One of the principal means of minimizing solid waste is to minimize the area that
becomes contaminated by plutonium and to ensure that all surfaces contaminated
by plutonium are readily cleanable.
Glove boxes are often used to contain contamination and permit work in minimal
protective clothing that can be reused to minimize waste volumes. By assuring that
these are in isolated areas that are covered with easily cleanable materials and
maintained at negative pressure with respect to the rest of the facility, waste is
minimized even during minor accidents.
The choice of surface materials is extremely critical. For example, concrete floors
will become impregnated by plutonium particulates or solutions and will require
fixatives or scabbing to control contamination. Relatively large quantities of solid
waste will be generated when facilities are decommissioned or major modifications
are done. Conversely, electropolished stainless steel is easily cleaned, even to
releasable levels generating only small quantities of TRU waste.
Choosing components that can be easily maintained rather than totally replaced
may also be an effective strategy at minimizing waste. Whenever possible, choose
equipment for which high-maintenance components can be located outside of
contaminated areas. For example, many mixers, saws, and other such components
have been adapted so that the motor is located outside the glove box where it can
be maintained or replaced without concern for contamination status, while the
working or tool end operates in a contaminated environment.
Operational controls for waste-management purposes in plutonium facilities serve
two distinct purposes: waste volume reduction (waste minimization) and waste
classification control. Each of these is discussed briefly below. Operational
controls to reduce the probability of accidents or minimize their consequences are
also important but are not directly addressed as part of waste management.
Plutonium facilities should have a waste minimization program. The
objective of a waste minimization program is the cost-effective reduction
in the generation and disposal of hazardous, radioactive, and mixed
waste. The preferred method is to reduce the total volume and/or toxicity
of hazardous waste generated at the source, which minimizes the volume
and complexity for waste disposal.
The waste minimization program applies to all present and future
activities of the facilities that generate hazardous, radioactive, and/or
mixed wastes. Furthermore, waste minimization is to be considered for
all future programs and projects in the design stages, and should be
included in all maintenance and/or construction contracts.