[Federal Register: September 19, 1997 (Volume 62, Number 182)] [Notices] [Page 49209-49212] From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:fr19se97-54] ============================================================== DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Notice of Intent To Prepare a High-Level Waste and Facilities Disposition Environmental Impact Statement, Idaho Falls, ID

AGENCY: Department of Energy.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.


SUMMARY: The Department of Energy (DOE) intends to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate alternatives for managing the high-level waste and associated radioactive wastes and facilities at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL). Under the terms of a 1995 Settlement Agreement with the State of Idaho, which has been incorporated into a court order, DOE agreed to treat high-level radioactive wastes currently stored at the Idaho Chemical Processing Plant (ICPP) at INEEL and remove these wastes from Idaho. The proposed EIS, titled the High-Level Waste and Facilities Disposition Environmental Impact Statement, will assist the Department in making the decisions necessary for management of these radioactive wastes in a manner that will comply with applicable laws and regulations, and protect the environment and the health and safety of the workers and the public in a cost-effective manner.

This EIS will be tiered from two Environmental Impact Statements: (1) the Department of Energy Programmatic Spent Nuclear Fuel Management and Idaho National Engineering Laboratory Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Programs EIS (SNF & INEL EIS, issued in April 1995), and (2) the DOE Waste Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (WM PEIS, issued in May 1997). As a result, this EIS will make use of previously developed information and analyses.

The DOE's proposed action is to treat high-activity calcine and sodium-bearing liquid radioactive wastes in a new facility using a radionuclide partitioning technology to separate high-level waste from low-level waste. The proposed action would also include closure of 11 underground storage tanks, the New Waste Calcining Facility, and associated laboratories and support buildings at the ICPP.

This EIS will consider reasonable alternatives for treatment of the high-activity calcine and the sodium-bearing wastes, and for dispositioning of facilities associated with those wastes. Alternatives ranging from grouting wastes in existing high-level waste facilities at the ICPP Tank Farm to the complete removal and disposal of these wastes will be considered. Alternatives involving the separation of only the transuranic constituents from the wastes, separation of and removal of hazardous wastes, and full actinide and metal recovery will also be considered.

DOE will conduct public scoping workshops on this proposed EIS on October 16, in Idaho Falls, ID and on October 23, 1997, in Boise, ID.

DATES: DOE announces two public workshops and welcomes public discussion on the scope of the EIS, including the alternatives the Department is considering. This public scoping period begins with the publication of this notice in the Federal Register and will continue until November 24, 1997. DOE invites other Federal agencies, Native American tribes, State and local governments and the general public to comment on the scope of this EIS.

Two public workshops will be held during this scoping period:

1. October 16, 1997, 7:00-9:30 p.m. at Shilo Inn, 780 Lindsay Blvd., Idaho Falls, ID. 2. October 23, 1997, 6:00-8:30 p.m. Boise Centre on the Grove, Boise, ID.

These workshops will provide the public with information about the proposed project, and an opportunity to suggest reasonable alternatives that the Department should consider. Written comments may be submitted to the DOE at these workshops, sent by facsimile to (208) 526-5678, or mailed to the EIS Document Manager, Mr. T. L. Wichmann, at the address listed below.

To ensure consideration, DOE must receive scoping comments by November 24, 1997, although DOE will consider comments received after November 24, 1997, to the extent practicable.

ADDRESSES: To request information about this EIS, or to be placed on the EIS document distribution list, please call the 24-hour toll-free information line at 1-888-918-5100. Written comments on this EIS should be sent to: Thomas L. Wichmann, High-Level Waste and Facilities Disposition EIS, U.S. Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Office, 785 DOE Place, MS 1108, Idaho Falls, ID 83402, Facsimile: (208) 526- 5678.

For general information about the DOE National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, please contact: Carol Borgstrom, Director, Office of NEPA Policy and Assistance (EH-42), U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20585-0119, Phone: (202) 586- 4600, Messages: (800) 472-2756, Facsimile: (202) 586-7031.


Purpose and Need for Agency Action The Department of Energy must decide how to treat, store, and dispose of high-level radioactive waste that has been generated by spent fuel and irradiated target reprocessing operations at the INEEL. Most of the high-level waste at the ICPP resulted from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to recover enriched uranium from naval reactor fuel, and from reprocessing miscellaneous government and ``special case'' commercial nuclear fuel materials. This waste typically contains highly radioactive, short-lived fission products as well as long-lived radioactive isotopes. High-level waste at the ICPP is ``mixed waste'' because in addition to radioactive substances, it contains hazardous chemicals and toxic heavy metals that are regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or constituents that exhibit hazardous characteristics (e.g., corrosivity) as defined under RCRA. To protect the environment and public health, the highly radioactive and long-lived radioactive portions of this waste must be stabilized and isolated from the human environment (as in a geologic repository), after the chemically hazardous constituents have been appropriately treated.

