[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 119 (Tuesday, June 23, 2009)]
[Pages 29694-29697]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-14706]



[EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0372; FRL-8921-7]

Proposed Approval of the Central Characterization Project's 
Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste Characterization Program at General 
Electric Vallecitos Nuclear Center

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency.

ACTION: Notice of availability; opening of public comment period.


SUMMARY: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) is 
announcing the availability of, and soliciting public comments for 45 
days on, the proposed approval of the radioactive, remote-handled (RH), 
transuranic (TRU) waste characterization program implemented by the 
Central Characterization Project (CCP) at General Electric Vallecitos 
Nuclear Center in Sunol, California. This waste is intended for 
disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico.
    In accordance with the WIPP Compliance Criteria, EPA evaluated the 
characterization of RH TRU debris waste from GEVNC-CCP during an 
inspection conducted on December 2-4, 2008. Using the systems and 
processes developed as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) 
Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) program, EPA verified whether DOE could 
adequately characterize RH TRU waste, consistent with the Compliance 
Criteria. The results of EPA's evaluation of GEVNC-CCP's RH program and 
its proposed approval are described in the Agency's inspection report, 
which is available for review in the public dockets listed in 
ADDRESSES. We will consider public comments received on or before the 
due date mentioned in DATES.
    This notice summarizes the waste characterization processes 
evaluated by EPA and EPA's proposed approval. As required by the 40 CFR 
194.8, at the end of a 45-day comment period EPA will evaluate public 
comments received, and if appropriate, finalize the reports responding 
to the relevant public comments, and issue a final report and approval 
letter to DOE.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before August 7, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-
OAR-2009-0372, by one of the following methods:
     http://www.regulations.gov: Follow the on-line 
instructions for submitting comments.
     E-mail: to [email protected].
     Fax: 202-566-1741.
     Mail: Air and Radiation Docket and Information Center, 
Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode: 6102T, 1200 Pennsylvania 
Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460.
    Instructions: Direct your comments to Attn: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-
OAR-2009-0372. The Agency's policy is that all comments received will 
be included in the public docket without change and may be made 
available online at http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal 
information provided, unless the comment includes information claimed 
to be Confidential Business Information (CBI) or other information 
whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Do not submit information 
that you consider to be CBI or otherwise protected through http://www.regulations.gov or e-mail. The http://www.regulations.gov Web site 
is an ``anonymous access'' system, which means EPA will not know your 
identity or contact information unless you provide it in the body of 
your comment. If you send an e-mail comment directly to EPA without 
going through http://www.regulations.gov your e-mail address will be 
automatically captured and included as part of the comment that is 
placed in the public docket and made available on the Internet. If you 
submit an electronic comment, EPA recommends that you include your name 
and other contact information in the body of your comment and with any 
disk or CD-ROM you submit. If EPA cannot read your comment due to 
technical difficulties and cannot contact you for clarification, EPA 
may not be able to consider your comment. Electronic files should avoid 
the use of special characters, any form of encryption, and be free of 
any defects or viruses. For additional information about EPA's public 
docket visit the EPA Docket Center homepage at http://www.epa.gov/epahome/dockets.htm.
    Docket: All documents in the docket are listed in the http://www.regulations.gov index. Although listed in the index, some 
information is not publicly available, e.g., CBI or other information 
whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Certain other material, such 
as copyrighted material,

[[Page 29695]]

will be publicly available only in hard copy. Publicly available docket 
materials are available either electronically at http://www.regulations.gov. As provided in EPA's regulations at 40 CFR part 2, 
and in accordance with normal EPA docket procedures, if copies of any 
docket materials are requested, a reasonable fee may be charged for 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rajani Joglekar or Ed Feltcorn, 
Radiation Protection Division, Center for Waste Management and 
Regulations, Mail Code 6608J, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20460; telephone number: 202-
343-9601; fax number: 202-343-2305; e-mail address: 
<[email protected]> or <[email protected]>.


