|Rad Waste, Delisting & Incineration At LBNL waste handling facility Video coming soon!
Rich Vaille, Associate Director February 5, 2003
Waste Management Division (WST-1), U S EPA, Region IX
75 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
Re: Hazardous Waste Management System; Proposed Exclusion for
Identifying and Listing Hazardous Waste and a Determination of Equivalent
Treatment published in the Federal Register/Vol. 67,No. 147/ July 31,
Dear Mr. Vaille:
We are writing to ask that the above Delisting Petition be denied. The
main points of our concerns are outlined below.
An elaboration of the points are summarized below and supported by the
enclosed attachments and recorded statements from the Public meeting
held in Berkeley on January 23, 2003.
1. Radioactivity is Released Into the
US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) is charged with a mandate
to protect human health and the environment. The Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory’s (LBNL) Delisting Petition deals with a radioactive/multi-hazardous
waste. That is, it is EPA’s responsibility to assure that the
environment is fully protected not only from the hazardous chemical
components, but also from the radioactive portion of the waste.
In this Petition, radioactive releases occur from a variety of sources
such as during sample preparation, extraction from silica gel, during
the Catalytic Chemical Oxidation (CCO), trapping process and with handling
and packaging of the waste following treatment.
Throughout the Delisting process, EPA has focused almost exclusively
on the hazardous chemical components of the waste and has largely ignored
public concerns regarding the radioactive constituent Tritium in the
waste. Tritium has a hazardous life of 125 years and thus should not
be disposed in a landfill. The general public concern over radioactive
releases into the environment has been confirmed in the past by numerous
studies and reports, and includes waste studies in the proposed Delisting
For example, in July of 1998, silica gel containing high activity tritium
mixed waste was placed into a kiln at the NTLF and resulted in a fifty
(50) Curie release into the environment. This is not an isolated example,
since monitoring after 1998, while the study was ongoing, showed that
radioactivity continued to be released, and sample handling and other
operations of the process could easily have contributed to a large portion
of these releases.
LBNL has a long history of radioactive releases that have contaminated
the site. In 1998, US EPA completed a CERCLA reassessment of the LBNL
site and determined that the Lab is eligible for listing on the National
Priorities List (NPL) for Superfund cleanup due to Tritium contamination
of air, surface water, and soil. Tritium concentrations in ambient air
exceeded US EPA’s Cancer Risk Screening Concentrations levels.
A large Tritium groundwater plume extends across the LBNL site, from
north to south and had already exited the site boundary in 1997. (See
It should be noted that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s
(LLNL) Site 300 with its high explosives test site, eight landfills,
several waste lagoons, etc received a Hazard Ranking Score (HRS) of
31.58. In comparison, LBNL’s HRS score is 50.35. (All sites with
a score of 28.5 or above qualify as a Superfund site). (See attachment
2A & 2B.)
Although EPA has stated that approval of the Petition is a “one-time,
generator-specific delisting for the treatment residues”(C&EN,
September 30, 2002, page 21) it was made clear at the public meeting
that LBNL and others could utilize the Petition if approved and that
“this process will help others get their legal status established”
(Li-Yang Chang in reference to NSSI, January 23, 2003 Public Meeting).
We believe that approval of the Petition will open the use of this process
for further application at LBNL. We ask that the Delisting Petition
be denied. Furthermore, we ask that all the issues regarding radioactive
releases are addressed and resolved, and that the safety of the process
for removing chemical and radioactive components from silica gel be
2. Inaccurate Information and Assumptions:US
EPA ‘s Credibility in Question
In the Proposed Rules as well as at the January 23, 2003 Public Hearing,
US EPA has continued to make inaccurate statements such as "there
are no available mixed waste disposal facilities for high activity Tritium
containing mixed waste." (See attachment 3.) and that “NSSI
cannot accept DOE waste” ( Cheryl Nelson of US EPA, January 23,
2003 Public Hearing). In fact, NSSI can accept DOE waste and has previously
offered to process NTLF ‘s waste. (Private correspondence with
Robert Gallagher, NSSI President.)
