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Oak Ridge
Site Specific Advisory Board

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Approved April 11, 2012 Meeting Minutes

 

The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, April 11, 2012, at the DOE Information Center, 1 Science.gov Way, Oak Ridge, Tenn., beginning at 6 p.m. A video of the meeting was made and may be viewed by contacting the ORSSAB support offices at (865) 241-4583 or 241-4584. The presentation portion of the video is available on the board’s YouTube site at www.youtube.com/user/ORSSAB/videos.

 

Members Present

Jimmy Bell

Jacqueline Hagy

Janet Hart

Bob Hatcher

David Hemelright

Betty Jones

Ed Juarez, Vice Chair

David Martin

Fay Martin

Scott McKinney

Kasey McMaster1

Gloria Mei

Maggie Owen, Chair

Greg Paulus

Amira Sakalla1

Robert Stansfield

Coralie Staley

Steve Stow

Thomas Valunas

Charles Jensen, Secretary

 

Members Absent

Howard Holmes

Ron Murphree

 

1Student Representative

 

Liaisons and Federal Coordinator Present

Dave Adler, DOE Liaison, Department of Energy - Oak Ridge Office (DOE-ORO)

Connie Jones, Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4 (EPA)

Melyssa Noe, ORSSAB Federal Coordinator, DOE-ORO

John Owsley, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC)

 

Others Present

Spencer Gross, ORSSAB Support Office

John Krueger, DOE-ORO

Norman Mulvenon, Citizen’s Oversight Panel

Pete Osborne, ORSSAB Support Office

 

Nine members of the public were present.

 

Liaison Comments

Mr. Adler – The National Park Service (NPS) has determined that a portion of the North Tower of the K-25 Building at East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) could be preserved for historical purposes. It proposes preserving the outer walls of the North Tower and about one-twelfth of the process gas portion of the building. This is counter to DOE’s proposal to demolish all of the building and provide for other avenues of historic interpretation of K-25. Mr. Adler said preliminary costs estimates to do what NPS proposes would be very expensive. He said DOE-ORO is still considering what its response to NPS will be.

 

Mr. Paulus asked if NPS would take over the K-25 preservation. Mr. Adler said NPS has proposed a national historic park to commemorate the Manhattan Project that would be spread across several sites including Oak Ridge. If such a park is approved by Congress, Mr. Adler said it’s likely that NPS would be responsible for interpreting the history of K-25 and associated facilities, but DOE would be responsible for maintaining, providing security, and providing access to the facilities.

 

Mr. Stow reminded the board that ORSSAB has provided a number of recommendations to DOE on historic interpretation of K-25. He asked if there was anything the board could do to facilitate the decision process on this new development. Mr. Adler said he thought the board has done all it can do at this point, citing a memorandum of agreement that had been developed recently to do what DOE has proposed – demolish K-25 and provide other venues for interpretation. He noted that NPS was not asked and did not provide any cost considerations on preserving a portion of the North Tower. He said DOE should accept the NPS report and provide a response. If DOE decides to move forward with its proposal to demolish K-25 it will state its reasons for doing so to NPS. Mr. Adler said it’s possible there could be another round of meetings with the signatory and consulting parties to the memorandum of agreement.

 

Mr. McKinney asked how this will affect work being done at ETTP. Mr. Adler said DOE’s focus will be to ensure there is little or no effect on demolition activities underway at ETTP. There is no immediate impact, but could have an effect within a few weeks to months. If the decision is made to demolish the North Tower that work would begin in late summer, otherwise there needs to be a shift of workers and equipment to some other part of ETTP.

 

Mr. Adler said there could be $20-$22 million of leftover Recovery Act money that can be used to begin some mercury abatement projects at Y-12 National Security Complex. One possible project is the construction of a water treatment plant to reduce levels of mercury leaving Y-12 in East Fork Poplar Creek. There are some time constraints on how that money is spent so it will be a challenge to plan and execute such a project.

 

Ms. Jones – no comments.

