SRS is on list of possible mercury storage sites

Savannah River Site is among seven locations undergoing suitability studies by the U.S. Energy Department to host a long-term storage repository for toxic mercury.

According to a notice published Thursday in the Federal Register , such a facility would accommodate 7,500 to 10,000 metric tons of mercury from nongovernment sources over a 40-year period, in addition to large amounts of mercury already stored in government facilities.

The need for such a repository is outlined in a 2008 law -- the Mercury Export Ban -- that requires DOE to designate a facility for the "long-term management and storage of elemental mercury generated within the U.S." that would need to opened by Jan. 1, 2013.

Jim Giusti, an Energy Department spokesman at SRS, said it would be premature to speculate on how many jobs such a facility would create.

"Right now SRS is just one of seven places that are being looked at, and it's too early to say if it would bring any jobs, or how many," he said.

The process of preparing an environmental impact statement on all sites would likely include some details on employment. "That is something that would be addressed in the economic impact section of the document," he said.

As part of preparing the environmental impact statement, a series of public meetings will be held near all seven locations.

According to the Federal Register notice, much of the mercury in the U.S. comes from chlorine manufacturing. Mercury is also reclaimed through waste recycling and as a byproduct of the gold mining industry.

The government also stores approximately 5,600 tons of mercury in various locations, including 1,200 tons at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

In March, the Energy Department published a request for expressions of interest in such a project. Based on the responses, the department will also evaluate: Grand Junction Disposal Site, Grand Junction, Colo.; Hanford Site, Richland, Wash.; Hawthorne Army Depot, Hawthorne, Nev.; Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, Idaho; Kansas City Plant, Kansas City, Mo; and Waste Control Specialists, Andrews, Texas.

The environmental impact statement under preparation also will evaluate a "No Action alternative" to serve as a basis for comparison with the action alternatives. Under the No Action alternative, long-term management and storage of privately owned elemental mercury would remain the responsibility of its owners, and government-owned elemental mercury would remain at existing facilities.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

SITE SELECTION CRITERIA

- The facility or facilities will not create significant conflicts with any existing DOE site mission and will not interfere with future mission compatibility.

- The candidate host location has an existing facility or facilities suitable for mercury storage with the capability and flexibility for operational expansion, if necessary.

- The facility or facilities is, or potentially will be, capable of complying with RCRA (Resource Conservation Recovery Act) permitting requirements, including siting requirements.

- The facility or facilities has supporting infrastructure, including a capability or potential capability for flooring that would support mercury loadings.

- Storage of elemental mercury at the facility or facilities is compatible with local and regional land-use plans.

- The facility or facilities is accessible to major transportation routes.

- The candidate host location has sufficient information on hand in order to adequately characterize the site.

Source: Federal Register, U.S. Energy Department