US DOD and NRC define legacy clean-up roles

13 May 2016

The US Department of Defense and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlining their roles in the clean-up of radium and other unlicensed radioactive materials at military sites.

The US military has its own programme to control or remediate legacy radium contamination and to store and decontaminate equipment containing the material, and is also cleaning up other unlicensed radiological material at its sites. Congress passed legislation in 2005 giving NRC jurisdiction over radium and radiation contamination.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees clean-up work at some military sites, and the NRC has an independent federal oversight role at others. The MOU, which is the culmination of several years of discussions, sets out two ways in which the NRC will be involved in military clean-up operations. At sites without EPA oversight, NRC will monitor clean-up of unlicensed radiological material, providing independent federal oversight to confirm that remediation work is adequate to protect public health and safety and the environment. At sites with EPA oversight, it will limit its involvement to staying informed about remedial actions, oversight activities and issues.

Meanwhile, 2,247 containers of mixed wastes have been removed from the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee more than two years ahead of a September 2018 deadline. The Y-12 complex is operated by Consolidated Nuclear Security on behalf of the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). This is part of a wider effort to dispose of legacy waste materials, which is a high priority for the NNSA.

Mixed waste comprises hazardous and radioactive wastes. Some 2,100 containers of the wastes removed from Y-12 consisted of solid residues that did not require further treatment to meet disposal requirements. The remainder - solid wastes and organic solutions stored in bottles - required multiple treatment and processing steps to reduce the uranium content and where necessary to stabilize or solidify the wastes to meet transportation and disposal requirements.
Energy Solutions' Clive facility in Utah received 187 of total the 193 waste shipments, and six were sent to an "off-site federal facility".

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