 

Mr. Owsley – no comments. Mr. Martin asked if a group had been formed to look at how to address some projects that were not going to be started as soon as had been thought. Mr. Owsley said TDEC has been working with DOE to resolve differences regarding FY 2012-13 projects in preparation for an FY 2014 budget request. He said TDEC has a reasonable position to carry forward for FY 2012-14. Mr. Adler added that DOE, EPA, and TDEC have worked to adjust the sequencing of work over the next three to 10 years to ensure a blend of ETTP demolition, mercury mitigation at Y-12, and disposing of nuclear material and demolition of old facilities at Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) that ‘optimizes all interests’ and has been done with realistic budget assumptions.

 

Public Comment

Mr. Mulvenon said he was surprised by the development regarding preservation of a portion of the K-25 Building. He also said the recommendation on the FY 2014 budget request on the meeting agenda is an important one and encouraged everyone to consider it carefully.

Presentation

Mr. Krueger’s presentation was an update on the Uranium-233 (U-233) Disposition Program. The main points of his presentation are in Attachment 1.

 

He began by providing some background on U-233. It is produced by irradiating thorium-232, which is widely available in nature. U-233 was studied as a possible replacement for uranium-235 when it was thought that isotope might become unavailable. U-233 is fissile and was studied for possible use in nuclear weapons. Because it is fissile and is an alpha emitter it requires security and radiation protections. The decay chain of U-233 includes thorium-229, which is used for medical isotope production. In producing U-233, U-232 is also produced and is always a present as a contaminant. A daughter product of U-232 is thalium-208, which is a high energy gamma emitter that requires shielding. As a consequence all of the material must be handled carefully, usually remotely, because of the high radiation doses.

 

The excess U-233 is stored in Building 3019 at ORNL. Building 3019 was built in 1943 next to the Graphite Reactor and was used as a pilot plant for extraction processes. The world’s first gram quantities of plutonium were isolated in Building 3019. The building is the oldest operating nuclear facility in the world and is used now only for the storage of U-233.

 

Almost 1,100 canisters of U-233 are stored in heavily shielded hot cells in 3019. The inventory can be grouped in six categories (Attachment 1, page 7):

·    Consolidated Edison Uranium Solidification Project material (CEUSP)

·    Molten Salt Reactor (MSRE) traps

·    Oxide powders

·    Metals

·    Zero Power Reactor Plates (ZPR)

·    Miscellaneous

 

Because of the various forms of the inventory, dispositioning is a challenging process.

 

Mr. Krueger said the early mission of the U-233 Disposition Program was to take the entire U-233 inventory, dissolve it, extract the thorium-229, stabilize the U-233 and return it to storage. But in 2005 Congress directed that the thorium extraction be stopped and that all the remaining inventory of U-233 be disposed. The project was transferred from the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy to DOE Environmental Management (EM). As a result of the mission change, the project design had to be changed which resulted in a number of challenges including retrofitting 3019 for the new mission and building an annex to solidify the downblended uranium so it could be disposed. As design challenges continued to emerge and costs increased, the idea emerged to consider an alternative process for disposing of the U-233. In 2010 the Deputy Secretary of Energy approved an alternatives analysis to study the various ways of dispositioning the material.

 

The analysis revealed that between 2006 and 2008 new programmatic needs for some of the material became available. The analysis favored a combination of direct disposition and co-processing (Attachment 1, page 8). It includes the transfer of some of the material needed by other DOE programs and the direct disposal of CEUSP material. The CEUSP material, 403 canisters (about 37 percent of the inventory), will disposed directly at the Nevada National Security Site without any processing because it is already solidified within the canisters.

 

The remaining waste would be co-processed with other ORNL waste. This material cannot be transferred to other programs or disposed directly. It will still require downblending before it can be disposed. The processing requires driving the U-233 concentration below criticality and security concerns. It is to be dissolved and then downblended with depleted uranium so it can be disposed safely. It would be processed at the Transuranic Waste Processing Center (TWPC) with other ORNL waste without having to build an annex to 3019.

 

Direct disposition eliminates 52 percent of canister inventory (77 percent of the total uranium and 85 percent of the U-232 isotope) without any processing (Attachment 1, page 9).