I. General Information

A. What Should I Consider as I Prepare My Comments for EPA?

    1. Submitting CBI. Do not submit this information to EPA through 
http://www.regulations.gov or e-mail. Clearly mark the part or all of 
the information that you claim to be CBI. For CBI information in a disk 
or CD-ROM that you mail to EPA, mark the outside of the disk or CD-ROM 
as CBI and then identify electronically within the disk or CD-ROM the 
specific information that is claimed as CBI. In addition to one 
complete version of the comment that includes information claimed as 
CBI, a copy of the comment that does not contain the information 
claimed as CBI must be submitted for inclusion in the public docket. 
Information so marked will not be disclosed except in accordance with 
procedures set forth in 40 CFR part 2.
    2. Tips for Preparing Your Comments. When submitting comments, 
remember to:
     Identify the rulemaking by docket number and other 
identifying information (subject heading, Federal Register date and 
page number).
     Follow directions--The agency may ask you to respond to 
specific questions or organize comments by referencing a Code of 
Federal Regulations (CFR) part or section number.
     Explain why you agree or disagree; suggest alternatives 
and substitute language for your requested changes.
     Describe any assumptions and provide any technical 
information and/or data that you used.
     If you estimate potential costs or burdens, explain how 
you arrived at your estimate in sufficient detail to allow for it to be 
     Provide specific examples to illustrate your concerns, and 
suggest alternatives.
     Explain your views as clearly as possible, avoiding the 
use of profanity or personal threats.
     Make sure to submit your comments by the comment period 
deadline identified.

II. Background

    DOE is developing the WIPP, near Carlsbad in southeastern New 
Mexico, as a deep geologic repository for disposal of TRU radioactive 
waste. As defined by the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act (LWA) of 1992 (Pub. 
L. No. 102-579), as amended (Pub. L. No. 104-201), TRU waste consists 
of materials with radionuclides that have atomic numbers greater than 
92 (with half-lives greater than twenty years), in concentrations 
greater than 100 nanocuries of alpha-emitting TRU isotopes per gram of 
waste. Much of the existing TRU waste consists of items contaminated 
during the production of nuclear weapons, such as rags, equipment, 
tools, and sludges.
    TRU waste is itself divided into two categories, based on its level 
of radioactivity. Contact-handled (CH) TRU waste accounts for about 97 
percent of the volume of TRU waste currently destined for the WIPP. It 
is packaged in 55-gallon metal drums or in metal boxes and can be 
handled under controlled conditions without any shielding beyond the 
container itself. The maximum radiation dose at the surface of a CH TRU 
waste container is 200 millirems per hour. CH waste primarily emits 
alpha particles that are easily shielded by a sheet of paper or the 
outer layer of a person's skin.
    Remote-handled (RH) TRU waste emits more radiation than CH TRU 
waste and must therefore be both handled and transported in specially 
shielded containers. Surface radiation levels of unshielded containers 
of remote-handled transuranic waste exceed 200 millirems per hour. RH 
waste primarily emits gamma radiation, which is very penetrating and 
requires concrete, lead, or steel to block it.
    On May 13, 1998, EPA issued a final certification of compliance for 
the WIPP facility. The final rule was published in the Federal Register 
on May 18, 1998 (63 FR 27354). EPA officially recertified WIPP on March 
29, 2006 (71 FR 18015). Both the certification and recertification 
determined that WIPP complies with the Agency's radioactive waste 
disposal regulations at 40 CFR part 191, subparts B and C, and is 
therefore safe to contain TRU waste.
    The final WIPP certification decision includes conditions that (1) 
prohibit shipment of TRU waste for disposal at WIPP from any site other 
than the Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL) until the EPA 
determines that the site has established and executed a quality 
assurance program, in accordance with 194.22(a)(2)(i), 194.24(c)(3), 
and 194.24(c)(5) for waste characterization activities and assumptions 
(Condition 2 of Appendix A to 40 CFR part 194); and (2) (with the 
exception of specific, limited waste streams and equipment at LANL) 
prohibit shipment of TRU waste for disposal at WIPP (from LANL or any 
other site) until EPA has approved the procedures developed to comply 
with the waste characterization requirements of 194.22(c)(4) (Condition 
3 of Appendix A to 40 CFR part 194). The EPA's approval process for 
waste generator sites is described in Section 194.8 (revised July 
    Condition 3 of the WIPP Certification Decision requires EPA to 
conduct independent inspections at DOE's waste generator/storage sites 
of their TRU waste characterization capabilities before approving their 
program and the waste for disposal at the WIPP. EPA's inspection and 
approval process gives EPA (a) discretion in establishing technical 
priorities, (b) the ability to accommodate variation in the site's 
waste characterization capabilities, and (c) flexibility in scheduling 
site waste characterization inspections.
    As described in Section 194.8(b), EPA's baseline inspections 
evaluate each waste characterization process component (equipment, 
procedures, and personnel training/experience) for its adequacy and 
appropriateness in characterizing TRU waste destined for disposal at 
WIPP. During an inspection, the site demonstrates its capabilities to 
characterize TRU waste(s) and its ability to comply with the regulatory 
limits and tracking requirements under 194.24. A baseline inspection 
may describe any limitations on approved waste streams or waste 
characterization processes [Sec.  194.8(b)(2)(iii)]. In addition, a 
baseline inspection approval must specify what subsequent waste 
characterization program changes or expansion should be reported to EPA 
[Sec.  194.8(b)(4)]. The Agency is required to assign Tier 1 (T1) and 
Tier 2 (T2) designations to the reportable changes depending on their 
potential impact on data quality. A T1 designation requires that the 
site must notify EPA of proposed changes to the approved components of 
an individual waste characterization process (such as radioassay 
equipment or personnel), and EPA must also approve the change