The INEEL reprocessed spent nuclear fuel at the ICPP from 1952 to 1990, resulting in liquid radioactive waste that is stored at the ICPP Tank Farm. The Tank Farm consists of eleven 300,000-gallon underground stainless steel tanks surrounded by concrete vaults. Since 1963, this liquid radioactive waste has been undergoing conversion into a dry, stable, granular powder called calcine, using the waste calcining facility at the ICPP. Calcined waste would require additional treatment to be suitable for disposal in a geologic repository. The calcine material is presently stored in above- and below-ground bins at the ICPP, referred to as the ``calcine bin sets.''

Radioactive liquid waste resulting from the cleanup of extraction plant solvent and decontamination processes at the ICPP also is stored in the Tank Farm. This waste contains large quantities of sodium and potassium nitrates with transuranic radioactive isotopes (i.e., isotopes having atomic numbers greater than uranium) that have long decay times. This waste, although not produced from spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, historically has been managed as high-level waste because some of its physical and chemical properties are similar to those of high-level waste. Additional waste testing and characterization may result in its reclassification as mixed transuranic waste or mixed low- level waste.

In October 1995, the State of Idaho, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of Energy settled the cases of Public Service Co. of Colorado v. Batt, No. CV 91-0035-S-EJL (D. Id.) and United States v. Batt, No. CV-91-0065-S-EJL (D.Id.). Certain conditions of the Idaho Settlement Agreement/Court Order obligate the Department to:

  • Complete the process of calcining all remaining non-sodium bearing liquid high-level waste by June 30, 1998;
  • Commence negotiating with the State of Idaho by December 1999 a plan and schedule for the treatment of calcined waste;
  • Complete the calcination of sodium-bearing liquid high- level wastes by December 2012; and
  • Treat all high-level waste currently at the INEEL so that it is ready to be moved out of Idaho by a target date of 2035.

    As part of its proposed management strategy, DOE proposes to use radionuclide partitioning for radioactive liquid and calcine waste treatment, grouting for immobilizing the resulting low-level waste stream, and glass vitrification for immobilizing the resultant high- level waste stream. The EIS will analyze the proposed action and reasonable waste management alternatives to meet the requirements of the Settlement Agreement/Court Order and other applicable requirements.

    The EIS Schedule

    The Settlement Agreement/Court Order mandates that the ICPP high- level radioactive waste be prepared for removal from the State of Idaho by a target date of 2035. Although the Settlement Agreement/Court Order in this regard requires only that DOE issue a Record of Decision (ROD) no later than December 31, 2009, based on an EIS that analyzes alternatives for treating calcined wastes, DOE plans to complete a more inclusive EIS and to issue a ROD by September 1999. DOE is pursuing this more aggressive schedule so that it can better ensure meeting its commitments effectively and in a timely manner.

    Proposed Action

    The INEEL Tank Farm currently stores 3,800 cubic meters of calcined high-level waste in the bin sets, and approximately 1.7 million gallons of high-level and sodium bearing liquid wastes. The wastes contain hazardous constituents that are regulated under RCRA. These wastes also contain transuranic radionuclides. DOE proposes to treat these wastes by separating, for disposal in a geologic repository, the high-level radioactive constituents from those constituents that could be classified as low-level waste. Hazardous wastes would also be separated from these materials and further treated as required by the RCRA land disposal restrictions. The low-level radioactive waste would be disposed of on or off the INEEL, depending on decisions to be made based on the WM PEIS.

    Under the Proposed Action, the Tank Farm, bin sets, associated support buildings, structures, laboratories and the New Waste Calcining Facility would be decontaminated and decommisioned according to a cost- effective, legally compliant, and environmentally sound approach. This EIS will examine a reasonable range of alternatives, such as various methods of separating radioactive materials, using different materials for encapsulating wastes, options for Tank Farm decontamination and decommissioning, and options for treatment of waste residues left in tanks and calcine bins. DOE would especially appreciate suggestions on alternatives that should be examined.

    Preliminary Alternatives

    No Action

    The Council on Environmental Quality NEPA Regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), and the DOE NEPA Regulations (10 CFR part 1021) require analysis of a no-action alternative. Under the no-action alternative, DOE would continue current high-level radioactive waste management operations at the ICPP until all residual waste that can be removed from the tanks using existing waste transfer equipment is calcined, but actions to prepare the waste for disposal would not be taken. Once operations are completed, all high-level waste treatment and storage facilities at the ICPP would be placed in a stand-by operational condition. The calcined high-level waste would be stored in the existing bin sets, and residual waste (i.e., the approximately 30,000- 40,000 gallons of liquid and solid tank wastes that would remain when the tanks have been emptied using existing waste transfer equipment) would remain in the Tank Farm indefinitely.


