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TitleLong-Term Institutional Management of U.S. Department of Energy Legacy Waste Sites
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Long-Term Institutional
Management of U.S. Department of

Energy Legacy Waste Sites

Committee on the Remediation of Buried and Tank Wastes

Board on Radioactive Waste Management
Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

National Research Council

Washington, D.C.

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4. They may help to decide the relative balance of contaminant reduction, contaminant isolation, and steward-
ship activities to be used in achieving a desired future state for the site.

5. They may influence choices concerning specific approaches and techniques (e.g., a preference for vitrifica-
tion over grouting, a desire to have deed restrictions as well as zoning, or an objection to the use of on-site

Varying Direction and Strength of Influence

Interested and affected parties do not always hold the same views; sometimes, in fact, they may be diametri-
cally opposed. Nevertheless, at a given site and point in time there may be a view that becomes dominant, whether
by virtue of its number of proponents, their outspokenness, or their influence over local politics and the local
economy. In addition, those with management or oversight responsibilities for a site often live in the community
in which the site is located and may, over time, develop close ties with local leaders who are seeking to influence
site management decisions. Those responsible for site management or oversight may also change jobs within the
community, crossing over to become local leaders and, in some cases, strengthening the dominant view.

In some cases, the dominant view may favor making a site acceptable for unrestricted use, even if funds are
scarce and current technical capability is limited. In other cases, however, the dominant view may favor inexpen-
sive remedies and rapid reuse, even if it means restricted use. At the former K-25 area (now the East Tennessee
Technology Park) at the Oak Ridge Reservation, buildings are being aggressively marketed for lease by the
Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET). As an example of the lease arrangements, lndustries
leasing space in the building, formerly used for milling and fabrication, are responsible for cleanup of the areas
they use, but only to 8 feet off the ground. They are required to keep their operations confined to below that level.

The dominant view may moderate, however, as information is shared among interested and affected parties.
For example, many members of the community surrounding the Fernald Site in Ohio originally supported the
removal of all contaminants from the site. After extensive fact finding and dedicated participation by interested
and affected parties, a site remediation plan was developed and agreed upon that allowed the creation of an on-site
waste disposal cell. Such possible changes in the preferences of the public and the makeup of the communities
over time must be recognized.

In addition to varying directionality, there are varying degrees of strength in influence. In some instances the
input of interested and affected parties has been pivotal to site disposition decisions (e.g., the goals for removing
waste from Hanford Reservation tanks, the decision to cap certain waste burial grounds at Oak Ridge Reservation
in Tennessee, and the industrial reuse of parts of the Mound Plant in Ohio). In contrast, there are situations where
the views of interested and affected parties have seemingly had little effect on site disposition decisions.


A number of other sites can influence disposition decisions concerning the waste site in question. These other
sites can be categorized as:

• nearby contaminated sites;
• nearby property outside the facility;
• receptor sites; and
• similar sites.

Each is discussed below.

Nearby Contaminated Sites

In many cases, contaminated sites are located within a larger contaminated area. For example, waste burial
grounds tend to be built close to each other to take advantage of natural features, to facilitate the burial grounds’

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operation, and to make security measures easier. In addition, if waste sites have leaked, nearby contaminated soil
and water may come to be viewed as a distinct contaminated site. The close juxtaposition of contaminated areas or
of contamination problems of qualitatively different types can both complicate remediation planning and limit the
ability of cleanup goals to be achieved. Groundwater does not respect site boundaries, a reality that may necessi-
tate a broader context than that of the individual site (or Òoperable unitÓ) for specifying the desired future state. The
implication for long-term stewardship is that the remediation of individual sites may be directed at end uses that,
if implemented, would have high probabilities of failure given the larger site context.

Nearby Property Outside the Facility

DOE facilities do not exist in isolation. Each is surrounded by property (land and/or water) that is not under
DOE control. To the extent that a waste site is near the facility boundary or has contaminants that may migrate
across the boundary, this outside property can affect and be affected by the waste site. Outside property affects
disposition decisions because it may present potential for exposure to contaminants. Actions on property outside
the waste site (e.g., a more intensive use of a buffer zone or use of resources such as water flowing from the site)
may increase the possibility of human exposure to contaminants. For example, sites in the arid western U.S. such
as the Nevada Test Site were selected in part on the assumption that nearby population density and water demand
would remain low, but the rapid population increase in recent decades in Las Vegas, Nevada, with a consequent
expansion of its water demand and settlement boundaries, is clear evidence that this assumption may be wrong. To
deal with greater exposure possibilities arising from changes in off-site activities, more elaborate measures (con-
taminant reduction, contaminant isolation, and/or stewardship) may be necessary on site.

