On February 25, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Disposal of Greater-Than-Class C (GTCC) Low-Level Radioactive Waste and GTCC-Like Waste (Final EIS) that evaluates the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed development, operation, and long-term management of one or more disposal facilities for GTCC low-level radioactive waste and DOE GTCC-like waste.
GTCC low-level radioactive waste has radionuclide concentrations exceeding the limits for Class C low-level radioactive waste established by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). These wastes are generated by activities licensed by the NRC or Agreement States and cannot be disposed of in currently licensed commercial low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities.
The Department evaluated five alternatives in the Final EIS for the disposal of the GTCC low-level radioactive waste and DOE-owned GTCC-like waste. The preferred alternative for the disposal is the Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) facility that is located near Carlsbad, New Mexico and/or land disposal at generic commercial facilities. According to DOE, “[t]he land disposal conceptual designs could be altered to provide the optimal application at a given location.”
The Final EIS is not a decision on GTCC low-level radioactive waste disposal. Prior to making a final decision on which disposal alternative(s) to implement, which will be included in a Record of Decision, the Department will submit a report to Congress on disposal alternatives for GTCC low-level radioactive waste and await action by Congress as required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Wastes and Volumes
The NRC low-level radioactive waste classification system does not apply to radioactive wastes generated or owned by DOE and disposed of in DOE facilities. However, DOE owns or generates low-level radioactive waste and non-defense-generated transuranic (TRU) radioactive waste, which have characteristics similar to those of GTCC low-level radioactive waste and for which there may be no path for disposal at the present time. DOE has included these wastes for evaluation in the Final EIS because similar approaches may be used to dispose of both types of radioactive waste. For the purposes of the Final EIS, DOE refers to this waste as GTCC-like waste.
The total volume of GTCC low-level radioactive waste and GTCC-like waste addressed in the Final EIS is about 12,000 m3 (420,000 ft3), and it contains about 160 million curies of radioactivity. About three-fourths of this volume is GTCC low-level radioactive waste, with GTCC-like waste making up the remaining one-fourth of the volume. Much of the GTCC-like waste is TRU waste.
DOE has evaluated the potential environmental impacts associated with the range of reasonable alternatives for disposal of GTCC low-level radioactive waste and GTCC-like waste in the Final EIS.
For additional information, please contact Theresa J. Kliczewski, GTCC EIS Document Manager for DOE, at (202) 586-3301 or at Theresa.Kliczewski@em.doe.gov.
A copy of DOE’s Final EIS on the disposal of GTCC and GTCC-like waste, as well as related documents, may be found at http://www.gtcceis.anl.gov/documents/index.cfm#final.