Additionally, in November 2002, US EPA was informed in a letter (See
attachment 4.) addressed to Mr. Rich Vaille, Associate Director, Waste
Management Division U.S. EPA Region 9, that the state of the science
for destroying mixed waste containing tritium is considerably more advanced
than U S EPA was aware of. In fact, even before the LBNL Delisting Petition
was filed, commercial treatment options were available at various facilities
throughout the country. (See attachment 5.)
In fact, Nuclear Sources & Services Inc. (NSSI) in Texas will be
able to process all of the NTLF treated and other mixed waste and is
in the process of commissioning a Commercial Tritium Recovery Plant.
(See attachment 6.) This means that the NTLF waste need not go to a
landfill to continue radioactive contamination of the soil in Hanford,
Washington, but would be recycled to the pharmaceutical research and
biomedical community for reuse. This is an environmentally preferable
and stunningly superior solution to the NTLF waste problem, thus making
the Delisting Petition totally unnecessary.
The exclusion under which LBNL’s mixed waste treatment occurred
was designed" to allow small volume studies of new technologies
for treatment of hazardous wastes". The Catalytic Chemical Oxidation
(CCO) technology used by LBNL was not new. The bench-top catalytic oxidation
process was originated and developed several years before NTLF began
their study by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in Springhouse, PA and
not at the National Tritium Labeling Facility (NTLF) at LBNL. (See attachment
The NTLF used information directly supplied by J&J to design their
system with the objective of getting rid of its highly tritiated mixed
waste cheaply, without adequate protection of human health or the environment
from radioactive releases.
Our Berkeley community is concerned that US EPA continues to act as
a cheerleader for the NTLF’s inferior technology. Why? Is it to
simply to bail out the facility after NTLF has been allowed to generate
this highly controversial tritiated mixed waste for decades?
3. Technical and Safety Aspects for Removing
and Treating Mixed Waste Stored on Silica gel Have Not Been Demonstrated
LBNL has not demonstrated the process for removal of mixed waste from
silica gel and has released high levels of radioactivity during the
study. There are no technical details regarding recovery, residuals
and disposal. Radioactive releases have not been discussed and other
aspects such as the safety of the process still remain in doubt.
For example, in July of 1998 a canister of silica gel containing tritium
mixed waste was placed into a kiln at the NTLF, resulting in a fifty
(50) Curie release into the environment. DOE’s accident occurrence
report (ORPS) states: "The sample was assumed to contain only low
levels of Tritium (maximum 5 to 10 mCi)." (See attachment 7.) This
discrepancy of nearly 10,000 fold should alarm US EPA, DOE, and LBNL’s
According to a survey conducted in 1996 by the International Isotope
Society, of those who responded, 62.5% of the tritiated mixed waste
stored (nationally) at that time was adsorbed on silica gel and other
adsorbents. This represented 4,691 curies, much of which continues to
still require remediation. (See attachment 8.) Because of the widely
used practice of storing mixed waste on adsorbents and the large amounts
of activity involved, it would be highly irresponsible for US EPA to
proceed with the granting of LBNL’s Delisting Petition since a
complete solution (both technical and managerial) has not yet been developed
for the efficient and safe extraction of the tritiated mixed waste from
Additionally, these types of experiments should never again take place
in a residential neighborhood, next to a children’s school, the
Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, because of the potential for accidents.
Be aware, that the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously on September
15, 1998 to request LBNL “to cease all oxidation/incineration/treatment
of mixed waste and all radioactive releases”. Resolution #59,695A-N.S.
(See attachment 9.)
4. Inadequate Regulatory Oversight and
Lack of Peer Review
Other than analysis data supplied by LBNL and the outside contract analysis
group, no peer review of the process, solvent extraction system, sample
handling or packaging of the collected wastewater stream has been completed.
No independent review or confirming data to attest to the validity of
the study results or to the samples submitted for confirmation of the
surrogate samples sent to the contract laboratory was ever done. EPA
claims to have audited the facility in a multi-day audit but failed
to generate a report.
The Delisting Petition should not be approved unless this issue is resolved
and a full report issued to the public so that they can review the data.
