(In reference to DOE/EIS-0373D, June 2005) [1]

The Draft EIS is seriously deficient in the following points:

  1. The need for the level of production cited is not established -specifically alternative approaches to getting the specified level of Pu-238 are not considered

    The need to create 5 kilograms of new Pu-238 by irradiating Np-237 targets per year over 30 years, for a total of 30 years, has not been established. Indeed, several existing sources of Pu-238 should be considered as potential alternatives:

    • LANL proposes to recover up to 11 kilograms of Pu-238 from scrap and other existing sources until 2007. This has apparently not been factored into the inventory in Table 2-1 of the DEIS.
    • The Pantex inventory is not included in Table 2-1.

    These two sources would significantly reduce the requirement for operating the ATR at Idaho to irradiate Np-237 targets, making it far more costly per unit of Pu-238.

    Further, there are about 90 kilograms of Pu-238 in the high-level waste tanks at Savannah River Site. The DEIS has not explored the costs and benefits of recovering the more easily accessible portions of the Pu-238 from the waste (since large amounts appear to have been discharged in a single period from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.

    The DEIS is fundamentally deficient the absence of an analysis of existing sources.

  2. Alternatives to Pu-238 systems are not considered

    There are many alternatives to Pu-238 power sources. For land-based sources, weight is not a restriction. For instance, solar energy systems with batteries have not been evaluated. The security and environmental consequences of abandoned RPSs have not been evaluated in the DEIS. The DEIS should estimate the environmental impact of the RPS that was abandoned near the headwaters of the Ganges River in the Himalaya Mountains around 1964, when a joint U.S.-Indian mission rain into severe weather. The DEIS is therefore fundamentally incomplete as regards assessment of the impact of the proposed systems. Nor has the actual mishap been analyzed in any other EIS. Risk evaluation needs to be done based on actual data, which is being ignored. Similarly, data from the former Soviet Union regarding RPS risks, as well as from the U.S. about orphan neutron sources and RPSs have not been considered. For space-based systems, solar concentrators that can be unfurled in space are among the alternatives that DOE should consider. NASA is developing such devices. Other radioisotopes can also be used. These should be evaluated.

  3. Reactor accident consequences are not considered

    The DOE, in DOE/EIS-0310, estimated that the total release of radioactivity in a worst case accident from the ATR could be as much as 175 million curies, with 320,000 curies of that being iodine-131, which contaminates milk. Substantial releases of longer lived radioactive materials were also estimated in that document (see Table I-4 of DOE/EIS-0310). The DEIS does not assess the accident consequences and compare them to the impacts of other alternatives. The estimated release would be well over an order of magnitude larger than the 1957 Windscale reactor fire, when on the order of 20,000 curies of I-131 were released. At that time, half a million gallons of milk from a 200 square mile area were collected and dumped. The much larger source term estimated for an ATR accident could result in serous fallout over a far larger area, potentially including Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The DEIS is fundamentally deficient in not evaluating severe accident consequences and available alternatives, including a new reactor with secondary containment, which the ATR does not have.

  4. Materials-accounting-related security issues are not addressed

    The DEIS contains no assessment of the security issues in the past regarding orphan sources, or of the materials accounting issues in regard to nuclear materials that are still unresolved in the DOE. See for instance, my 2004 letter to Peter Nanos regarding plutonium-239 accounting, along with the associated DOE memorandum, which are incorporated into these comments by reference. The web address is www.ieer.org/comments/pu/nanosltr.html for the letter and www.ieer.org/offdocs/Guimond1996Memo.pdf for the DOE memorandum. Note that the Pu-239 discrepancy between two sets of Pu-238 accounts in waste at LANL is as much as 765 kilograms, or about 150 bombs worth. A clear accounting of Pu-238, including in waste streams and orphan sources is needed to assess the environmental impact of the proposed project. This has not been done in the present DEIS or any other EIS.

  5. The DEIS has not demonstrated that the project will comply with the 1990 Clean Air Act, Subpart H in regard to inhalation of single particles of Pu-238

    The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board letter from Burns and Keilers to Kent Fortenberry of 27 May 2005 states that “LANL analyses indicate that inhaling one or two 2-micron diameter particles of Pu-238 oxide (i.e., about the ICRP default size) results in 0.5 Rem CEDE dose” (LANL Weekly Report, May 27, 2005). This is 50 times the Clean Air Act limit of 0.01 rem (or 10 millirem) under 40 CFR 61, Subpart H. While the DEIS has calculated low expected individual dose through dispersion calculations, it has not demonstrated that there will be no emission of particles that would singly result in a dose greater than 10 millirem CEDE. If there are emissions of any particles of that type, then the DEIS must demonstrate that the probability of any individual in the downwind inhaling such a particle would be essentially zero. Subpart H of 40 CFR 61 sets forth a bright-line radiation limit for public exposure. It is not written in probabilistic terms. It requires that the maximally exposed individual be exposed to less than 10 millirem per year. Normally, dispersion calculations and measurements together should be sufficient to demonstrate compliance, but this is not the case when a single particle can produce a dose above the allowable limit. The proposed project may well result in doses greater than the allowable limit if a single person inhales even a single micron and in some cases even a single sub-micron size particle. Therefore, in this case, any individual who inhales a single particle of Pu-238 that would result in a dose greater than 10 millirem would be the maximally exposed individual, even if they do not reside near the fence line. The DEIS is fundamentally flawed in failing to address the potential non-compliance of the proposed project with the Clean Air Act, 40 CFR 61 Subpart H due to inhalation of single Pu-238 particles.


  1. The DEIS is fundamentally deficient in so many respects that it should be redone.
  2. Since several programmatic aspects are missing, the effort to redo the DEIS should be preceded by a Draft Programmatic EIS, since no existing PEIS covers the alternatives adequately on a programmatic basis.
  3. Whether or not a new DEIS is done or a new Draft PEIS is done, the Final EIS should have the following analyses:
    1. The EIS should evaluate the full range of alternatives for land-based and space power sources.
    2. The EIS should have a full accounting of existing sources of Pu-238 for security reasons and for assessing the sources that are available for use, including those in scrap and waste. Specifically, the full inventory of Pu-238 scrap at LANL should be evaluated. Some waste tanks at SRS should also be evaluated.
    3. Radioisotopes other than Pu-238 should be evaluated for some applications.
    4. The benefits of a new reactor, and not just the costs, should be evaluated an compared with the use of the ATR.
    5. The EIS should assess the consequences of a worst-case ATR accident as defined in DOE/EIS-310, Table I-4, and its impact on the surrounding population and on Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
    6. The EIS should evaluate the environmental and security consequences of abandoned RPS’s including the one abandoned in the Himalayas in 1964 as a real-world example of the potential consequences of RPS abandonment.
    7. The EIS should demonstrate compliance with 40 CFR 61, Subpart H by showing that the doses to every offsite individual present near their homes or offices will be below 10 millirem per year – that is that emission controls will be so stringent that no individual can inhale a single particle of Pu-238 that would produce a dose of 10 millirem or more in any year of operation.

IEER does not necessarily endorse any of the alternatives. The above recommendations are made in order that IEER can assess and compare the impacts of the alternatives, which is not possible from the present set of EIS’s related to this project, including DOE/EIS-0373D for which these comments were prepared.


  1. Typos and minor corrections were made to this version after sending to the DOE. ↩ Return