    Under the Non-Separation alternative, DOE will analyze options for treating the liquid and calcine high-level waste to forms that are suitable for permanent disposal in-place at the INEEL, or outside of the State of Idaho in a geologic repository. The calcine would be pre- treated as necessary, and immobilized in a glass, glass-ceramic, or cementatious form, which would be encapsulated in cylinders or cast into shapes suitable for placement into transportation and disposal containers for disposal outside of the State of Idaho. Under this alternative the residual liquid high-level waste remaining in the Tank Farm would be solidified or grouted, and the tanks would be closed in accordance with RCRA requirements. As described under the Proposed Action, the ICPP Tank Farm, bin sets, associated support buildings, structures, laboratories and the New Waste Calcining Facility would be decontaminated and decommissioned in a cost-effective, legally compliant, and environmentally sound manner.

    Related NEPA Decisions and Reviews

    This EIS will use and supplement as necessary, the information and analysis contained in: (1) the Department of Energy Programmatic Spent Nuclear Fuel Management and Idaho National Engineering Laboratory Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Programs Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/EIS-0203-F); and (2) the DOE Waste Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/EIS-0200-F).

    Volume 2 of the SNF & INEL EIS, issued in April 1995, is a site- wide EIS for the INEEL. Among other matters, Volume 2 analyzed the potential environmental impacts associated with ongoing high-level waste treatment, storage and management operations at the INEEL. In a ROD based on this EIS (60 FR 28680), the Department decided to resume operation of the New Waste Calcining Facility, to convert the high- level liquid and sodium-bearing liquid waste to calcine prior to further treatment. The Department also decided to construct a facility to treat the calcined high-level waste (and any remaining liquid waste) in accordance with RCRA requirements and on a schedule to be negotiated with the State of Idaho under the Federal Facility Compliance Act.

    The DOE WM PEIS, issued May 1997, is a DOE complex-wide study examining the environmental impacts associated with managing five types of radioactive and hazardous wastes generated by past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future activities at a variety of sites located around the United States. The five types of waste examined by the WM PEIS are low-level mixed waste, low-level waste, transuranic waste, hazardous waste, and high-level waste. The WM PEIS characterizes and identifies volumes of high-level waste at DOE facilities nationwide, including the INEEL, and uses/updates information presented in the SNF & INEL EIS. The preferred alternative in the WM PEIS for high-level waste storage is for each of the four sites (one of which is INEEL) with immobilized high-level waste canisters to store its own immobilized waste onsite until shipment to a geologic repository for disposal. A high-level waste WM PEIS Record of Decision has not yet been issued.

    In addition to the programmatic EISs described above, other related NEPA analyses and documents that will be considered in the analyses of this EIS include:

  • The Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project (AMWTP) EIS-- this EIS will analyze the possible environmental impacts of thermal treatment of transuranic and mixed transuranic waste. The AMWTP is potentially relevant to the proposed High-Level Waste and Facilities Disposition EIS because a small portion of the inventory of radioactive waste at the ICPP is being considered for treatment at the proposed AMWTP. A notice of intent to prepare this EIS will be issued shortly.

  • The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Disposal Phase Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS II)--the SEIS II analyzes the treatment and storage of transuranic waste and disposal of such waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The Draft SEIS II was issued in November 1996; the Final SEIS II is in preparation. Some radioactive waste at ICPP may be affected by decisions based on the SEIS II.

  • The Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement--this EIS will analyze the potential environmental impacts associated with the disposal of high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel in a potential geologic repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The draft EIS is scheduled to be issued in July 1999. A Final EIS, scheduled for August 2000, would accompany any DOE recommendation to the President whether to develop Yucca Mountain as a geologic disposal site. INEEL's high-level waste could be eligible for disposal at Yucca Mountain.

    Preliminary Identification of EIS Issues

  • Potential environmental impacts on the Snake River Plain Aquifer.
  • Effects of emissions and discharges from the treatment of liquid and calcined high-level waste.
  • Effects of the storage of encapsulated high-level waste at the INEEL.
  • Potential effects on the public and workers from exposure to radiological and hazardous wastes during normal operations and reasonably foreseeable accidents.
  • Potential effects on air, soil, and water quality from normal operations and reasonably foreseeable accidents.
  • Potential effects on members of the public, including minority and low income populations from normal operations and reasonably foreseeable accidents.
  • Impacts on cultural and historic resources.
  • Pollution prevention, waste minimization, and energy and water usereduction technologies to eliminate or significantly reduce use of energy, water, and hazardous substances, and to minimize environmental impacts.
  • External regulation of DOE operations and possible privatization of high-level waste treatment.
  • Potential use of the constituents contained in high-level waste.
  • Compliance with applicable Federal, State, and local requirements and the Settlement Agreement/Court Order.
  • Cumulative environmental impacts of all past, present and reasonably foreseeable future operations at the INEEL.
  • The potential irreversible and irretrievable commitment of resources, including the ultimate use of INEEL lands and land occupied by the ICPP.
  • Potential environmental impacts, including long term risks to people, associated with Tank Farm facility closure and on-site waste disposal.

    Issued in Washington, D.C. on September 15, 1997. Peter N. Brush,Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health.

    [FR Doc. 97-24951 Filed 9-18-97; 8:45 am]

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