Low-Level Radioactive Wastes: Department of Energy Has Opportunities to Reduce Disposal Costs, Report to Congressional Requesters   [open pdf - 5MB]

"The limited availability of disposal alternatives is the principal factor influencing DOEs decisions about the treatment, storage, and disposal of its low-level and mixed wastes. Four of DOEs six disposal sites"the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory; Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico; Oak Ridge Reservation, Tennessee; and Savannah River Site, South Carolina"are restricted to disposing almost exclusively of their own wastes because of limits on their remaining disposal capacity and/or unfavorable site conditions, such as proximity to groundwater or relatively wet climates. The other two disposal sites"the Hanford Site in Washington State and the Nevada Test Site"have relatively dry climates and enough capacity to dispose of nearly all the low-level and mixed wastes generated at DOEs nuclear facilities nationwide. Access to the disposal facilities at these two sites has, however, been limited in three ways. First, DOE formerly directed most of its waste-generating sites to use one, but not both, of the two facilities. Second, some of DOEs waste-generating sites did not have access to either disposal facility because DOE stopped granting new access to the two facilities in 1990 pending the completion of an environmental review of its waste programs, which was recently completed. Third, neither the Hanford nor the Nevada facility currently disposes of mixed wastes generated at DOE sites in other states. Some waste-generating sites have been able to use a commercial disposal facility, but the only facility that is readily available can accept only wastes that are very lightly contaminated with radioactivity. With such limited access to disposal facilities, DOEs waste managers have had few opportunities to consider costs when making disposal decisions. On February 25, 2000, DOE adopted a new policy that will make the disposal facilities at the Nevada Test Site and the Hanford Site available to all of its wastegenerating sites, for both low-level and mixed wastes."

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Government Accountability Office (GAO): http://www.gao.gov/
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