologist Stephen T. Nelson and climatologist Summer B. Rupper, both of Brigham Young University, and Kansas State University geologist Charles G. Oviatt, say it is "absurd" for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to deem depleted uranium safe for surface disposal.
The uranium enrichment waste gets increasingly hazardous for a million years, and that's too long to reasonably ensure the safety of any shallow landfills, especially one like the Tooele County site that is underwater a few hundred of every several thousand years. Those wet cycles could spread long-lived radioactive material throughout the Great Salt Lake basin, the scientists say.
All three scientists, none of them speaking for their universities, are experts in the geological history of Lake Bonneville -- the massive water body that has periodically covered parts of three states in the past 30,000 years but now has receded to the present-day Great Salt Lake.
(The Salt Lake Tribune Nov. 7, 2009)
Public comment invited on Utah's proposal to impose additional conditions on depleted uranium disposal at Clive, until NRC's rulemaking process on DU disposal is completed - cancelled
"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has acknowledged
some inadequacies in its past analyses and possibly its current regulatory structure
with respect to disposal of substantial quantities of depleted uranium (DU). As a
result, it has started a rulemaking process (view details) to determine the conditions under which
DU and other unique wastes may be safely disposed of in near surface facilities. NRC has stated that new regulatory standards and guidance will be the likely
result from that rulemaking process, and that new performance assessments will
likely also be required. Rulemaking by the Division of Radiation Control (DRC)
would also likely be follow.
EnergySolutions has indicated to the Division that it
would prefer not to wait until the completion of the NRC's and DRC's
rulemaking processes or until completion of the resulting performance analysis
that will likely be required before it begins to dispose of depleted uranium at the
Clive facility. The additional license conditions in this Condition 35 are therefore
Written comments will be accepted until the close of business on November 25, 2009.
On Nov. 12, 2009, the Division of Radiation Control announced that the public comment period has been cancelled due to actions taken by the Radiation Control Board at its November 10, 2009 meeting (see above).
> Download Notice of Agency Action to Consider Proposed License Condition No. 35, Oct. 21, 2009 (157k PDF - Utah DRC)
> Download Public Notice (70k PDF - Utah DRC)
Utah rejects moratorium on disposal of depleted uranium
State officials Tuesday (Sep. 22) rejected a plea to place a moratorium on any more depleted-uranium shipments to an EnergySolutions site in Tooele County, possibly clearing the way for shipments next month of the radioactive waste.
But the state still could require the company to remove the waste in the future.
In an 8-3 vote, the Utah Radiation Control Board rebuffed a request from the anti-nuclear-waste group HEAL Utah to halt such shipments until the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission finishes a three-year examination of whether depleted uranium should be reclassified on the nation's radiation danger scale.
(The Salt Lake Tribune Sep. 22, 2009)
> Download Heal Utah's presentation at the Radiation Control Board meeting (4.6MB PDF)
Rep. Matheson asks Energy Department to halt depleted uranium shipments to Utah disposal site
With the likelihood that nearly 15,000 barrels of depleted uranium may be headed to Utah, Rep. Jim Matheson on Wednesday (Sep. 16) asked the Energy Department to suspend disposal of the radioactive material until scientists can further study the effects of its long-term storage.
The Energy Department plans to ship about 14,800 barrels of depleted uranium -- which becomes more hazardous over time -- to Utah's EnergySolutions facility in Clive as part of the cleanup of the department's Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
"Depleted uranium -- as it decays -- actually becomes 'hotter,' remaining dangerous for tens of thousands of years," Matheson said in a statement. "That raises concerns for me, when the facility here in Utah is engineered to store Class A waste with a radioactive life span of 100 years."
(The Salt Lake Tribune Sep. 16, 2009)
More depleted uranium to be disposed in Utah, while state still ponders moratorium
Even as state regulators consider a moratorium on new shipments of the radioactive material -- which becomes more hazardous over time -- the U.S. Department of Energy plans to ship another 14,800 barrels of it to the EnergySolutions Inc. disposal site in Tooele County.
Part of the $1.6 billion in federal stimulus money for the Savannah River cleanup site in South Carolina will pay for rail cars filled with depleted uranium to be buried in Utah during the next 13 months.
