A material is a waste once there is no identified use or recycle value for it. Normally,
wastes are considered by their physical form as either solids, liquids, or gasses, except that
containerized liquids are considered solid waste under some of the current regulations.
Although these forms are each processed differently, there are interrelationships. For
example, it may be possible to reduce solid waste by replacing disposable protective
clothing with reusable clothing that must be laundered. The laundry will produce liquid
waste. In treating liquid waste, solids may be generated, for example, filters or ion
exchange resins. By careful engineering, waste generation, and treatment alternatives, a site
can minimize the total waste volume and elect to generate types of waste that can be
disposed of. The following sections address potentially contaminated waste and waste
terminology and handling of airborne waste, solid waste, and liquid waste. The treatment of
excess materials to reclaim plutonium is not a waste treatment process and is not discussed
POTENTIALLY CONTAMINATED WASTES
This section discusses the generation, processing, storage, and disposal of wastes in
plutonium facilities. It is divided by waste types, treatability groups, and waste disposal.
In addition to the classification of waste by physical form, regulatory definitions
determine how waste can be disposed. The Secretary of Energy Notice 37-92,
"Waste Minimization Crosscut Plan Implementation" (SEN, 1992), requires annual
reports of waste generation by type, waste stream, site, and program. The waste
classifications used in the DOE Annual Reports are defined in Table 8.1.
A plutonium facility may generate any of these types of waste, except that high-
level waste (HLW) will be generated only from irradiated reactor fuel. Any waste
containing at least 100 nCi/g of transuranics (TRU), including plutonium, will be
classified as TRU or TRU mixed waste. Waste containing detectable quantities of
radioactive materials but less than 100 nCi/g of transuranics will be low-level
The distinction between sanitary waste and very low-level radioactive waste can be
technically a difficult one. Sometimes, material is designated LLW waste because
the conditions of use could have resulted in contamination that would be difficult to
detect. Techniques and limitations for doing this are discussed below with
reference to solid waste.