Problems abound for moving radioactive waste from area
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 03/01/2013 -- While it has been called the nastiest waste in Oak Ridge, the stockpile of transuranic waste is also simply a severe hazard to those in the area. The waste contains long-lived and hotely radioactive waste. Most of the sludge was generated by the nuclear reactor operations at eh Oak Ridge National Laboratory; some of which has been in storage for decades now.
The TRU waste has not been shipped to Waste Isolation Pilot Plants in New Mexico since 2011. Those shipments were placed on a hold due to the U.S. Department of Energy, as it opted to pull its characterization-and-certification team out of the Oak Ridge area due to budget limitations. Without a team to be present to certify the waste to ensure readiness for cross-country travel, the waste processed at the Oak Ridge Laboratory has simply sat in storage. A certification team is now scheduled to the area for the 2014 fiscal year, after which shipments will resume: At least that was the plan.
Over the previous years, the state has attempted to force to DOE to get the material out of the area as soon as possible, and do so as safely as possible. At the same time, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has been flexible in its figuring on scheduling and enforcement of milestones for completing the work. The attitude persists in place as long as the federal agencies give waste an equal priority with higher hazard materials that are stored elsewhere by the DOE.
A facility in place to process intensely radioactive material is not to be expected for another half-decade, and that date apparently could be pushed back even farther as more money for construction is needed to do the job capably.
There are over 1,000 cubic meters of transuranic waste that has been shipped to Oak Ridge to New Mexico over the last few years. Lesser amounts of remote-handled waste was shipped off-site as well. The largest challenge for the technical side of the work, as well as financial, is the tanks of remote-handled sludges, which are estimated at over 2,000 cubic meters.
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