[[Page 29696]]

before it can be implemented. A waste characterization element with a 
T2 designation allows the site to implement changes to the approved 
components of individual waste characterization processes (such as 
visual examination procedures) but requires EPA notification. The 
Agency may choose to inspect the site to evaluate technical adequacy 
before approval. EPA inspections conducted to evaluate T1 or T2 changes 
are follow-up inspections under the authority of Sec.  194.24(h). In 
addition to the follow-up inspections, if warranted, EPA may opt to 
conduct continued compliance inspections at TRU waste sites with a 
baseline approval under the authority of Sec.  194.24(h).
    The site inspection and approval process outlined in Sec.  194.8 
requires EPA to issue a Federal Register notice proposing the baseline 
compliance decision, docket the inspection report for public review, 
and seek public comment on the proposed decision for a period of 45 
days. The report must describe the waste characterization processes EPA 
inspected at the site, as well as their compliance with Sec.  194.24 

III. Proposed Baseline Compliance Decision

    EPA has performed a baseline inspection of RH TRU waste 
characterization activities at GEVNC-CCP (EPA Inspection No. EPA-GEVNC-
CCP-RH-12.08-8). The purpose of EPA's inspection was to verify that the 
waste characterization program implemented at GEVNC-CCP for 
characterizing RH TRU, retrievably-stored, debris waste is technically 
adequate and meets the regulatory requirements at 40 CFR 194.24.
    The RH waste that DOE is proposing for WIPP disposal is from the 
decontamination and demolition (D&D) of Hot Cell 4 in Building 102 at 
GEVNC between 2008 and 2009. The hot cells were used primarily for non-
destructive examination of fuel materials and the production of 
radionuclide sources. The examinations consisted mainly of post-
irradiation examination (PIE) of uranium fuel and reactor components 
until 1982. Since then, the hot cell has been used for the production 
of radionuclide sources.
    Initially, CCP was not prepared for the EPA inspection and did not 
provide sufficient objective evidence for the Agency's evaluation 
during the inspection. This resulted in EPA identifying several 
significant issues. EPA concluded that the inspection could not be 
completed and that extensive documentation revisions were necessary. In 
early 2009, CCP provided revised documentation in the form of 
additional technical information and objective evidence in response to 
the outstanding issues EPA had identified previously. These are 
discussed in EPA's GEVNC Inspection Report (EPA DOCKET NO: A-98-49, II-
A4-113) available in the regulatory docket accompanying this FR notice.
    The inspection scope covered only one RH waste stream (GEVNC.01); 
no additional RH TRU waste is to be generated during the D&D of the Hot 
Cell 4. This inspection's focus was to evaluate the acceptable 
knowledge (AK) records that had been assembled to document RH TRU WC 
activities, in conjunction with the development of scaling factors, 
dose-to-curie (DTC) and visual examination (VE) to confirm physical and 
radiological contents of individual TRU RH debris waste containers, and 
the use of the WIPP Waste Information System (WWIS) to report and track 
waste information. This inspection was similar to previous EPA 
inspections of CCP WC activities at RH waste sites (see Air Docket Nos. 
A-98-49, II-A4-72; A-98-49, II-A4-73; A-98-49, II-A4-96; A-98-49, II-
A4-104; and A-98-49, II-A4-111). Today's proposed baseline approval, 
therefore, is limited to one retrievably-stored RH TRU debris waste 
stream (GEVNC.01).
    The EPA inspection team identified one finding and five concerns 
related to WC processes GEVNC-CCP implemented to characterize RH debris 
waste (see Attachments B.1 through B.6 of the accompanying inspection 
report). GEVNC-CCP revised a number of specific documents to address 
the EPA finding and concerns.
    After reviewing the documents provided by DOE through early 2009, 
EPA determined that the GEVNC-CCP RH WC program was technically 
adequate and that all concerns have been resolved. Therefore, EPA is 
proposing to approve the following GEVNC-CCP RH WC program components 
implemented to characterize GEVNC RH Waste Stream GEVNC.01 only:

(1) The AK process for the RH TRU debris waste stream designated as 
Waste Stream GEVNC.01 generated during the D&D of Hot Cell 4
(2) The radiological characterization process using DTC and scaling 
factors for assigning radionuclide values to Waste Stream GEVNC.01 that 
is documented in CCP-AK-GEV-501, Revision 1, as supported by the 
revised calculation packages and detailed in EPA's GEVNC Inspection 
Report mentioned above
(3) The VE process to identify waste material parameters (WMPs) and the 
physical form of the waste
(4) The WWIS to submit data for both characterization and certification 
for RH TRU waste
(5) The attainment of pertinent data quality objectives (DQOs)

    Since all the RH waste at GEVNC is only one debris waste stream 
from D&D activities, no Tier 1 (T1) changes for the EPA-evaluated waste 
characterization components are needed. No additional RH TRU debris 
waste streams requiring characterization by CCP for disposal at the 
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant will be generated. Following an EPA 
inspection, CCP and other TRU sites routinely revise WC procedures as 
additional waste containers are characterized and waste-related 
information is generated. EPA refers to these changes as Tier 2 (T2) 
changes that require EPA review at regular intervals. The waste stream 
at GEVNC to be disposed of at the WIPP is of limited volume, and as of 
the date of this proposed report, more than 75% of the waste has been 
characterized and packaged. Soon after the CBFO issues a certification, 
all of the RH TRU waste will be disposed. No additional RH debris waste 
characterization will occur once the debris from D&D activity is 
characterized and disposed of at WIPP. The quarterly notification of T2 
changes required of other waste characterization sites is not 
applicable to GEVNC-CCP. In lieu of a quarterly T2 changes submission, 
however, a one-time T2 information submission to EPA will be necessary. 
Therefore, no later than four weeks after the last shipment of RH 
debris waste from the site, GEVNC-CCP must provide applicable T2 
changes included in Table 1 below to EPA for review.
    GEVNC has indicated that a small quantity of debris from the D&D 
operation may qualify as contact-handled (CH) TRU debris (i.e., not 
meeting the external dose rate criterion for RH TRU). It is expected 
that GEVNC-CCP will ship these CH debris containers to CCP at the Idaho 
National Laboratory (INL-CCP) for characterization as CH waste prior to 
disposal at the WIPP. EPA notification prior to shipment concerning 
these CH waste containers is necessary. In addition, upon 
characterizing these GEVNC CH containers, INL-CCP must provide EPA 
documentation on how CH container-specific AK information was handled, 
non destructive assay (NDA) data on the individual drums, and other 
supporting information, as appropriate.