In addition, changes in the type and intensity of surrounding land and water use can affect the physical
characteristics of the waste site in question. For example, changes in water use can affect hydrological conditions
at the waste site, which can in turn affect the performance of contaminant isolation technologies. At the Hanford
Site it has been suggested that irrigated agriculture in areas to the north of the City of Richland could have the
beneficial effect of creating a groundwater mound that could help assure protection of groundwater in nearby
industrial areas from site-derived contaminants. Similarly, macroscale changes such as global climate change may
have unanticipated effects on the waste site.

Receptor Sites

Any remediation activity produces primary wastes (e.g., high-level waste forms and low-level and mixed
waste packages) and secondary wastes (e.g., contaminated equipment and fluids, incinerator ash) that must be
managed, and contamination reduction by waste removal may generate a large amount of additional waste. Often,
the destination of these wastes is another facility (owned either by DOE or a private company), which may be far
from the originating site. As a consequence, while risks at the originating site usually are decreased (Òusually,Ó
because cleanup and transportation worker exposure may entail risks), risks may be increased at the receptor site
as well as along transportation routes. Receptor sites can affect disposition decisions at the originating site in a
number of ways. Of these, two stand out.

First, the risks may not be acceptable to the receptor site, as well as to those along the transportation routes.
For example, the Tennessee state government has taken the position that use of the mixed waste incinerator at the
Oak Ridge Reservation is to be restricted to on-site wastes except in ÒemergencyÓ situations. As another example,
the residents of Santa Fe, New Mexico, concerned about the transport of transuranic wastes through Santa Fe to the
Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) site near Carlsbad, New Mexico, successfully initiated a movement to build
a bypass.

Second, even if the receptor site does accept the waste, its waste acceptance criteria can shape decisions
concerning contaminant reduction processes at the originating site. For example, the calcined high-level tank
wastes stored at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) do not meet waste
acceptance standards for the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and must therefore be further
processed, at possibly another site (one option would be to ship the wastes to the Hanford Site for vitrification). As

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The committee uses certain terms throughout this report. Their definitions are assembled here to assist the

Long-Term Institutional ManagementÑ A comprehensive approach to planning and decision-making for man-
agement of contaminated sites, facilities, and materials.

Contaminant ReductionÑ Activities that decrease the volume or toxicity of contaminants at a particular location.
These include destruction, decontamination, treatment and processing, natural and radioactive decay, and

Contaminant IsolationÑ Use of natural or engineered barriers and stabilization techniques to prevent or limit the
migration of contaminants and to prevent human intrusion.

Contaminant RemediationÑ Contaminant reduction and contaminant isolation.
StewardshipÑ Activities that will be required to manage potentially harmful residual contamination left on site

after cessation of remediation efforts, including:
¥ maintaining contaminant isolation and measures to monitor the migration and attenuation or evolution of

residual contaminants;
¥ institutional controls (see definition below);
¥ conducting oversight and, if necessary, enforcement;
¥ gathering, storing, and retrieving information about residual contaminants and conditions on site, as well

as about changing off-site conditions that may affect or be affected by residual contaminants;
¥ disseminating information about the site and related use restrictions;
¥ periodically reevaluating how well the total protective system is working;
¥ evaluating of new technological options to reduce or eliminate residual contaminants or to monitor and

prevent migration of isolated contaminants; and
¥ supporting research and development aimed at improving basic understanding of both the physical and

sociopolitical character of site environments and the fate, transport, and effects of residual site contami-

Institutional ControlsÑ Restrictions on land access or use through such devices as easements, deed notification,
zoning, permits, fences, signs, government ownership, and leases; also, legal measures to ensure continued
access to privatized sites for the purpose of monitoring and, if necessary, further remediation.



Definitions of Terms Used in This Report

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Contextual FactorsÑ Factors that can affect the nature and extent of the measures taken under long-term institu-
tional management; seven factors in particular often constrain the range of decisions and actions realistically
¥ risk;
¥ scientific and technical capability;
¥ institutional capability;
¥ cost;
¥ laws and regulations;
¥ values of interested and affected parties; and
¥ other sites.


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