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Greater-Than-Class-C Low-Level Radioactive Waste EIS
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Frequently Asked Questions

Greater-Than-Class C Low-Level Radioactive Waste (GTCC LLRW) and GTCC-like Waste

For purposes of the EIS, these wastes are addressed as three waste types: sealed sources, activated metals, and Other Wastes.

Greater-Than-Class C (GTCC) LLRW is LLRW in which the concentrations of radionuclides exceed the limits for Class C LLRW established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 10 CFR 61.55. GTCC LLRW is generated in the commercial sector under NRC or Agreement State licensed activities.

The NRC has categorized LLRW into four classes (A, B, C, and GTCC) based on the concentration of specific short-lived and long-lived radionuclides given in two tables in 10 CFR 61.55. These waste categories are illustrated in the following table.

NRC Category Description Disposal Method
Class A Least hazardous - short & long-lived waste that will not endanger inadvertent human intruder beyond 100 years Near-Surface
Class B More hazardous - short-lived wastes that will not endanger inadvertent intruder beyond 100 years Near-Surface with 300 year waste stability
Class C More hazardous short and long-lived wastes that will not endanger inadvertent intruder beyond 500 years Near-Surface with 300 year waste stability, and greater depth or 500 year intruder barrier
Greater-Than-Class C Most hazardous of LLRW - dangerous to inadvertent intruder beyond 500 years. Must be disposed in geologic repository unless alternate method proposed by DOE and approved by NRC To be determined

In addition to the GTCC LLRW generated as a result of NRC or Agreement State licensed activities, DOE generates or owns waste containing concentrations of radionuclides that are similar to GTCC LLRW. These wastes are referred to as GTCC-like waste, and are being addressed in this EIS along with GTCC LLRW.

Three Waste Types

For purposes of the EIS, GTCC LLRW and GTCC-like waste are being addressed as being in one of three waste types: sealed sources, activated metals, and Other Wastes.

Sealed Sources

Shipping cases for abandoned sources.click to view larger image
Shipping cases for abandoned sources.

Sealed sources consist of small quantities of highly radioactive materials enclosed in metal containers. These sources are commonly used to sterilize medical products, detect flaws and failures in pipelines and metal welds, determine moisture content in soil and other materials, and diagnose and treat illnesses such as cancer. Radionuclides commonly used in sealed sources include cesium-137 and americium-241.

 

Five well logging sources being loaded.click to view larger image
Well Logging Sources
Photo of industrial radiography source.click to view larger image
Sealed Source
Photo of industrial radiography source.click to view larger image
Sealed Source

Activated Metals

Photo of activated metal.click to view larger image
Activated metal

Activated metals result from decommissioning nuclear reactors. Portions of the reactor assembly and other components near the nuclear fuel are activated by neutrons during reactor operations, producing high concentrations or radionuclides. The major radionuclides in these wastes are typically manganese-54, iron-55, cobalt-60, and nickel-63.


Other Waste

Photo of gloveboxes.click to view larger image
Other Waste (Contaminated Gloveboxes)

The third waste type is Other Waste resulting from the planned domestic production of molybdenum-99, which is used in medical procedures (e.g., to detect cancer); the production of radioisotope power systems in support of space exploration and national security; and the environmental cleanup of commercial and DOE sites. This waste type includes contaminated equipment, debris, trash, scrap metal, and decontamination and decommissioning waste. These wastes can include a number of physical forms and a range of radionuclides may be present in these wastes. The radionuclides of most concern in these wastes are generally expected to be technetium-99, cesium-137, and americium-241.

A majority of the GTCC-like waste in this waste type consists of transuranic (TRU) waste that may have originated from non-defense activities, and therefore is not authorized for disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) under the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Land Withdrawal Act of 1992, Public Law 102-579, and has no other currently identified path to disposal. That is, these wastes may contain concentrations of alpha-emitting TRU radionuclides with half-lives greater than 20 years in concentrations exceeding 100 nanocuries per gram (nCi/g). These TRU wastes may not have a path to disposal if they are determined to have been generated from non-defense activities. The long-term hazard associated with these wastes is similar to that posed by other GTCC LLRW, and are being addressed in this EIS.

Links to additional information on this topic are also available on the Links page.