[[Page 29697]]

     Table 1--Tiering of RH TRU WC Processes Implemented by GEVNC-CCP, Based on December 2-4, 2008 Baseline
         RH WC process elements                GEVNC-CCP RH WC--T1 changes        GEVNC-CCP RH WC--T2 changes *
Acceptable Knowledge (AK)...............  None **..............................  Notification and submission of
                                                                                  the following items:
                                                                                 --Correlation and Surrogate
                                                                                  Summary Form; (AK 2)
                                                                                 --Revisions to the AK Summary
                                                                                  CCP-AK-GEV-500, including
                                                                                  changes to the associated
                                                                                  Reference List; (AK 6)
                                                                                 --Updates and revisions to CCP-
                                                                                  AK-GEV-501; (AK 12)
                                                                                 --Revision of reference M007;
                                                                                  (AK 12)
                                                                                 --Additional discrepancy
                                                                                  resolutions; (AK 13)
                                                                                 --Final Waste Stream Profile
                                                                                  Form and related attachments,
                                                                                  and subsequent change
                                                                                  requests; (AK 14)
                                                                                 --AK Accuracy reports for this
                                                                                  waste stream; (AK 15).
Radiological Characterization, Dose-to-   None **..............................  Notification and submission of
 Curie (DTC), and the application of                                              the following items:
 radionuclide-specific scaling factors.                                          --Revisions of CCP-AK-GEV-501
                                                                                  or CCP-TP-504 that require
                                                                                  CBFO approval; (RC 3)
                                                                                 --Generation of measurement
                                                                                  data for any GEVNC RH TRU
                                                                                  container(s) that subsequently
                                                                                  qualifies as CH and is subject
                                                                                  to NDA; (RC 8).
Visual Examination (VE).................  None **..............................  Notification and submission of
                                                                                  the following items:
                                                                                 --Any change to VE procedure(s)
                                                                                  that requires CBFO approval;
                                                                                  (VE 2); ***
WIPP Waste Information System (WWIS)....  None at this time....................  Notification and submission of
                                                                                  the following items:
                                                                                 --Changes to WWIS procedure(s)
                                                                                  that require CBFO approval;
                                                                                  (WWIS 2); ***
                                                                                 --Changes to the Excel
                                                                                  spreadsheet titled WWIS Data
                                                                                  Entry Summary Characterization
                                                                                  and Certification; (WWIS 2).
* All applicable T2 changes must be provided to EPA within four (4) weeks of completion of the last shipment of
  GEVNC RH debris proposed for approval to WIPP for disposal.
** No additional RH waste from GEVNC will be characterized using the site processes evaluated during the
*** Excluding changes that are editorial in nature or are required to address administrative concerns.

IV. Availability of the Baseline Inspection Report for Public Comment

    EPA has placed the report discussing the results of the Agency's 
inspection of GEVNC-CCP in the public docket as described in ADDRESSES. 
In accordance with 40 CFR 194.8, EPA is providing the public 45 days to 
comment on these documents. The Agency requests comments on the 
proposed approval decision, as described in the inspection report. EPA 
will accept public comment on this notice and supplemental information 
as described in Section 1.B. above. EPA will not make a determination 
of compliance before the 45-day comment period ends. At the end of the 
public comment period, EPA will evaluate all relevant public comments 
and revise the inspection report as necessary. If appropriate, the 
Agency will then issue a final approval letter and inspection report, 
both of which will be posted on the WIPP Web site.
    Information on the certification decision is filed in the official 
EPA Air Docket, Docket No. A-93-02 and is available for review in 
Washington, DC, and at the three EPA WIPP informational docket 
locations in Albuquerque, Carlsbad, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The 
dockets in New Mexico contain only major items from the official Air 
Docket in Washington, DC, plus those documents added to the official 
Air Docket since the October 1992 enactment of the WIPP LWA.

    Dated: June 12, 2009.
Elizabeth Cotsworth,
Director, Office of Radiation and Indoor Air.
[FR Doc. E9-14706 Filed 6-22-09; 8:45 am]