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Radiological Waste Management and Disposal Facilities

Geosyntec's practitioners work with regulators and stakeholders to develop solutions for a range of radiological challenges, including waste management and disposal, waste packaging and transportation, facility decontamination and decommissioning (D&D), and environmental restoration for government and private clients. Our established credibility with regulators contributes to securing the approvals needed to move demanding projects forward in a timely manner.

Geosyntec has successfully assisted clients in the related practice area of management and containment of by-products and wastes that contain naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) associated with ore processing residuals. For example, a multinational company owned a processing facility at which NORM impacted the buildings, equipment, and process area soils. Geosyntec assessed and characterized site conditions, then designed a secure, on-site disposal facility for thorium-containing residuals, dismantled ore processing equipment, and impacted soils. Our design addressed the liner and cover containment systems; sequencing for constructing, filling, and closing the facility; facility operation and maintenance; and post-closure environmental monitoring. As the general contractor for the project, we implemented a stringent construction and radiological safety program. This included establishing and operating an on-site radiological laboratory capable of measuring gross alpha/beta activity and gamma spectroscopy on debris, impacted soils, airborne particulates, and water. The project was completed with more than 1 million man-hours without either a lost-time accident or a radiological incident, a testament to the importance of safety and the safety culture that Geosyntec has established.

Developing containment facilities for the safe, long-term disposal of radiological and mixed (radiological and hazardous) wastes challenges the norms in terms of technology demonstration, design life, and material performance. When the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) decided to decommission its nuclear weapons complex facilities at Fernald, Ohio, they relied on our ability to design and provide construction quality assurance services for the low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities built to contain impacted soils and demolition debris. Geosyntec met aggressive DOE schedule requirements and delivered award-winning, state-of-the-art facilities with a design life of at least 200 years using currently available technology. In doing so, we have helped DOE and its contractor teams complete site closure years ahead of their original schedules – and billions below the original estimate.  When DOE decided to decommission its nuclear weapons complex facility at Portsmouth, Ohio and Paducah, Kentucky, Geosyntec was again tapped to provide design and permitting for the on-site waste disposal facility.

The extremely long half-lives of the radionuclides present in the waste mean that the radiological characteristics of these materials will not significantly change over long periods of time. Further, this implies that the characteristics of the waste that require that they be disposed and managed in a controlled manner will continue to exist as a disposal facility ages. Geosyntec has conducted performance assessments as part of evaluating the potential impacts associated with radioactive waste disposal under a number of different regulatory settings to demonstrate that the disposal facilities are protective of human health and the environment. The results of the performance assessments are critical in helping our clients understand their design choices and future liabilities.

Geosyntec is perhaps the world leader in applying in-situ technologies to the cleanup and mitigation of environmental contaminants, including radionuclides, in every type of hydrogeologic setting. These technologies include permeable reactive barriers, oxidation/reduction treatment, cation exchange and precipitation, adsorption/sequestration, bioremediation and bioaugmentation, thermal treatment, and others. We have conducted research on these technologies for NASA, US EPA, US DOD, and DOE.  Geosyntec personnel co-authored DOE's Natural Attenuation Guidance Documents for metals, which was one of the groundbreaking works on arsenic, metals, and radionuclide fate and transport and natural attenuation characterization.  In addition, we are collaborating with nearly a dozen universities in the US, Canada, and UK on these topics.