The EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has issued final regulations requiring the federal Department of Energy (DOE) to comply with RCRA (the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) for any waste streams that contain hazardous nonradioactive chemicals. Under the EPA's final rule, any hazardous non-radioactive chemicals at DOE sites will be subject to EPA and state control under RCRA; the radioactive component of those waste streams will continue to be regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or by DOE itself, under the Atomic Energy Act. [See FEDERAL REGISTER Vol. 52, No. 84, pgs. 15937 to 15941, or contact Henry Garson, Ass't General Counsel for Environment, GC11, DOE, 1000 Independence Ave., SW, Wash., DC 20585; phone (202) 586-6947.]
DOE originally argued that all its wastes were exempt from RCRA. However in April, 1984, settling a lawsuit called Leaf vs. Hodell, the judge declared DOE subject to RCRA.
At its 30 research and production facilities, DOE produces 12 million tons of radioactive waste each year,
almost all of it a combination of radioactive and nonradioactive hazardous chemicals. DOE housekeeping
and record-keeping during the past 40 years has been, in a word, sloppy. DOE has used, and in some cases
still uses, unlined seepage basins and evaporation ponds for much of its liquid wastes and unlined pits and
landfills for its solid wastes. Bringing DOE's mixed wastes under RCRA control should open up DOE's
operations to increased scrutiny by citizens.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: doe; federal; rcra; radioactive waste; nrc; landfilling; liquids; liquid wastes;