 

The alternative approach reduces waste volume, processing time, and transportation. It reduces worker exposure and accident probability and allows DOE to address other environmental issues sooner (Attachment 1, page 9).

 

Mr. Krueger said the Deputy Secretary approved the alternate approach in 2011. The status of the implementation of the plan is noted on page 10 of Attachment 1. The first shipment of material was ZPR plates in December 2011. Fourteen of 26 shipments have been completed thus far to the Device Assembly plant in Nevada. The expectation is all of the canisters will be shipped by June 2012.

 

Mr. Krueger said a Type B container has been identified for shipping the CEUSP material and shipments are expected to begin in FY 2014.

 

Mr. Krueger said a Phase II analysis has been done on the material to be processed. He said another look was taken at direct disposal of the material. Twenty-two canisters are eligible for direct disposal, but the project risks outweigh the benefits (Attachment 1, page 11). Because of the nature of the material he said there was a concern that a lot of work and expense would go into the project and it could be rejected in Nevada.

 

Additional programmatic transfers in the Phase II process are noted on page 11 of Attachment 1.

 

Concerning the processing of the remaining material that can’t be direct disposed, Building 3019 will be used only for extraction and storage. Mr. Krueger said it is too expensive to retrofit the building for processing. The proposal is to use Building 2026 which is just across the street from 3019. Building 2026 has been used over the years for similar processing (Attachment 1, page 12). At Building 2026 the material will be dissolved and downblended with depleted uranium and then sent to the TWPC where it will be prepared for shipment for disposal in Nevada.

 

Mr. Krueger showed a timeline for Phase II of the project, which still requires approval by DOE Headquarters (Attachment 1, page 13).

 

Mr. Juarez – Is funding available for the 2026 modifications? Mr. Krueger – Not yet we’re looking for the mechanism now.

 

Ms. Mei – Are the MSRE traps part of this phase? Mr. Krueger – Yes, the MSRE traps will go in here as well. The canisters have to be vented and the potential fluorine gas in the headspace has to be captured, then we dump the sodium fluoride pellets out into a tray and dissolve them with the uranium.

 

Ms. Mei – About 10 years ago there was a project to convert uranium hexafluoride to uranium-308 that wasn’t very successful. Mr. Krueger – We’re not going to bake it into that. We’re going to vent the containers and dissolve the whole batch into concentrated nitric.

 

Mr. Krueger showed a Phase II comparison table of costs comparing original cost estimates to the Phase I preference and the Phase II proposed approach (Attachment 1, page 14). He explained that with the Phase II approach the total cost of the project is much less than the original estimate because it avoids building an annex to Building 3019 and uses Building 2026, which would require little preparation.

 

Mr. Juarez – When do you expect to get approval from Headquarters on the Phase II approach? Mr. Krueger – I think within a month to two months. I’m going to try and publish a final draft by the end of April and be at Headquarters pitching it in May.

 

Ms. Mei – The cost of $1 million for Building 3019 modifications. Is that conclusive or not conclusive? Mr. Krueger – All of these numbers are relatively conservative. All we’re doing in 3019 is extracting canisters like we’re doing with the ZPR plates. The only modifications we’re talking about are some minor modifications to the shielded transfer cask to move the canisters from 3019 to 2026. Ms. Mei – The inventory in 3019 is accurate? Are there any inspections of the inventory? Mr. Krueger – There is no routine inspection. The facility currently has a waiver from Nuclear Control and Accountability requirements for inventory. The reason is because of the difficulty to get in and out of the vault. It will be inventoried on the way out. When it went into storage there was a thorough inventory made.

 

Referencing the cost comparison chart Mr. Krueger said a compelling argument can be made that more than $615 million can be saved using the Phase II approach compared to the original approach. The Office of Science wants the inventory out of the central campus of ORNL, because the material drives the security posture of the lab. The sooner the material is removed the sooner the lab can ease security requirements and be able to host international visitors more easily.

