United States            Office of Solid Waste
                    Environmental Protection      and Emergency Response       EPA/530-SW-9t-026
                    Agency               Washington DC 20460          October 1990

                    Office of Solid Waste
vvEPA        Environmental
                    Fact  Sheet
                    ERA'S FINAL CONDITIONAL
                    FOR DOE'S WASTE ISOLATION
                    PILOT PLANT
       The 1984 Amendment to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
       (RCRA) imposed substantial new requirements on the land disposal
       of hazardous waste. Land disposal of waste is prohibited unless the
       waste is treated to meet best demonstrated available technology (BOAT)
       standards specified by EPA. As of May 1990 all wastes that were listed
       or identified as hazardous before November 8,  1984 cannot be land
       disposed unless they have been treated to BOAT standards, or unless
       the EPA Adminstrator determines that the prohibition is not required
       in order to protect human health and the environment for as long as
       the waste remains hazardous. This determination must be based on a
       demonstration through a "no migration petition" by the facility owner
       or operator that the waste will not migrate from the disposal unit or
       injection zone for as long as the wastes remain hazardous.

       In March 1989, the Department of Energy (DOE) submitted a no-
       migration petition to EPA for its Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near
       Carlsbad, New Mexico. DOE has designed the WIPP as a permanent
       repository for mixed hazardous and radioactive wastes that are
       generated and stored at ten DOE sites around the country. These
       wastes, which result from the decommissioning and production of
       nuclear weapons, consists of a variety of materials, some contaminated
       with hazardous wastes such as solvents and metals. Specifically, these
       materials include tools, equipment, protective clothing, rags,
       contaminated organic and inorganic sludge from wastsewater
       treatment operations; cemented process and laboratory wastes; and
       other material contaminated during the production and reprocessing of

Because of uncertainties related to the long-term performance of the
repository, DOE has proposed to place a limited amount of waste
underground for testing during the duration of the experimental
program. Based on the results of the experimental program, a decision
would be made as to whether the repository is appropriate for
permanent disposal of mixed wastes.

If the WIPP proves acceptable as a permanent repository other DOE
facilities will ship drums, metal boxes and canisters of waste to the
WIPP and they will be placed in underground rooms. The wastes must
be backfilled with crushed salt and a clay mixture and then the rooms
will be sealed.  After an operating period of approximately 25-years,
DOE would seal the shafts of the mine with cement plugs and
compacted salt, and decommission the facility.

EPA's decision today will allow DOE to place limited amounts of waste
in the WIPP repository for the sole purpose of testing and experimenta-
tion. If the tests fail to show that the site is acceptable for permanent
storage. DOE must remove the waste from the repository. EPA has
concluded that DOE has demonstrated to a reasonable degree of
certainty that hazardous constituents will not migrate from the WIPP
disposal unit under the conditions imposed in today's decision.  EPA
has thoroughly reviewed available information on the expected long-
term performance of the WIPP repository.  EPA believes that the WIPP
is a promising site  based on the geological stability of the area, the
depth, thickness and the extremely low permeability of the salt
formation in which the repository has been mined, and the properties
of the rock salt as an encapsulating medium.

This final determination establishes several conditions (appended) on
DOE activities at the WIPP.  Activities are limited to the testing and
experimentation which is necessary to demonstrate long-term
acceptance.  Wastes must be retrieved from the depository if DOE, as a
result of the testing, cannot demonstrate the long-term applicability of
the site.  The quantity of waste that DOE can place in the WIPP is
limited to 8,500 drums, or one percent of the facility's final capacity.
This determination also requires that DOE place the wastes in the
repository in a readily  retrievable form. DOE must monitor air
emissions from the repository at the site. DOE must also test for
flammable gases and. if found, wastes cannot be shipped to the WIPP.
Finally, waste destined for the WIPP must undergo certain waste
characterization analysis.

EPA emphasizes that this final determination addresses only the
specific question of whether hazardous constituents will or will not
migrate from the WIPP. EPA's authority under RCRA over waste
destined for the WIPP extends only to mixed waste, and it is further
limited to the hazardous components of the mixed waste. The potential
release of radioactive material from the WIPP is addressed under the
Atomic Energy Act.  Issues raised by the handling and possible
treatment of waste before it reaches the WIPP. are beyond the scope of
this final determination.

For further information, or to order a copy of the Federal Register
notice, please call the RCRA Hotline Monday through Friday. 8:30 a.m.
to 7:30 p.m. EST.  The national toll-free number is (800) 424-9346; for
the heaing impaired, it is fTDD) (800) 553-7672. In Washington. D.C..
the number is  (202) 382-3000 or TDD (202) 475-9652.


   In granting the no-migration determination to DOE during the test
phase for the WIPP. EPA requires that DOE meet the following

     o  Wastes must be used for purposes of testing and
        experimentation to determine the long-term acceptability
        of the WIPP.  (Placement of waste for purposes of conducting
        an operations demonstration is specifically prohibited.)

     o  No more that 8500 drums (one percent of the repository)
        may be placed in the WIPP.

     o  All mixed wastes must be removed if DOE cannot demonstrate
        no-migration for the permanent disposal of mixed wastes
        before the expiration of this determination.

     o  Wastes must be placed in a readily retrievable manner.

     o  DOE must install and operate a carbon adsorption device in
        the discharge system of the bin experiment rooms; they must
        also monitor the outlet airstream and keep appropriate

     o  DOE must implement an air monitoring plan.

     o  DOE must conduct waste testing and keep appropriate
        records for the following:

           -Test the headspace gases of each drum
            or individual container to be placed in the
            WIPP to ensure that they are not flammable
            or do not contain mixtures of gases that could
            become flammable when mixed with air.

           -Test the headspace gases of containers to be
            used in the bin-scale tests to ensure that they
            are compositionally similar to the data provided
            in the no-migration petition.

      o DOE must demonstrate the comparability of the headspace
        gases from the bin-scale wastes to the headspace gases from
        wastes described  in the no-migration petition before placing
        wastes in the WIPP for the alcove tests.

      o DOE must provide annual reports to EPA on the status of
        the performance assessment during the test phase.