Among others, questions such as: Were appropriate procedures always
followed? Were results documented in bound and signed notebooks and
was there timely review of the experiments performed? How were samples
prepared? Were good laboratory practices followed and adhered to during
the study? US EPA allowed LBNL to choose and submit only 7 sets of analytical
data from a total of 71 batches of treated mixed waste. How can US EPA
assert that these 7 sets are representative of the total data set? All
the remaining analytical data from the treatability study were made
available to US EPA and must be now subjected to a rigorous, independent,
non-DOE scientific peer review process.
5. LBNL’s Credibility in Question
Without proper regulatory or managerial oversight, the credibility of
the reported study results must remain in doubt. LBNL’s past record
in this area is more than suspect. The mischaracterization of the mixed
waste which led to the accident in 1998 (described above) was not an
isolated incident but reflects a historic pattern of LBNL/NTLF mischaracterization
During a seven year period from 1989 to 1995 LBNL had falsely characterized
NTLF mixed waste sent to the Westinghouse Hanford disposal site in Washington.
Hanford sent the waste shipments back to Berkeley and issued a suspension
of all LBNL/NTLF waste shipments to Hanford until the "Lab had
adequately updated its waste management policies (practices) to properly
characterize its waste." The Hanford moratorium on LBNL/NTLF waste
was in effect until 1997. (See attachment 10.)
Additionally, they have failed to keep proper inventory records. In
October 1998, according to LBNL’s shipping document, some 6,850
curies of tritium were supposedly shipped from the NTLF to Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) for recycling. A phone call to
LLNL confirmed that the shipment only contained 3200-3300 curies of
Tritium. Two years later, the City of Berkeley’s independent contractor,
Bernd Franke, investigated this specific discrepancy which forced LBNL
to admit that the amount of Tritium in the original shipment was grossly
inaccurate and the Lab had to correct the Tritium inventory (in the
NMMSS data base) by 2500 curies. (See attachment 11.) These three examples
cast sufficient doubt into NTLF staff’s ability to accurately
characterize and manage their Tritium waste.
This should be as troubling to the US EPA’s regulatory oversight
as it has been to our community. It is time for an independent peer
review and evaluation of the data generated during the study. We now
ask that US EPA suspend the granting of the LBNL Delisting Petition
until a truly scientific non-DOE, peer review has been completed and
the data verified.
6. The Delisting Petition has not made
a Full Accounting of All Products Treated and Produced During the Study
The primary destruction stage of the LBNL process involves preheating
of the mixed waste followed by combustion in an oxidation cell that
employs spark plugs. Applications for operation of commercial combustion
facilities are always required to provide data regarding residual residues,
such as ash and products of incomplete combustion (PICs). This is because
all hydrocarbon and aromatic fuels can, depending upon the operating
conditions, form small amounts of carbonaceous deposits or soots.
Formation of these deposits in the process described in the LBNL Delisting
Petition could modify significantly the performance of the system by
coating the spark plugs, by blocking tubing that affects vaporized mixed
waste flows and changing oxygen gas flows, or reducing heat transfer
from the oxidation cell walls or decreasing the life of the oxidation
chamber by causing corrosion.
Furthermore, a diagram describing the NTLF's CCO system (See attachment
12.) clearly marks the location of a Solid Trap, which indicates that
PICs are formed during the process and the Delisting Petition reports
the blockage of tubing during the processing of mixed waste.
In addition to PICs, Li-Yang Chang stated at the January 23, 2003 Public
Hearing that some “biomedical products” were present in
the mixed waste samples that were processed and that they were responsible
for the blocking of the system. EPA should require a full accounting
of all materials processed during the study including a complete analysis
of the waste streams specific to all “biomedical products”
used in NTLF’s tritiation experiments.
Based on the above, the following questions are submitted for
- 1. The Delisting Petition has not addressed the formation of deposits
and the operating conditions under which they form.
- 2. Were any of these residues or solids carried into other parts of
the system or wastewater products as colloids or light particles by
the oxygen gas stream?
- 3. What was their effect on the operation of the system?
- 4. Prior to failure of the system clogging, how was the system being
monitored and how quickly was the problem detected?
- 5. Did the system fall outside of appropriate operating conditions during
- 6. If not, how was this verified? If so, how long did the system operate
before it was shut down?
