Up to 1,000 tons of Germany’s low-level radioactive waste is coming to Oak Ridge, TN, for incineration.
The ashes and any leftover products following incineration at EnergySolutions’ Bear Creek processing plant would return to Germany, according to information contained in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) “memorandum and order” issued Monday. An NRC spokesman said the licenses will likely come out late this week or early next week.
EnergySolutions would not discuss the schedule for waste shipments until after they get the licenses, said company spokesman Mark Walker.
“We appreciate the rigorous and thorough analysis by the NRC,” Walker said. “As always, we will comply with state and federal regulations.”
The NRC rejected multiple requests for a public hearing on EnergySolutions’ applications, ruling a hearing would not be in the public’s interest or help the commissioners in making a decision. Among those filing requests for a hearing were the Citizens’ Advisory Panel of the Local Oversight Committee in Oak Ridge; the Tennessee Environmental Council; the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance; and Citizens to End Nuclear Dumping in Tennessee.
The NRC memo said imported wastes will mostly consist of paper, plastic, wood, textiles, glass and metal that “have various levels of radioactive contamination.” The volume of the material will reduce by incineration, and then hearth ash and “any non-incinerable and non-conforming materials” would then ship to two facilities in Germany, the memo said.
The U.S. State Department supported the applications, concluding the activities appeared consistent with guidelines of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and Radioactive Waste Management. The memo also noted the German government will issue the import permits to return the residual ashes to Germany.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation emphasized the decision on whether or not to allow EnergySolutions to bring German waste to Tennessee for treatment was up the NRC, not the state.
“From the state’s perspective, EnergySolutions is required to follow the requirements of its licenses, no matter where the waste originates from,” TDEC spokeswoman Tisha Calabrese-Benton said.