 

Mr. McKinney – How is the material moved from Building 3019 to 2026? Mr. Krueger – For the shipments going out now, the ZPR plates, they are going out in Type B containers. When the other material goes over to 2026, we still have to develop that model but the conceptual model right now is to move them inside of their shielded transfer casks, which is an extremely robust piece of heavy equipment that has to be moved with a forklift. We have to have a transportation safety document associated with that. 2026 is just 25 feet away. It’s not even a thru street. We would just shut down that small section of road without any traffic interruption and move it across with a forklift. I’m confident that the transportation safety analysis will show that is just fine.

 

Mr. Bell – Does 2026 have an off-gas system? Mr. Krueger – It does. It has a HEPA filtered exit system coming off the cells that goes into the central ventilation system and has its own dedicated stack and its own carbon absorption trap that helps with the thoron issue. It looks like the ventilation system is quite ideal for this. Mr. Bell – When you ship material to Nevada, doesn’t it have to be canned in some kind of super container for shipping? Mr. Krueger – There are multiple elements going to Nevada. The ZPR plates are going in a Type B container where they are offloaded. The CEUSP material will go in large Type B casks. When it gets there there is a single sleeve inside the cask, and they will use a hook to lift the sleeve out and lower it into a slit trench in the bottom of their landfill cell and cover with dirt and maybe a metal plate. Mr. Bell – They are not going to re-can it? Mr. Krueger – They don’t need to re-can it. They’ve done a performance assessment model which has shown that it’s just fine. That’s the only element that going to go there unprocessed.

 

Mr. Krueger continued by discussing some remaining project risks (Attachment 1, page 15). He said the ZPR plate shipments are almost finished and he doesn’t foresee any problems. With CEUSP material, he said there may be some anticipated security costs, especially in Nevada. Even though Nevada has been involved in discussions regarding shipment of the material, a waste acceptance profile still must be done and approved. He said there is stakeholder involvement in those reviews, which could present a problem. Some steps still need to be completed regarding processing of the material, and funding in subsequent years is always a question.

 

Mr. Krueger showed a number of photographs related to the disposing of the ZPR plates (Attachment 1, pages 17-22).

 

Mr. Stow – Why not take the U-233 and send it over to Y-12, which already has a large supply of uranium? Mr. Krueger – We will probably look at that one more time as the potential location of the strategic reserves for certified reference material. But we have looked at it multiple times already and it’s always been rejected on the basis of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility was not designed for U-233, primarily from a shielding standpoint and from a nuclear safety standpoint. U-233 is very different from U-235 and has more of the radiological characteristics of plutonium-239; it has a higher specific activity from an alpha standpoint; it always has the U-232 component so it has the direct penetration radiation aspect of it. They don’t have the shielding; they don’t have the documented safety analysis that backs up the ability to take it. They would have to do some infrastructure changes before they could take any of it. If they got any of it it would be the highest purity with the lowest dose.

 

Ms. Mei – You said there is some project risk in shipping the CEUSP material to Nevada. Is there an alternative if it can’t go to Nevada? Mr. Krueger – That’s such an unfortunate scenario I haven’t given it much consideration, but I think we would have to gather the team and figure out what to do. If we put 403 canisters back in the processing stream we would be extending our processing time by a huge amount and the CEUSP is much harder to deal with than the rest of the inventory. No one wants because it is hard to deal with. So given that it’s waste, given that it’s characterized waste, we don’t see any reason why Nevada would say no. I think the main risk is not so much ‘yes’ or ‘no’ it’s more of a cost impact.

 

Mr. Adler – If we just put the project on hold for a year what would the cost be? Mr. Krueger – We’re always concerned about that based on funding. If we get inadequate funding for any given year we’re looking at $15 million a year fixed cost. Every year you delay you’re penalized by about $15 million. Mr. Adler – How sensitive are your cost estimates to changes in funding, for instance if you get only $25 million a year instead of $40 million? Mr. Krueger – It’s quite sensitive to funding impacts. If you don’t get sufficient funding everything moves out and you’re penalized $15 million a year minimum. If you go too far along that road you begin to lose other things. For example our qualified fissile material handlers. Many of them are nearing retirement. You don’t want to lose those capabilities. You don’t want buildings deteriorating too much. You start losing windows of opportunities the further out you go.