- 7. As a result of clogging, were contaminated tubing, spark plugs and/or
catalyst, or other parts of the system changed? Since these contain
mixed waste, what happened to the contaminated parts?
- 8. What analyses was performed to determine if Products of Incomplete
Combustion (PICs) were formed during this period?
- 9. Was the NTLF CCO system independently evaluated to assure that PICs
are not formed?
- 10. Since these are mixed waste residues and deposits, what are the
procedures used for removing them from the system?
- 11. How were these residues/solids disposed?
- 12. Were they radioactive?
- 13. What supporting data is available for confirmation of system monitoring
and the absence of PICs in the collected wastewater? Li-Yang Chang stated
at the January 23, 2003 Public Hearing that soot would have been carried
into the wastewater if formed. If non-soot products, such as colloids
and/or aerosols containing higher molecular products were formed how
can LBNL be sure that they are not present in the collected waste stream.
What studies were done to assure that the GS/MS system used in the study
would have detected their presence?
- 14. Verify how analytical methods used could have detected non-volatile
materials that may have been formed.
- 15. What tests have been performed to establish the lower operational
limits of the system?
- 16. Has soot or other solid residues been observed in the system during
testing of the system?
- 17. When the process is operated at an inadequate temperature (excursion),
new products (PICs), such as benzene, toluene naphthalene and others
are formed. Did NTLF analyze for PICs?
- 18. In the presence of halogens, what monitoring of Dioxins was performed?
- 19. What “biomedical products” were present in the mixed
waste samples processed and how were the wastewater samples analyzed
to assure these were destroyed?
- 20. Li-Yang Chang stated at the January 23, 2003 Public Hearing that
during the trapping of the radioactive wastewater stream silica gel
was used to increase trapping efficiency. How large was the secondary
mixed waste stream created by the trapping operation and how will these
Based on the above, the following questions are submitted for
7. Lack of Safety Evaluations
In addition to the residues and solids formed during the oxidation process,
acidic by-products such as hydrochloric acid (methylene chloride, chloroform),
sulfur trioxide (dimethyl sulfoxide) and others, are generated during
the oxidation of mixed waste containing halogens, nitrogen and sulfur.
All of these were present in the mixed waste samples processed in the
study. These can degrade performance and integrity of the system. Neither
EPA nor the Delisting Petition discuss if safety studies were completed
to assure that hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials are not
released into the environment.
- 1. What effects do the acidic by-products have on the operational effectiveness
and safety of the system?
- 2. What corrosion studies were completed to assure that the safety of
the system (from potential fires and radioactive release) was not compromised?
- 3. Has NTLF completed sufficient safety studies to prevent accidental
releases of hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials into the environment?
- 4. Are the safety reports available?
- 5. Has the entire system been reviewed?
- 6. At the public hearing, EPA representative Cheryl Nelson stated that
an EPA chemist did a quality assurance audit of the NTLF process and
analytical data. Was he qualified to assess that an appropriate safety
study was completed?
- 7. Was he qualified to assess if appropriate monitoring of radioactivity
was being performed? Is a report available? Please provide a copy of
the EPA audit as part of the Response to Comments document.
The Delisting Petition states that the pH of the collected waste
streams was in the 5-9 pH range.
a . How was the acidic wastewater stream neutralized?
b. Was monitoring performed for radioactive releases and how much radioactivity
c. Were untreated hazardous materials lost prior to analysis during
8. Lack of Radioactive Containment During
LBNL has stated that the process is an innovation in the field because
the generated radioactive waste stream is captured during operation.
However, you should be aware that a full 2 curies of Tritium were released
during the treatment of a single (1) batch of mixed waste, representing
2.5% of the amount of Tritium in that single mixed waste sample. (See
attachment 13.) It is clear that the dry-ice traps were inadequate to
capture all of the Tritium. US EPA’s documents don’t even
mention that Tritium is emitted into the atmosphere during the oxidation
of the mixed waste.
1. Why was Tritium released into the environment during waste treatment?
Why was the Tritium not contained, recaptured and reprocessed?
2. Were containment studies performed on the CCO system? If so, is a
report available? Please provide a copy of this report as part of the
Response to Comments document.
