Washington Releases Annual Environmental Monitoring Report

In the spring of 2017, the Office of Radiation Protection, Environmental Public Health Division, Washington State Department of Health released US Ecology Washington’s Annual Environmental Monitoring Report for Calendar Year 2015.

Each year, US Ecology Washington submits an annual report, which is required by state law and the Washington State Department of Health’s license conditions as per Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 246-250-600.  WAC 246-250-340 also requires environmental monitoring.

US Ecology Washington receives and disposes low-level radioactive waste at the Hanford Site near Richland, Washington.

The report is now available on the agency’s website at www.doh.wa.gov.  For additional information, please contact Kate Lynch at (360) 236-3259 or at kate.lynch@doh.wa.gov.

Kristen Schwab Begins Role as Northwest Compact’s New Executive Director

On December 16, 2016, Kristen Schwab started her new role as the Executive Director of the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management.  Schwab succeeds Mike Garner, who retired at the end of June 2016.  She will serve as the designated Director for the Northwest Compact to the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum, Inc. (LLW Forum).

Staff work on the Northwest Compact is being transitioned from the Washington Department of Ecology to the Washington Department of Health.  State officials will be proposing the required legislation in January 2017.

The Northwest Compact was created in 1981 and consists of the member states of Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.  The U.S. Congress ratified the Northwest Compact in 1985.  The eighth state, Wyoming, joined the Compact in March of 1992.

For additional information, please contact Kristen Schwab at (360) 236-3232 or at Kristen.schwab@doh.wa.gov or go to www.ecy.wa.gov/nwic/index.asp.

Special Inspection Conducted at Columbia Nuclear Generating Station

On December 12, 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency has begun a special inspection at the Columbia Generating Station to review circumstances surrounding the shipment of some low-level waste to a disposal facility.  The plant, operated by Energy Northwest, is located near Richland, Washington.

Background

On November 9, 2016, workers at the plant shipped a single package of low-level nuclear waste to the
 U.S. Ecology disposal facility about 10 miles away.  When the package containing contaminated filters arrived, workers at the disposal facility noted a discrepancy between the radiation levels specified in the shipping manifest and dose rates they measured on the shipping container.  US Ecology personnel measured radiation levels more than seven times higher than documented in the shipping manifest.  The package was rejected and taken back to the plant where it is currently being stored.

The following day, the Washington State Department of Health (WDOH) notified Columbia Generating Station officials that their disposal permit privileges to US Ecology were being suspended until a written plan containing corrective actions was approved and an on-site inspection conducted by state officials is completed.

Special Inspection

“The purpose of the NRC’s special inspection is to better understand the circumstances surrounding this event, which revealed weaknesses in the licensee’s process for packaging and preparing radioactive waste shipments,” NRC Region IV Administrator Kriss Kennedy said.  “While there was no undue risk to the public, had a transportation accident occurred, there was a potential that members of the public could have been exposed to radiation levels in excess of NRC regulatory limits.”

The three-member NRC team spent about a week on site evaluating the licensee’s cause analysis and the adequacy of corrective actions.  An inspection report documenting the team’s findings will be publicly available within 45 days of the end of the inspection.

For additional information, please contact Victor Dricks at (817) 200-1128.

NAS Hosts LLW Management and Disposition Workshop

On October 24-25, 2016, the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board, Division on Earth and Life Studies, of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine hosted a low-level radioactive waste management and disposition workshop.  The workshop was held at the Keck Center of the National Academies, which is located at 500 Fifth Street NW in Washington, DC.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (DOE-EM) is responsible for the cleanup of the sites used by the federal government for nuclear weapons development and nuclear energy research.  DOE-EM cleanup involves retrieval, treatment, storage, transportation, and disposition of hundreds of different radioactive and hazardous solid and liquid wastes.

Low-level radioactive waste—which is defined by exclusion as waste that does not meet the statutory definitions for spent nuclear fuel, high-level radioactive waste, or transuranic waste—is physically and chemically diverse, ranging from lightly contaminated soils and building materials to highly irradiated nuclear reactor components.  It is the most volumetrically significant waste stream (millions of cubic meters) being generated by the cleanup program.

The workshop considered similarities between successful case studies, in which unique disposition pathways have been developed to address low-level radioactive wastes, and explored ways to extend these similar characteristics to problematic wastes—i.e., low-level radioactive wastes currently without a clear disposition pathway.

Specifically, the workshop explored:

  •   the key physical, chemical, and radiological characteristics of low-level radioactive waste that govern its safe and secure management (i.e., packaging, transport, storage) and disposition, in aggregate and for individual waste-streams; and,
  •   how key characteristics of low-level waste are incorporated into standards, orders, and regulations that govern the management and disposition of low-level radioactive waste in the United States and in other major waste-producing countries.

For additional information about the meeting, please go to http://dels.nas.edu/Upcoming-Workshop/Level-Radioactive-Waste-Management/AUTO-6-58-82-D?bname=nrsb.