SRS nuclear waste could go to New Mexico facility

Advisory panel wants WIPP to be explored

Thursday, May 10, 2012 11:55 AM
Last updated 11:07 PM
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As federal courts haggle over the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada, a local board wants to explore another option for Savannah River Site’s stranded high-level nuclear waste: Send it to New Mexico instead.

Yucca Mountain facility  AP
Yucca Mountain facility

The SRS Citizens Advisory Board will discuss a recommendation to send some or all of the site’s 3,100 “ready for shipment” canisters of stabilized waste to the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M., where lower-level “transuranic” nuclear waste is buried in 250 million-year-old salt deposits a half-mile beneath the Chihuahuan Desert.

The most dangerous waste at SRS is being vitrified – placed into glass poured into steel canisters that, until the Obama administration canceled the Yucca Mountain project in 2010, were to be removed from South Carolina for burial in Nevada.

“SRS is now storing these canisters with no known final disposition path,” the board wrote in a draft recommendation to be discussed at its May 21-22 meeting in Savannah, Ga. Ultimately, the number of canisters will swell to 7,500, requiring – in addition to two existing storage buildings – the construction of a third storage site.

The indefinite storage of high-level waste that DOE pledged to remove from South Carolina “has not been accepted well by the surrounding communities” and undermines DOE’s credibility, the draft said.

The WIPP site was designed for the disposition of the same type of canisters stored at SRS but is licensed only for less-concentrated radioactive wastes, such as lightly contaminated clothing, tools and other materials. Because of that difference, revising the facility’s acceptance criteria would likely require approval from Congress.

“From our limited understanding the WIPP site would be technically feasible and it seems to have an astounding amount of capacity to accept radioactive waste,” the draft said. “Further, any attempt to have canisters removed from SRS would have an immediate positive impact on the surrounding communities.”

The board is a stakeholder group that provides the assistant secretary for environmental management and designees with advice, information and recommendations on issues affecting the environmental and cleanup programs.

Comments (3) Add comment
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FriedFacts 05/10/12 - 01:06 pm
We could easily end up

We could easily end up becoming Yucca Mt. if everything is kept here. More could end up being shipped in because we already have so much.

SCEagle Eye
SCEagle Eye 05/10/12 - 05:18 pm
WIPP option illegal

Has this SRS Citizens Advisory Board bothered to look at the WIPP legislation? It's illegal to send high-level waste there so this recommendation isn't worth a cup of salt taken out of the WIPP salt deposit. School's out and the SRS Citizens Advisory Board just might need to take remedial classes this summer.

WippingBoy 05/10/12 - 07:27 pm
Ignorance is no excuse

Pardon me, but is ignorance (“From our limited understanding...") a prerequisite to be a member of the SRS CAB? They've probably been in existence for over 20 years, submitted numerous comments to EPA and the New Mexico state permitting authority about WIPP, have knowledgeable DOE and SC DHEC staff available, and in the past CAB members have even visited the WIPP site near Carlsbad. As the commenter above noted, federal law prohibits high-level waste, period. What is a comment from the board going to accomplish? The citizens of Carlsbad want the stuff, too (in case you haven't been paying attention), but that doesn't make it happen. Lobby your congressional delegation, not DOE.

And wow, I'm really sorry that indefinite storage of high-level waste “has not been accepted well by the surrounding communities.” What about Hanford and all the commercial nuclear plants still holding their high-level waste? It can't happen yet, folks... you gotta have Congress first change the law, and then see if EPA and the state of New Mexico are willing to change their certification and permit, respectively.

But the best line of the article was that indefinite storage undermines the "Energy Department’s credibility." An oxymoron, if I ever saw one...

WIPP Land Withdrawal Act (see Section 12):

SCEagle Eye
SCEagle Eye 05/11/12 - 09:02 am
Ban on DOE HLW to WIPP

Thanks for the link to the law. Just to make sure that it's clear about the legal ban on spent fuel and DOE high-level waste to WIPP:



The Secretary shall not transport high‑level radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel to WIPP or emplace or dispose of such waste or fuel

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