Based on all of the above comments and concerns, we are asking you to
deny the Delisting Petition, upholding your charge to protect human
health and the environment. LBNL has not demonstrated that it has developed
a fully functional hazardous waste management system. The technology
at NSSI of recovering Tritium from wastewater should be encouraged by
regulatory agencies as the superior practice for mixed waste disposal.
For US EPA to support the continuation of the hazardous and unnecessary
dumping of radioactive waste into the Hanford Reservation, adding to
the already present environmental burden is not consistent with the
Agency’s mission. Just like the practices that led to Love Canal,
these practices are out of date and will not be tolerated by the public.
Pamela Sihvola Co-chair Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste
L A Wood Berkeley Community Environmental Advisory Commission*
*For identification only
cc: Christie Todd Whitman, Secretary, US EPA
Spencer Abraham, Secretary, US DOE
Richard Atkinson, President, UC
Charles Shank, Director, LBNL
Gray Davis, Governor, CA
Barbara Lee, Congressional Representative , District 9 CA
Barbara Boxer, US Senator, CA
Diane Feinstein, US Senator, CA
Keith Carson, Supervisor, Alameda Co., CA
Mayor and Berkeley City Council
Michael Rochette, RWQCB
Sal Ciriello, DTSC/Permitting
Robert Aragon, DTSC/Investigations
Jeff Wong, CAL DHS
Ed Bailey, Chief CAL DHS Radiological Services
Nabil Al-Hadithy, City of Berkeley
To the Mayor and City Council Members of Berkeley, February 28, 2003
Enclosed please find our comments addressed to the U S Environmental
Protection Agency (US EPA), Region 9, regarding the Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory’s (LBNL) Delisting Petition. We are requesting
that US EPA deny the Delisting Petition for the many reasons stated
in our letter.
We are respectfully asking for your support to
assure that the Delisting Petition is denied. The Berkeley City Council
voted unanimously on September 15, 1998 to request LBNL “to cease
all oxidation/incineration/treatment of mixed waste and all radioactive
releases”. (Resolution #59,695A-N.S.) This action was taken after an accident at the National Tritium Labeling
Facility (NTLF), in July of 1998, when silica gel containing high activity
tritium mixed waste was placed into a kiln at the NTLF which resulted
in a fifty (50) Curie release into the environment.
This is not an isolated example, since monitoring after 1998, while
the study was ongoing, showed that radioactivity continued to be released,
and sample handling and other operations of the process could easily
have contributed to a large portion of these releases.
During the past two decades radioactive Tritium has been released into
the environment from the NTLF due to accidents and routine operations.
Because of this long-term environmental pollution, the US EPA determined
in July 1998 that LBNL qualified as a Superfund site, stating “ambient
air samples collected on and off the LBL site have contained Tritium
in concentrations that exceed the EPA’s Cancer Risk Screening
Concentrations. Tritium has also migrated to groundwater, surface water,
soil, and soil water, both within LBL boundaries and offsite.”
A large Tritium groundwater plume extends across the LBNL site, from
north to south and had already exited the site boundary in 1997 (with
concentrations of Tritium measuring as high 23,300 pCi/L, exceeding
EPA’s drinking water standard). It should be noted that Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Site 300 with its high
explosives test site, eight landfills, several waste lagoons, etc received
a Hazard Ranking Score (HRS) of 31.58. In comparison, LBNL’s HRS
score is 50.35. (All sites with a score of 28.5 or above qualify as
a Superfund site).
Furthermore, Tritium is continually measured in Chicken Creek, a tributary
to Strawberry Creek, which flows “daylighted” through the
UC Berkeley campus, city parks, back yards of private residences, and
to the San Francisco Bay. It is our understanding that if US EPA approves
LBNL’s Delisting Petition, the Lab will be able to continue the
Catalytic Chemical Oxidation of Tritiated Mixed-waste at the site and
thus continue this unnecessary degradation of the Berkeley environment.
Due to all of the above, we are asking you to support our city’s
resolution requesting LBNL “to cease all oxidation/incineration/treatment
of mixed waste and all radioactive releases and ask US EPA to deny LBNL’s
Pamela Sihvola Co-chair Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste
L A Wood Berkeley Community Environmental Commission*
*For identification only