INFORMATION: Management Alert on Environmental Management's Select Strategy for Disposition of Savannah River Site Depleted Uranium Oxides

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The Administration and the Congress, through policy statements and passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), have signaled that they hope that proactive actions by agency Inspectors General will help ensure that Federal Recovery Act activities are transparent, effective and efficient. In that context, the purpose of this management alert is to share with you concerns that have been raised to the Office of Inspector General regarding the planned disposition of the Savannah River Site's (SRS) inventory of Depleted Uranium (DU) oxides. This inventory, generated as a by-product of the nuclear weapons production process and ... continued below

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None April 1, 2010.

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Description

The Administration and the Congress, through policy statements and passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), have signaled that they hope that proactive actions by agency Inspectors General will help ensure that Federal Recovery Act activities are transparent, effective and efficient. In that context, the purpose of this management alert is to share with you concerns that have been raised to the Office of Inspector General regarding the planned disposition of the Savannah River Site's (SRS) inventory of Depleted Uranium (DU) oxides. This inventory, generated as a by-product of the nuclear weapons production process and amounting to approximately 15,600 drums of DU oxides, has been stored at SRS for decades. A Department source we deem reliable and credible recently came to the Office of Inspector General expressing concern that imminent actions are planned that may not provide for the most cost effective disposition of these materials. During April 2009, the Department chose to use funds provided under the Recovery Act to accelerate final disposition of the SRS inventory of DU oxides. After coordination with State of Utah regulators, elected officials and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department initiated a campaign to ship the material to a facility operated by EnergySolutions in Clive, Utah. Although one shipment of a portion of the material has already been sent to the EnergySolutions facility, the majority of the product remains at SRS. As had been planned, both for the shipment already made and those planned in the near term, the EnergySolutions facility was to have been the final disposal location for the material. Recently, a member of Congress and various Utah State officials raised questions regarding the radioactive and other constituents present in the DU oxides to be disposed of at the Clive, Utah, facility. These concerns revolved around the characterization of the material and its acceptability under existing licensing criteria. As a consequence, the Governor of Utah met with Department officials to voice concerns regarding further shipments of the material and to seek return of the initial shipment of DU oxides to SRS. Utah's objections and the Department's agreement to accede to the State's demands effectively prohibit the transfer of the remaining material from South Carolina to Utah. In response, the Department evaluated its options and issued a draft decision paper on March 1, 2010, which outlined an alternative for temporary storage until the final disposition issue could be resolved. Under the terms of the proposed option, the remaining shipments from SRS are to be sent on an interim basis to a facility owned by Waste Control Specialists (WCS) in Andrews, Texas. 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 Department source expressed the concern that the proposal to store the material on an interim basis in Texas was inefficient and unnecessary, asserting: (1) that the materials could remain at SRS until a final disposition path is identified, and that this could be done safely, securely and cost effectively; and, (2) that the nature of the material was not subject to existing compliance agreements with the State of South Carolina, suggesting the viability of keeping the material in storage at SRS until a permanent disposal site is definitively established. We noted that, while the Department's decision paper referred to 'numerous project and programmatic factors that make it impractical to retain the remaining inventory at Savannah River,' it did not outline the specific issues involved nor did it provide any substantive economic or environmental analysis supporting the need for the planned interim storage action. 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. We recognize that decisions such as the one proposed for the SRS inventory of DU oxides are often more complex and nuanced than might appear on the surface. Consideration of factors such as cost, state interest, posture of local regulators, etc., are important elements in this process. Although, we have not completed sufficient work to reach an independent judgment on the merits of this matter, we wanted to ensure that the Department was aware of the concerns that have been raised before imminent decisions and resource commitments were made regarding the path forward.

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  • Report No.: OAS-RA-10-07
  • Grant Number: None
  • DOI: 10.2172/978686 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 978686
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc935129

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  • April 1, 2010

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Nov. 13, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

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  • Dec. 5, 2016, 8:53 p.m.

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None. INFORMATION: Management Alert on Environmental Management's Select Strategy for Disposition of Savannah River Site Depleted Uranium Oxides, report, April 1, 2010; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc935129/: accessed October 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.