 

Mr. Jensen – Why were the ZPR plates produced? Mr. Krueger – I don’t know the exact history. I know they were used at Argonne National Laboratory for reactor experimentation and criticality experimentation. We fabricated them at ORNL for Argonne.

Mr. Bell – Where is ORNL storing the nine cans (for potential use as certified reference material)? Mr. Krueger – They are going to have to put them in various nuclear facilities. The principal investigator doing the study is figuring that out now. The Office of Science still has to approve that. But it will probably have to be spread across a couple of different facilities.

 

Committee Reports

Board Finance & Process – Mr. Paulus reported that plans are underway for holding the annual meeting in August in Pigeon Forge.

 

Individual committee budget requests have been received and incorporated into a board budget request to DOE for FY 2013. To get better aligned with the DOE budget process, the 2013 request will be replicated and used as the FY 2014 request. Later this fall the committees will submit budget requests for FY 2015.

 

EM – Mr. Hatcher said the committee did not meet in March, but will meet again on April 25 and get an update on activities at the TWPC and the Melton Valley Storage Tanks. Mr. Adler will provide some information on a planning document for salt removal at the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment.

 

The committee will also reconsider an earlier recommendation on mercury abatement at Y-12.

 

Public Outreach – Mr. Hemelright reported that the committee met by teleconference on March 27. It reviewed the six-month panning calendar and work plan, but made no changes. A commentary written by Mr. Martin was sent to the Roane County newspaper and also appeared in the spring edition of the Advocate newsletter.

 

Mr. Martin suggested during the call that Ms. McMaster and Ms. Sakalla provide some comments to staff regarding their experience on the board to be used in a news release announcing their departure as student representatives.

 

Mr. Martin said the annual tours of the Oak Ridge Reservation conducted by the American Museum of Science and Energy would be a good opportunity for people to learn more about ORSSAB and what it does. He suggested looking into the possibility having board members meet the tour buses at the ETTP overlook and give a brief presentation about the board.

 

The committee decided to discontinue the trial advertising period with the Clinton Courier newspaper.

 

Ms. B. Jones has resigned as chair of the committee. Mr. Hemelright was elected chair and Mr. McKinney vice chair.

 

Staff is working on updating the touch screen kiosks at the ORSSAB exhibit at the American Museum of Science and Energy.

 

ORSSAB will have an exhibit at the Earth Day celebration on April 28 at Bissell Park in Oak Ridge. Mr. Hemelright encouraged board members to volunteer to staff the exhibit.

 

The committee will meet again by teleconference on April 24 at 5:30.

 

Stewardship – The committee did not meet in March. At the April 17 meeting, Mr. Stow said the committee will get an update on the development of the Oak Ridge Reservation geographic information system and related reference sheets on remediated parcels on the reservation.

 

The committee will also discuss electing a new chair as Mr. Stow will be rotating off the board in June.

 

Executive – Ms. Owen said the committee met on March 29 and reviewed the recommendation on the DOE EM budget request for FY 2014. It also confirmed the ORSSAB meeting for May 9 will have as its main presentation an overview of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

 

The committee will meet on April 26 at 5:30 p.m.

 

Announcements and Other Board Business

ORSSAB will have its next monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 9, at 6 p.m. at the DOE Information Center. The presentation will be an overview of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

 

The minutes of the March 14, 2012, meeting were approved.

 

The recommendation on the FY 2014 DOE Environmental Management Budget Request was approved (Attachment 2).

 

The EM Project Update for February/March 2012 was distributed (Attachment 3).

 

Ms. McMaster and Ms. Sakalla were recognized for their service on the board as student representatives.

 

Federal Coordinator Report

No report.

 

Additions to the Agenda

None.

 

Motions

Ms. B. Jones was not present for motions.

 

4/11/12.1

Mr. Jensen moved to approve the minutes of the March 14, 2012, meeting. Mr. Paulus seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

4/11/12.2

Mr. Hatcher moved to approve the recommendation on the FY 2014 DOE Oak Ridge Environmental Management Budget Request. Mr. Hemelright seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

The meeting adjourned at 7:50 p.m.

 

Action Items

         Open

 

         Closed

 

Attachments (3) to these minutes are available on request from the ORSSAB support office.