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Department of Energy
Washington, D.C. 20585

APR && 1980

Honorable Stanley N. Lundine

House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Lundine:

In response to your recent letter, I am pleased to provide the views of the Department of Energy (DOE) on the value to the national waste management program of conducting a demonstration project to solidify the liquid highlevel nuclear waste by utilizing the former reprocessing plant at West Valley, New York. As you know, the Department is defining and planning the West Valley solidification project under authority derived from the FY 1980 Energy and Water Development Appropriation Act. The Department has requested funds to continue the project definition phase in FY 1981. We are preparing to carry out the project upon enactment of the authorizing legislation introduced by Senators Moynihan and Javits, and by yourself.

The proposed solidification project at West Valley would be of significant value to the national waste management program. It would demonstrate the removal, processing, and solidification of alkaline and acid high-level wastes in an integrated production scale plant. We have never demonstrated the solidification of alkaline high wastes on a significant scale. The acidic high-level wastes at West Valley are derived from thorium fuel. We have little experience with such thorium wastes. We have demonstrated the solidification of acidic uranium based high-level waste on a limited scale but have not operated a production scale system for that purpose either. The operation of such an integrated demonstration provides valuable information that is not attainable either from small-scale or limited radioactive tests, or from full-scale "cold" tests.

Specifically, the West Valley Solidification Program will provide valuable information to the national waste management program in a number of ways. A significant decontamination effort will be required including the removal of old equipment from the reprocessing plant so that the solidification project equipment can be installed. This initial decontamination of the plant and the disposition of the old equipment will give us more experience for future decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) activities.

Secondly, the project includes the removal of the dense sludge layer from the bottom of the tank, and the D&D of the storage tanks. The West Valley tanks have a complex structure that will give us operational experience that is not attainable at our sites and may advance waste removal technology. The D&D of the tanks will represent the first cleanup and disposal of a high-level waste storage tank.

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For budget purposes, our West Wellies actedE ats fiec as a remecial action pencing a definition of the scope of DE's the venent. The project definition has clearly stown that the prrect r eve com serable value as a demonstration of high-leve" werte tech ge are therefore managing the project along with our tecnology and defense verte operating programs rather than as a remedial action, and request any future authority under a seperate category in the comme Le Mangement budget.

Please let me know - car be of actione" assistance


Mr. SWIFT Thank you very much. Congressman Lundine.

I gather from your remarks you are not precluding the action suggested by the GAO but simply suggesting they not be made as conditions for passage of this bi

Mr. LUNDINE. That is right

Mr. SWIFT. Those should be examined separately and acted on separately?

Mr. LUNDINE. That is correct I think that the Congress has not taken the opportunity to make a policy decision with respect to whether we are going to have away-from-reactor storage sites. If and when we do. I wouldnt say that West Valley should be precluded from that consideration.

I personally don't think that it is an appropriate site. You have a 250-metric-ton storage pool there which is now about two-thirds already filled. In effect. West Valley is serving as an AFR at the present time and similarly with the low-leve, burial. I don't think action should be precluded

We have had some problems with leakage into the creek near the site of the low-level burial ground, but that issue really should be decided on its own ment, and I think New York State has a responsibility in that regard

Mr. SWIFT. Pending Mr. Gramm's return, the Chair recognizes, counsel.

Mr. WARD. In the science and technology consideration of this bill, an amendment was adopted which directed the Secretary to enter in A cooperative agreement with the State of New York


pursuant to the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act of 1977. What is the purpose and effect of this amendment?

Mr. LUNDINE. Well, the State and Federal Government's are going to have to define in some sort of an agreement or contract who is exactly responsible for the act, within the parameters of the legislation passed, and I don't think that should be left to deciding as you go along. It ought to be worked out on a preunderstood contractual basis, and that is the only purpose that I know of in doing that.

Mr. WARD. Section 2(b)(3)(D) of your bill authorizes the Secretary of Energy, under the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act, to conduct other activities at the site, as determined to be appropriate by the Secretary to protect public health and safety and to be in the national interest regarding the safe management of nuclear waste in the United States. That is in the Senate bill. That is also in the bill reported by your subcommittee. What is your interpretation of the effect of that provision?

Mr. LUNDINE. That was an amendment sponsored by Senator McClure in the Senate, and when I first saw it, I must say I had concern because the words "other activities" are fairly broad. I am convinced, however, and I would interpret that to mean only activities associated with the solidification project that we are authorizing here. It is not intended to give some kind of broad authorization of the Department of Energy to undertake activities unconnected with the project.

I accepted the McClure amendment in the consideration of this bill in the House frankly because I think we need to move, and the only way we are going to move is if we have exactly similar provisions.

On the other hand, I don't find it as troubling as I did on first blush, both because of the interpretation that we give to it here in the House, and also the interpretation that, as I understand it, the Department of Energy gives to it, which is rather restricted and limited to activities necessary to carry out this project. In other words, what you are doing at West Valley is to carry out a project utilizing a reprocessing plant already constructed. Anywhere else in the country you would have to build it. Here you are using something that now exists and in the process of demonstrating something that is absolutely necessary to our nuclear waste management program, and you can't foresee every activity in the legislation. I would interpret this as only giving authorization to DOE and other parties involved in the project, including New York State, to agree on other activities directly related to carrying out that project.

