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February 2019

The following questions were asked by a member of the public during the ICP CAB's February 21, 2019 meeting in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Answers are provided by DOE-ID staff.

Waste Incidental to Reprocessing

Question: I cannot find documentation pertaining to the acceptance by the U.S. NRC of DOE-ID's proposed Waste Incidental to Reprocessing determination for the bulk of the sodium-bearing waste, other than NRC's agreement that criterion 1 was satisfied (no need for radionuclide separations). The NRC's acceptance of residual tank cleanout issues are not the same analysis as the reclassification of the bulk of the SBW. I do not find documented support for the assertions made that the NRC was in agreement with DOE's reclassification of the bulk of the SBW. Please advise me the specific documents I need to review.

Answer: NRC’s Review of the Draft Waste Incidental to Reprocessing Determination for Sodium-Bearing Waste is available here.

The NRC review focused on the first criterion under the DOE Order 435.1 Waste Incidental to Reprocessing (WIR) process:  “The waste must have been processed, or will be processed, to remove key radionuclides to the maximum extent that is technically and economically practical.”  NRC concluded that it is not technically or economically practical to remove additional key radionuclides from the SBW prior to disposal; this conclusion applies to the bulk of the SBW and is not limited to residual materials.  In the NRC’s recommendation for the first criterion they state, “residual uncertainty is not expected to … invalidate DOE-ID’s conclusion that SBW . . . can be managed as TRU waste.” 

The other two criteria in DOE Order 435.1 WIR process pertain to waste classification and disposition requirements.  The NRC did not explicitly evaluate these criteria—regarding classification of SBW as transuranic waste and disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)—because they determined that doing so would be inappropriate and outside NRC’s jurisdiction given that NRC’s WIR guidance does not include a TRU disposal option and the WIPP’s long-term performance is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.  

At this time, DOE has not made a decision related to the final classification and disposition of the SBW.

CPP-749 Degradation

Question: ICP Progress presentation for Feb 21 stated "CPP-749 Degradation." It is an underground fuel storage facility. I cannot find any information about the degradation and no information was provided to the ICP CAB. Can you please explain the degradation to the spent nuclear fuel storage facility?

Answer: The Underground Fuel Storage Facility, (UFSF), CPP-749, is located at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (INTEC) within the Idaho National Laboratory site (INL).  It is comprised of two engineered fuel storage areas referred to as the first generation (1st gen) and second generation (2nd gen) vaults.  The 1st gen vaults were placed into operation in September of 1971, and the 2nd gen vaults were placed into operation in December of 1984.

Despite the careful engineering inherent in the design of the 1st gen vaults, small amounts of water have been observed within these vaults.  The water gained access through either seepage or condensation.  While the fuel is containerized, it is not desirable to have fuel stored with water over the long term.  This can result in hydrogen generation and structural degradation.  As a result, fuel contained within the 1st gen vaults will be transferred to the more robust 2nd gen vaults where water has never been observed. Phase 1 activities (sampling, HEPA venting, and preparation of a cost estimate) are complete.  Phase 2 (fuel transfers) will begin when funds are secured.

The degradation issue was discussed during a Citizens Advisory Board meeting in Sun Valley in October, 2018. After that meeting, we also received a question from a member of the public and responded with the following answer, which has also been posted immediately below:

Question from October 2018: Are the problems at CPP-749 related to the fire water leak that caused some flooding of the wells many years ago?

Answer from October 2018: Not directly. We’d been aware of degradation in the CPP-749 wells for some time prior to the fire water leak. In 1997, our contractor made five fuel transfers out of the CPP-749 dry wells to begin dealing with the situation. When we received authorization to construct a spent fuel packaging facility, fuel transfers were put on hold to avoid handling the fuel more than necessary. However, the spent fuel packaging facility was later cancelled. We are now in the process of addressing the problem by improving the ventilation of the dry wells, and making plans to eventually remove the fuel from the first generation vaults where the problem is focused.

October 25, 2018

The following question was asked by a member of the public during the ICP CAB's October 25, 2018 meeting in Sun Valley, Idaho. The answer to the question is provided by DOE-ID staff.

Are the problems at CPP-749 related to the fire water leak that caused some flooding of the wells many years ago?

Answer: Not directly. We’d been aware of degradation in the CPP-749 wells for some time prior to the fire water leak. In 1997, our contractor made five fuel transfers out of the CPP-749 dry wells to begin dealing with the situation. When we received authorization to construct a spent fuel packaging facility, fuel transfers were put on hold to avoid handling the fuel more than necessary. However, the spent fuel packaging facility was later cancelled. We are now in the process of addressing the problem by improving the ventilation of the dry wells, and making plans to eventually remove the fuel from the first generation vaults where the problem is focused.

February 21, 2018

The following questions were submitted via question cards by a member of the public during the ICP CAB's February 21, 2018 meeting in Idaho Falls. Answers to the questions are provided by DOE-ID staff.

Has DOE decided not to ship ATR fuel elements to the Savannah River Site?

Answer: DOE signed a Record of Decision in the mid-1990s to consolidate fuels with similar cladding at specific sites. DOE has not decided to fully implement this decision at this time.

Where did the INTEC aquifer disposal wells connect to the INTEC SNF reprocessing facility?

Answer: The well was located next to CPP-666. It was used to dispose of service wastewater, which consisted primarily of plant cooling water, demineralizer and boiler blowdown water, and condensates from the Process Equipment Waste Evaporator (PEWE). The well was fed from the PEWE building. It was used from 1950 to 1984, and was officially closed in 1989.

Will the CAB be told comprehensively what seismic fragility studies have been conducted for the calcine storage facilities?

Answer: DOE is prepared to provide the CAB with information about what studies have been done on calcine storage facilities if requested.

Why isn’t the DOE study of ways to keep AMWTP – a continuing mission(s) – made public and put on the ICP CAB web site ASAP?

Answer: The DOE analysis of AMWTP continuing mission is not complete. DOE is refining its analyses to assess the challenges, cost-effectiveness and viability of a continuing mission for AMWTP. 

Does DOE or the State DEQ know what fraction of the carbon tetrachloride in air in Idaho Falls is from INL/ICP?

Answer: INL/ICP carbon tetrachloride releases to air are well below levels that require ambient air monitoring at the INL Site, Idaho Falls, or other locations.