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DOE ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF INFORMATION AND ACTIONS TAKEN REGARDING SHIPMENT OF RADIOACTIVELY CONTAMINATED HAZARDOUS WASTES

DOE ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF INFORMATION AND ACTIONS TAKEN REGARDING
 SHIPMENT OF RADIOACTIVELY CONTAMINATED HAZARDOUS WASTES
 WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins announced that he is undertaking strong actions and developing new uniform standards and criteria in the handling of Department of Energy (DOE) waste determined to contain minute (near background) levels of radioactive contamination. His announcement came in notifications today to members of Congress, governors and state environmental officials.
 Watkins' notifications follow his decision, in May 1991, to halt all off-site waste shipments until a thorough investigation could be completed of shipments of hazardous and toxic waste to treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facilities. This decision was based on chemical analyses showing that minute amounts of radioactive contamination had been detected in waste shipped to a Rollins Environmental Services Inc. Facility, located in Baton Rouge, La. Until the new standards and criteria are implemented throughout the DOE complex, the moratorium will remain in effect.
 "As a result of reports received from both departmental personnel and contractors, I directed all DOE field offices to submit data on their past shipments of hazardous and toxic wastes to commercial TSD facilities," said Watkins. "We observed that such shipments occurred as a result of the use by DOE facilities of non-uniform standards for determining what waste is radioactive when the levels of radioactivity present are extremely small.
 "As soon as we discovered that a mistake had been made in shipping radioactive contaminated waste to Rollins from our Y-12 facility at Oak Ridge, I ordered a 'Type B' investigation board appointed to investigate circumstances surrounding the shipment of contaminated waste to Rollins and determine the cause and extent of any departmental regulatory violations," continued Watkins.
 Concurrent with the Type B investigation, the DOE Inspector General was asked to undertake a probe into the shipping procedures at Y-12, and the Office of Nuclear Safety has also been directed by Watkins to conduct a separate investigation into the possibility of shipments of material known to be contaminated from Oak Ridge.
 As a result of the Type B investigation and extensive internal reviews, it has been determined that, over the course of the past 11 years, several million pounds of waste, now judged as potentially contaminated with minute amounts of radioactivity, was shipped to as many as 11 TSD facilities in nine states from four Department of Energy sites.
 The department had previously identified the shipment of wastes known to contain minute amounts of radioactive materials (primarily uranium, slightly enriched uranium and technetium-90) to seven TSDs around the country, including Rollins Environmental Services Inc.
 The Department of Energy has performed a worst-case analysis of the maximum radiation doses which could conceivably result from the shipments, treatment and disposal of these wastes and has compared the results with known doses to the general public resulting from natural background radiation, as well as with health-based limits.
 Results of the DOE analysis show that the maximum potential yearly dose to a worker handling slightly contaminated waste at Rollins would be less than 0.7 millirem per year. The calculated maximum potential dose to any member of the public living near the Rollins (or any other such TSD in the country) would be less than 0.02 millirem per year. These calculations were made using extreme "worst-case" assumptions. For purposes of comparison, a person typically receives about 4 millirems from natural cosmic radiation on one cross-country flight in an airplane.
 Units of radiation dosage are usually expressed in "rem" or "millirem" (which is one-thousandth of a rem). This unit expresses the biological effect of radiation received. The average person receives a dose of about 300 millirems per year from natural background radiation sources.
 In addition to the DOE analysis, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has performed an analysis which indicated that emissions from the Rollins stack during incineration of DOE wastes would have been within all state air pollution emission limits. The DEQ also performed radiological surveys of the ash resulting from incineration of the wastes and were unable to detect any radiation above background levels.
 The department is currently reviewing the procedures of all DOE facilities to verify that they reflect a uniform standard, as well as performing a follow-up examination of hazardous waste shipments from the entire DOE weapons complex. In addition, Louisiana State University is conducting an independent, third-party radiation-dose analysis as a check on DOE's assessment.
 "These problems occurred because our sites did not have standard acceptable procedures for ensuring that hazardous waste was not shipped to commercial facilities if radioactivity was added by DOE processes," said Watkins. "Additionally, inappropriate methods were being used in some cases to define what needed to be controlled as radioactive. The present moratorium on off-site waste shipments will continue until we at the Department of Energy are satisfied that safeguards and standard procedures are in place throughout the DOE complex."
 -0- 1/21/92
 /CONTACT: Fred C. Lash of Department of Energy, 202-585-5806/ CO: Department of Energy ST: District of Columbia IN: SU:


MK-MH -- DC029 -- 2042 01/21/92 16:29 EST
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Date:Jan 21, 1992
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