After extensive briefings and discussions on February 1 and 2,
the Group made the following recommendations and observations:
Overall Fissile Materials Disposition Program
The group urged DOE to pay more attention to the timeliness factor,
to ensure that timeliness is balanced with other considerations
at each step of the decision making process. DOE noted that the
actual disposition schedule will likely be a carefully negotiated
schedule with the Russians, analogous to the Start II negotiated
How this process is perceived by non-nuclear states is driven
more by when we start plutonium disposition than how long it takes
to complete disposition. We should start as soon as possible,
and the process should not exclude continued parallel approaches
or phased approaches as new technologies are developed. Completion
of the disposition mission in both countries is also urgent from
an international security standpoint.
The group noted the great difficulty of projecting impacts of
low levels of radiation exposure to workers. While the group
clearly agrees that plutonium disposition activities should be
required to meet existing standards, they urged that DOE be cautious
about using ICRP and NCRP recommended models, developed for setting
standards, to project actual impacts since these models are conservative
and not intended for this use.
The group expressed several concerns regarding disposition activities in Russia:
It was noted that the National Academy of Sciences report has
spoken -- the presence of these materials is a "clear and
present danger" -- but neither nation appears to be acting
Plutonium Immobilization Alternatives
Questions were raised about whether the Can-In-Canister approach
could meet the spent fuel standard, because it eliminates the
need for reprocessing to recover the plutonium. DOE indicated
that they had not yet concluded whether it does or does not meet
the spent fuel standard.
The group urged that the responsibility of the group working on the Can-In-Canister option to evaluate adherence to the spent fuel standard not be diluted by any transfer of that responsibility to a "red team". Such responsibility should not be transferred, but the "red team" should do an independent evaluation of the issue. The group has concerns about the composition of the "red team", and about whether one can get an unbiased and independent view from the team, particularly if it includes people who are involved in one or more of the alternatives.
One benefit of the introduction of fission products as a radiation
barrier is that it is an aspect of security that can be discussed
publicly. Some other barriers are such that public discussion
itself can decrease their effectiveness. The entire process thus
far has been conducted in an open way, and if this "red team"
operates out of the public view, the credibility of the entire
process and its results may be questioned.
The "red team" may be a good idea, but be careful to
select people who are independent, balanced, and concerned about
getting the best answer. DOE noted that the "red" team
will not come up with a go-no go decision on any alternative,
but will conduct an evaluation of each alternative. They will
develop scenarios related to both the process and the final form,
and will point out weak links.
Three of the four immobilization areas selected by DOE to "emphasize"
involve Can-In-Canister. If it turns out that Can-In-Canister
does not meet the spent fuel standard, then it should be eliminated.
That would eliminate three of the four vitrification options,
and leave the "vitrification with adjunct melter" as
the only vitrification approach to emphasize.
Even though phosphate glass ranks third in the multi-attribute
utility analysis, it is not being pursued because it is corrosive.
The group asked: if corrosiveness was not one of the criteria
used in the multi-attribute analysis, how do we know that there
are not other important criteria that were also left out of the
analysis? DOE replied that there is not an absolute way to know,
but the criteria were developed with the help of an international
team with a great deal of expertise in these areas.
Additional Points on Immobilization
U.S./Russian Joint Work
The group was pleased to see very significant progress on the
joint work with Russia. This work is important, and DOE is urged
to keep this joint work going after the current reports are finished
in June. These studies should be followed by joint research and
development work, which the countries can use to jointly evaluate
options, and to provide a basis for political leaders to make
Deep Borehole Disposition
The recent work done by DOE and presented at this meeting showed
that the technical basis for this option may be stronger than
the group had recognized. However, it has not yet been determined
whether it meets the spent fuel standard; and there are still
very serious questions about the ability to site, and the ability
to license, a deep borehole, especially in light of our experience
with high level waste siting efforts. Each case has been a highly
emotional and political issue, and unreasonable standards have
been applied. The time required for site selection and licensing
is an important consideration, and will likely make this option
DOE noted that this is the only alternative that does not eventually
rely upon a high level waste repository. All the other alternatives
have at least some high level waste that must be disposed of in
If this option is pursued, it should also be examined regarding
its impact on the Yucca Mountain Project and the Waste Isolation
The following members attended the February 1 and 2, 1996 Senior
Technical Review Group meeting in Washington, DC:
Draper, Fry, Kennedy, Kratzer, Muntzing, Nelson, Roessler, Taylor,