Mr. WARD. So it is your interpretation that under this provision the Secretary would be prohibited from transporting other waste to this site for solidification?

Mr. LUNDINE. They are not authorized to do so. I don't know that I would go so far as to use the word "prohibited." I think they could not under this authority bring any other waste.

Mr. WARD. Is it your intent under this bill to require that the solidification at the site be in the final form, or would the Secretary be authorized to go to an intermediate form for shipment offsite to be eventually placed in a final form in another location?

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: requires either one. There are rrently available to solidify nuclear enstrated here in laboratories and tt want to mandate the type of techment of Energy to use the best availa<mplementation of the project.


> requires is that it be solidified to the transported off the site. Some intermediay not be determined to meet that criteria. criction that the Science Committee intend

ar recognizes the gentleman from Texas, Mr. you, Mr. Chairman. I don't have any ques"Chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois, Mr.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would say to my cue from New York that I regret not being here to c of his formal remarks, but I do have a couple of ... as you know, the situation at West Valley could be some extent if we were to permit private industry to he reprocessing of the spent nuclear fuel, and I am just the author of this legislation has given any considerapact that reprocessing might have on the spent el which is presently at the West Valley site, if he has www.on that.

MUNDINE. Well, yes, I do. No doubt later witnesses, particuNuclear Fuel Services, can give you the details of that better 1, but I have concluded that even if this Nation makes the mation we are going to resume reprocessing, West Valley is te.ible location to carry that out.

was a first generation plant, not meeting current criteria, and think there is any cost-effective way it could ever be modinel to meet current criteria. The experience of 5 or 6 years of reprocessing there, is valuable determining what is needed, should the country decide that we song to again resume reprocessing. But, I don't think there is any practical possibility that West Valley could be used as a reprocplant again, and so it doesn't seem to me that that is a

lution to the problem.

ALL CORCORAN. My knowledge of the reprocessing technology is and much different from your own, but what I had in mind was not much the reactivation of the West Valley facility as a reprocesslus wit, but rather the impact on the waste which is there, that poing elsewhere would have.

MI LONDISE Sure. De understand, though, that this bill only

the here, sound waste and some means of dealing with the high less fat wastes that come out of the reprocessing marathi gang % be necessary even if we do resume reprocessother plants Reprocessing would not alleviate the necessity ... with high-level liquid waste. There is almost 600.000 gallons


on highly radioactive liquid waste in that steel tank in the ground at West Valley directly resulting from the reprocessing operation.

If we were to resume reprocessing at Barnwell, or anyplace else in this country, we would have to deal with that waste, and this demonstration would be useful to determine how you would handle

it. But it is true, certainly, that the nearly 200 metric tons of spent fuel rods being stored in the pool at West Valley would be candidates just as spent fuel rods stored at reactor sites all over the country are being used as a raw material should we resume reprocessing.

Mr. CORCORAN. If I understand reprocessing, it means that you would take the material that you have either at West Valley or in any of the other interim storage basins around the country and recycle it, so, first of all, you would separate out a lot of the unused uranium. Second, you would isolate the plutonium, and, third, you would reach the high-level radioactive waste which has no energy value at all, and it would be my thought, and this is the pertinence of your legislation, that until you recycle it, as I have just suggested, you don't get to that third element, which is the material which ultimately would be vitrified. Therefore, my question is: Are you suggesting in this legislation that you are going to vitrify all of those so-called wastes that are at West Valley, or are you recommending that you recycle it to the point where you end up with material which is strictly waste as opposed to some of that material which in many of the storage pools can be reused?

Mr. LUNDINE. West Valley should not determine the major national policy question of whether to resume reprocessing or not. I am suggesting that we vitrify or otherwise solidify the 580,000 gallons of liquid waste. It would indeed, as the gentleman from Illinois points out, be very valuable if we proceed with a reprocessing program in this country, as far as the commercial nuclear program in America goes.

But, in any event, we have high-level waste from military and other uses that we have to deal with, and so I don't think it would be a useless or idle determination, even if reprocessing is not resumed.

Mr. CORCORAN. One other question I have relates to a second amendment which the Senator from Idaho, Senator McClure, attached to the Senate bill, and this is the language that would preclude in S. 2443, "The transfer to the United States of title to the high-level liquid waste or to the project site."

Now, it is my understanding, I would say to my friend and the author of the companion House legislation, that the House measure as introduced does not include that language, and I would just raise the point that I would hope that the final version which might be sent to the President would not include that language, at least as I understand it, because I don't think that we want to preclude the transfer of title on the waste and certainly I don't want to see us preclude the transfer of the site because, as you well know, there is legislation pending, and there certainly is a strong sentiment on the part of the Department that we deal with this interim storage, and one of the candidate sites for interim storage is the West Valley site. Another site happens to be in my district

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