Status of U.S Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compacts

draft, in revision.

Intro (Transition from previous topic)

Status of Existing Radioactive Waste Disposal Sites:
There are currently three commercial Low Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) disposal facilities accepting waste from different states and federal generators. These three facilities are: the Barnwell facility located in Barnwell, South Carolina, the Hanford facility in Richland, Washington, and the Envirocare L.L.C. facility in Clive, Utah.

The Barnwell facility began operating in 1971 and has since been ran by Chem-Nuclear Systesms, L.L.C. The facility accepts all Classes (A-C) of LLRW from states within its Atlantic Compact, all states not within the Northwest and the Rocky Mountain Compacts, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. As of 2008, this facility will no longer accept waste from states outside of the Atlantic Compact due to limiting capacity concerns. Since its opening, it has filled 28 million cubic feet (90%) of its available shallow land burial disposal capacity ("Chem-Nuclear Systems").

The Hanford Site has operated on the US Department of Energy's Hanford Reservation since 1965. It is licensed by the state of Washington and ran by US Ecology on 100 acres of subleased land. This facility is the only other waste disposal facility that accepts all classes of LLRW and Naturally Accelerator-produced Radioactive Material (NARM). However, the site only accepts LLRW from those states within the Northwest and the Rocky Mountain Compacts. The operation is based on the shallow land burial method. The closing date for this site is scheduled for 2056. It is estimated that only 60% of its disposal capacity will be filled by this time ("Commercial ")

The Envirocare facility was originally established by the Department of Energy to hold uranium mine tailings from the Vitro site. In 1988, the Division of Radiation Control issued their first license to dispose of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) ("Products"). Envirocare accepts large volumes of only Class A LLRW from all states excluding those in the Northwest Compact, NARM, PCB radioactive waste, asbestos container waste, mixed waste (radioactive and chemical), and byproducts from all states. The waste is disposed of in above ground engineered disposal cells ("Process ").

Recently, in February of 2005, Lindsay Goldberg & Bessemer, a private investor group purchased the disposal facility. The new owners withdrew an application filed from 1999 for a license to accept Class B and C waste ("Products"). A permit revision in March of 2004 estimated the closure date for Envirocare in 2014 ("Attachement II"). This estimate does not account for the recent purchase by the new owners that included Cedar Mountain Environmental, which adds 536 acres to the existing site ("Products").

Status of State Compacts:
The Northwest Compact includes Alaska, Oregon, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and Washington. By default, Washington was named the host state for the compact because the Hanford facility was previously in place. The Northwest Compact entered into a contract with the Rocky Mountain Compact, which includes Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada, that effective on January 1, 1993, the Hanford facility will only accept waste from states within these two compacts. The terms of the contract equate to 140,000 cubic feet of waste from the decommissioning of the Fort St. Vrain reactor of Colorado and the amount of 6,000 cubic feet of waste per year with a 3% annual increase until the closure of the site ("History ").

The Rocky Mountain Compact has no plans to develop a facility in the future. The states within the compact do not generate a large enough volume of waste to make the cost of building a disposal facility economical ("History ").

The Southwestern Compact includes the states of Arizona, California, North Dakota, and South Dakota. California was named host site based on the volume of waste generated. Ward Valley was named as the site location with operation by US Ecology. The land, however, was owned by the Department of the Interior (DOI) and was not transferred over to the state of California. US Ecology sued the state of California for not filing an appeal against the DOI for the land transfer, but was only awarded damage claims. A bill was passed by the state of California that Ward Valley shall not be used as a waste disposal site and that any future LLRW disposal site shall be designed to "permanently isolate and completely contain radioactive waste" ("AB 2214").

Under the compact agreement, California is responsible for the storage of LLRW from the states within the compact for 30 years. Currently, the state exports the waste to Envirocare's facility in Utah. The LLRW commercial site is based on an annual count of exportation petitions collected throughout the state ("Highlights").

The Midwest Compact includes Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Ohio was originally selected as the host state, but in 1997 all efforts were halted because the volume of waste decrease dramatically, the cost of developing a facility was extensive, and there was continued access at Barnwell's facility. Ohio is no longer bound to the obligations of a host state, but is working on regulations for an "assured isolation facility" if an application for a license to build a LLRW disposal facility is filed ("Status").

The Central Compact includes Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. The settlement fee, as discussed in earlier sections, could be reduced to $141 million if the proposal made in July of 2004 by the state of Nebraska and the compact is accepted by Texas to dispose of their LLRW. The proposal to Texas included access to Texas' planned compact site for $25 million and a $5 million donation to the Texas Perpetual Care Fund ("National"). Nebraska could then rejoin the compact provided Texas accepts its proposal ("Agriculture").

The Texas Compact includes Texas and Vermont. Maine's departure from the compact became in effect in April of 2004. Maine's exit was because the decommissioning of its only nuclear power plant left Maine without a real need to be apart of a compact and the $25 million fee to Texas was not a reasonable cost. Both Maine and Vermont were expected to pay the fee in return for 50 years of access to the LLRW disposal facility that would be built. Maine will rely on the use of private firms to dispose its radioactive waste instead ("Radioactive Waste Section").

The compact currently sends its waste to Barnwell, but the Waste Control Specialists L.L.C is awaiting a license approval for the disposal of LLRW in Andrews County, Texas. The final application was completed on February 18, 2005 and a response is not expected till December 2007("Annual"). The application is for a license that would allow both a federal waste disposal facility and a commercial LLRW disposal facility to operate separately on the same site ("National").

The Central Midwest Compact includes Illinois as the acting host state and Kentucky. Illinois has reported that its disposal facility will not be opened till 2032. That date is tentatively based on the decommissioning of its nuclear power plants ("Status of Compacts'").

The Appalachian Compact includes Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The host state is Pennsylvania. It stopped its site selection process in December of 1998 due to a decrease in the volume of waste generated and the available capacity of the Barnwell facility ("Status of Compacts'").

The Atlantic Compact includes Connecticut, New Jersey, and South Carolina. All LLRW is disposed of at South Carolina's Barnwell facility ("National").

The Southeast Compact includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia. The compact has access to the Barnwell facility and has no future waste disposal plans. North Carolina was originally a member of the compact, but halted the licensing process due to budgetary reasons and withdrew from the compact in July 1999. In June of 2002, North Carolina was sued by the states within the compact for $90 million. North Carolina was not allowed access to the Barnwell facility until July 2, 2000 when the ban was lifted (Jones).

The following unaffiliated states chose to "go it alone." The District of Columbia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island have no plans to site a facility. New York and Massachusetts halted procedures to build a facility ("Status of Compacts').