Depending on the treatment methods available, waste streams may be tailored to be
amenable to treatment. Some facilities are able to incinerate TRU waste. Facilities
with this capability may need to eliminate halogenated, nitrogenated, or sulfur-
containing materials to maximize incinerator acceptance and minimize hazardous
effluents from the incinerator.
Waste classifications and treatability groups are important because they determine
waste disposal options.
Sanitary waste is by far the least costly and easiest to dispose of. Liquid sanitary
waste is disposed of in sanitary sewerage systems or septic systems. Sanitary solid
waste is nearly always disposed of by landfill disposal or by incineration with
landfill disposal of ash. Because sanitary waste disposal facilities still face various
siting and permitting requirements, it is desirable to minimize waste volumes.
Hazardous waste is second in ease of disposal for most DOE facilities. Hazardous
waste can be treated to eliminate the hazard only if a permit for the particular waste
stream has been granted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Hazardous waste treatments permitted in DOE facilities are usually limited to pH
adjustment, precipitation, and ion exchange for liquid waste and compaction or
incineration for solid waste. Combustible liquids may be incinerated either onsite
or offsite, as conditions permit.
Low-level waste is still disposable at most sites. For NRC and state-licensed
facilities, commercial disposal is an option, but subject to the requirements of the
Low-Level Waste Policy Amendments Act (USC, 1985), which requires individual
states or groups of states, called compacts, to develop local disposal facilities. In
general, local facilities have not been developed, so disposal volumes are severely
limited and/or significant surcharges are imposed in addition to the already high
Several DOE sites are currently permitted to dispose of their own low-level waste
by burial. Other DOE sites have long-term storage facilities. In some cases, DOE
waste is being placed in retrievable storage in the hopes that the classification of
the facility can be changed and the waste allowed to remain permanently.
Mixed waste disposal facilities require all of the permitting for radioactive waste
disposal facilities plus all of the permitting for hazardous waste disposal facilities.
For this reason, there are very few such facilities in operation, and in general they
are rather restricted in the type of waste they can accept. If possible, it is generally
better to treat the waste than to destroy or chemically alter the hazardous
component. In some cases, mixed waste may be treated to encapsulate the
hazardous component so that it no longer has the leachability or other
characteristics that cause it to exhibit hazardous properties. Mixed waste requires
special permits for treatment, so it is generally preferable to avoid generating it or
to treat it in connection with some other process while it is a useful material (before
it becomes a waste). For example, if the hazardous component is a metal with some
recycle value, or it there are recycle metals in the material, it may be best to alter