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Proposed Rule

Waste Characterization Program Documents Applicable to Transuranic Radioactive Waste From the Hanford Site for Disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

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AGENCY:

Environmental Protection Agency.

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ACTION:

Notice of availability; opening of public comment period.

SUMMARY:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the availability of, and soliciting public comments for 30 days on, Department of Energy (DOE) documents applicable to characterization of transuranic (TRU) radioactive waste at the Hanford site proposed for disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The documents (Item II-A2-44, Docket A-98-49) are available for review in the public dockets listed in ADDRESSES. EPA will conduct an inspection of waste characterization systems and processes at Hanford to verify that the site can characterize transuranic waste in accordance with EPA's WIPP compliance criteria. EPA will perform this inspection the week of June 16, 2003.

DATES:

EPA is requesting public comment on the documents. Comments must be received by EPA's official Air Docket on or before July 7, 2003.

ADDRESSES:

Comments should be submitted to: EPA Docket Center (EPA/DC), Air and Radiation Docket, Docket No. A-98-49, EPA West, Mail Code 6102T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20460. The DOE documents are available for review in the official EPA Air Docket in Washington, DC, Docket No. A-98-49, Category II-A2, and at the following three EPA WIPP informational docket locations in New Mexico: in Carlsbad at the Municipal Library, Hours: Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.; in Albuquerque at the Government Publications Department, Zimmerman Library, University of New Mexico, Hours: vary by semester; and in Santa Fe at the New Mexico State Library, Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

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 photocopying. Air Docket A-98-49 in Washington, DC, accepts comments sent electronically or by fax (fax: 202-566-1741; e-mail: a-and-r-docket@epa.gov).

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Ms. Rajani D. Joglekar, Office of Radiation and Indoor Air, (202) 564-7734. You can also call EPA's toll-free WIPP Information Line, 1-800-331-WIPP or visit our Web site at http://www.epa/​gov/​radiation/​wipp.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

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 (Public Law 102-579), as amended (Public Law 104-201), TRU waste consists of materials containing elements having 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.

On May 13, 1998, EPA announced its final compliance certification decision to the Secretary of Energy (published May 18, 1998, 63 FR 27354). This decision stated that the WIPP will comply with EPA's radioactive waste disposal regulations at 40 CFR part 191, subparts B and C.

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 Laboratory (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) prohibit shipment of TRU waste for disposal at WIPP from any site other than LANL until the 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 § 194.8. As part of EPA's decision-making process, the DOE is required to submit to EPA appropriate documentation of quality assurance and waste characterization programs at each DOE waste generator site seeking approval for shipment of TRU radioactive waste to WIPP. In accordance with § 194.8, EPA will place such documentation in the official Air Docket in Washington, DC, and informational dockets in the State of New Mexico for public review and comment.

EPA will perform an inspection of Hanford's technical program for waste characterization in accordance with Condition 3 of the WIPP certification. We will evaluate the adequacy, implementation, and effectiveness of the applicable technical activities related to the Hanford TRU waste characterization program. We will confirm the continued adequacy of waste characterization processes at Hanford for (a) retrievably-stored, contact-handled debris at the Waste Receiving and Processing (WRAP) facility, and (b) homogeneous solids characterized at the Plutonium Finishing Plant (PFP) approved previously by EPA. These include: (1) Segmented Gamma Scanning Assay System at the Plutonium Finishing Plant for characterizing debris and solids; (2) Gamma Energy Assay (GEA) System Units A and B at the Waste Receiving and Processing (WRAP) facility used for characterizing retrievably-stored CH-debris waste; (3) visual examination at WRAP and PFP; and (4) other processes (such as acceptable knowledge, radiography, visual examination, data verification & validation). Also, we will evaluate capabilities of the following new equipment to characterize debris and solids, as applicable: (1) SGSAS at PFP Room 172; (2) seven calorimeters at PFP; (3) two Integrated Passive and Active Neutron (IPAN) systems at WRAP; and (4) visual examination technique at WRAP. The inspection is scheduled to take place the week of June 16, 2003.

EPA has placed DOE documents pertinent to the inspection in the public docket described in ADDRESSES. These include: (1) Hanford Site Transuranic Waste Certification Plan, HNF2600, Rev. 10, May 2003 and (2) Hanford Site Transuranic Waste Characterization Quality Assurance Project Plan, HNF 2599, Draft Rev. 9, May 2003. The documents are included in item II-A2-44 in Docket A-98-49. In accordance with 40 CFR 194.8, as amended by the final certification decision, EPA is providing the public 30 days to comment on these documents.

If EPA determines as a result of the inspection that the proposed processes and programs at Hanford adequately control the characterization of transuranic waste, we will notify DOE by letter and place the letter in the official Air Docket in Washington, DC, as well as in the informational docket locations in New Mexico. A letter of approval will allow DOE to ship transuranic waste characterized by the approved processes from Hanford to the WIPP. The EPA will not make a determination of compliance prior to the inspection or before the 30-day comment period has closed. 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 three EPA WIPP informational docket locations in New Mexico. The dockets in New Mexico Start Printed Page 33431contain 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.

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Dated: May 30, 2003.

Robert Brenner,

Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation.

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[FR Doc. 03-14186 Filed 6-3-03; 8:45 am]

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