(The Salt Lake Tribune Aug. 5, 2009)
Energy Solutions proposes temporary license condition for imminent disposal of depleted uranium at Clive
"The Licensee shall place all wastes with depleted uranium concentrations greater than 5 percent (by weight) a minimum of 10 feet below the top of the cover. This license condition shall be removed following the completion of the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission's rulemaking on Depleted Uranium and subsequent approval by the Division of the site specific performance assessment for the Clive facility."
(Energy Solutions letter to Utah DRC, July 27, 2009)
Utah Radiation Control Board to study depleted uranium disposal
Utah's Radiation Control Board will dig deeper into the long-term risks of depleted uranium before it decides whether the unusual form of low-level radioactive waste warrants a moratorium.
(The Salt Lake Tribune June 9, 2009)
Utah Radiation Control Board ponders moratorium for depleted uranium disposal at Clive LLRW disposal site
A half dozen Utahns urged regulators to demand that the long-term safety of residents is assured before allowing any more depleted uranium to be buried in the state.
The message, part of an organized effort by the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL), landed before the Utah Radiation Control Board on Tuesday (May 12, 2009). And the panel asked its lawyers to begin looking at the legal implications of imposing a moratorium on the low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) disposal until that assurance can be made confidently.
EnergySolutions Inc.'s low-level radioactive waste-disposal site in Tooele County has accepted about 49,000 tons of depleted uranium over about two decades.
(The Salt Lake Tribune, May 12, 2009)
Radioactive Material License Number R04100
Court rules against EnergySolutions' plan to acquire sole waste-disposal competitor Waste Control Specialists
The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on Wednesday (June 21) ruled in favor of the Justice Department's civil antitrust lawsuit to block the merger of Waste Control Specialists and EnergySolutions.
(Midland Reporter-Telegram June 21, 2017)
NRC concurs with state regulator's approval of disposal of large quantities of depleted uranium at WCS site in Texas
"This report presents the results of the special review conducted with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) related to performance assessment modeling and a license amendment associated with the disposal of depleted uranium under TCEQ's Low-Level
Radioactive Waste (LLRW) Disposal Program. The special review, conducted at the invitation
of TCEQ, focused on TCEQ's licensing process for reviewing depleted uranium disposal,
including the basis for granting a license amendment to dispose of depleted uranium, the
associated performance assessment model for such disposal, and procedures and guidance
related to the use of the performance assessment model. The review team concluded that the
site characteristics provide adequate margin to protect public health and safety. However, the
review team identified some items of concern that involved the lack of documentation needed to
support this complex licensing decision. [...]"
> Download NRC letter to TCEQ, Oct. 27, 2016 (PDF)
EnergySolutions to acquire Waste Control Specialists - sole waste-disposal competitor in the U.S.
On Nov. 19, 2015, EnergySolutions, Inc. announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Valhi, Inc. and operator of a waste disposal facility located in Andrews County, Texas.
EnergySolutions is the operator of the Clive, Utah, radioactive waste disposal site.
TCEQ approves disposal of large quantities of depleted uranium at WCS site in Texas
Regulators have approved allowing depleted uranium to be buried at a West Texas nuclear waste dump site.
Company spokesman Chuck McDonald on Wednesday (Aug. 20) said the state's environmental commissioners approved the amendment to the license held by Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists.
(Austin American-Statesman Aug. 20, 2014)
TCEQ invites comment on proposed license amendment allowing disposal of large quantities of depleted uranium at WCS site in Texas
Submit comments and requests for a public meeting within 30 days after the date of newspaper publication of this notice.
> View TCEQ Notice Apr. 16, 2014 (Texas Register Apr. 25, 2014 - In Addition) · Download PDF (TCEQ) - published April 20, 2014
> Download draft and current licenses (TCEQ)
Radioactive Material License precludes further disposal of depleted uranium at WCS site in Texas
The Radioactive Material License R04100 (3.2MB PDF) issued to Waste Control Specialists LLC by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Sep. 10, 2009, excludes the disposal of "large quantities of depleted uranium or similar material."
Import of DU counterweights from United Kingdom to USA for land burial in Texas
> See here
UK Government releases studies on geological disposal of depleted uranium
On January 5, 2016, the Radioactive Waste Management Limited (RWM), a wholly owned subsidiary of the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), issued two reports studying the disposal of depleted, natural and low enriched uranium (DNLEU) in a geological repository.
At present, the UK Government considers DNLEU to be a zero-value asset radioactive material, but a change in Government strategy could potentially cause this material to be reclassified as a higher activity radioactive waste. If this were to happen, then DNLEU could need to be disposed of in a geological disposal facility (GDF).
> Geological Disposal: Investigating the Implications of Managing Depleted, Natural and Low Enriched Uranium through Geological Disposal - Progress Report , NDA Report no. NDA/RWM/123, Radioactive Waste Management, December 2015
> Geological Disposal: Generic Specification for waste packages containing depleted, natural and low enriched uranium , WPSGD no. WPS/230/01, Radioactive Waste Management, December 2015
Urenco Germany's depleted uranium to be disposed of in future HLW repository
On Aug. 12, 2015, the Federal Ministry of Environment (BMU) presented Germany's National framework for spent fuel and radioactive waste management. According to the plan, the depleted uranium arising from Urenco's Gronau operations is to be disposed of in a future high-level waste repository, for which a site still has to be determined.
> Access: Nationales Entsorgungsprogramm (BMU - in German)
Urenco Germany's depleted uranium to be disposed of in LLW rather than HLW repository?
According to the leaked text of a draft version of Germany's National framework for spent fuel and radioactive waste management (implementing Council Directive 2011/70/Euratom), the depleted uranium arising from Urenco's Gronau operations is to be disposed of in the proposed Schacht Konrad low-level waste deposit (a former underground iron ore mine), rather than the proposed Gorleben high-level waste deposit.
(Süddeutsche Zeitung Nov. 18, 2014)
> View Council Directive 2011/70/Euratom of 19 July 2011, establishing a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste
[So far, the licence for the Konrad LLW deposit had limited the amount of alpha emitters to the equivalent of 100 t DU. Therefore, disposal of the depleted uranium rather was planned at the proposed Gorleben HLW deposit. According to the new plan, however, the disposal of 100,000 m3 (equivalent to approx. 320,000 t) depleted U3O8 is envisaged for the proposed Schacht Konrad LLW deposit, the capacity of which has to be increased for this purpose. The amount is equivalent to the arisings of 55 full production years of Urenco's Gronau enrichment plant.]
Safety analysis for Gorleben repository considers only part of expected amount of depleted uranium to be disposed of
The German Federal Office for Radiation Protection estimates the net volume of depleted uranium that has to disposed of in the planned Gorleben nuclear waste repository at up to 100,000 cubic metres. However, the preliminary Gorleben safety analysis to be prepared by Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit uses only a volume of about 35,000 cubic metres.
(Antwort der Parlamentarischen Staatssekretärin Ursula Heinen-Esser vom 8. September 2011 auf die schriftliche Frage der Abgeordneten Sylvia Kotting-Uhl (BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN))
> Download Schriftliche Fragen mit den in der Woche vom 5. September 2011 eingegangenen Antworten der Bundesregierung, Drucksache 17/6954, Deutscher Bundestag, 17. Wahlperiode, 09. 09. 2011 (2.94MB PDF) - S. 133
> Download Endlagerkonzepte, Bericht zum Arbeitspaket 5, Vorläufige Sicherheitsanalyse für den Standort Gorleben, VSG-GRS-272, Juli 2011 (9.4MB PDF)
French Nuclear Safety Authority, in view of possible re-classification of depleted uranium as a waste, orders study for disposal of depleted uranium
France's Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) is taking first steps towards a reversal of the policy regarding the management of depleted uranium. While ASN still finds that depleted uranium is a resource, it now acknowledges that its use in current reactors is only possible at a small scale and particularly not for the amounts in question, and that the consumption of existing stocks in future fast breeder reactors would require several millenia. So, ASN now eyes the possibility that depleted uranium might now longer be regarded as a resource, but as a waste.
Under these auspices, ASN has ordered the national radioactive waste management agency ANDRA, to prepare a feasibility study on the disposal of depleted uranium.
> View: ASN release April 6, 2016 (in French)
> Download: Avis no 2016-AV-0256 de l'Autorité de sûreté nucléaire du 9 février 2016 sur les études relatives à l'évaluation du caractère valorisable des matières radioactives remises en application du plan national de gestion des matières et des déchets radioactifs 2013-2015, en vue de l'élaboration du plan national de gestion des matières et des déchets radioactifs 2016-2018
> Download: Procédés de valorisation des matières radioactives présentes sur le sol français (AREVA, CEA, EDF, Solvay), 06 Janvier 2015 (687k PDF - in French)