Using geographic information systems to determine site suitability for a low-level radioactivewaste storage facility

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Radioactive waste is an inevitable product of using radioactive material in education and research activities, medical applications, energy generation, and weapons production. Low-level radioactive waste (LLW) makes up a majority of the radioactive waste produced in theUnited States. In 2010, over twomillion cubic feet of LLW were shipped to disposal sites. Despite efforts from several states and compacts as well as from private industry, the options for proper disposal of LLW remain limited. New methods for quickly identifying potential storage locations could alleviate current challenges and eventually provide additional sites and allow for adequate regional disposal of LLW. Furthermore, thesemethods need to be designed so that they are easily communicated to the public. A Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based method was developed to determine suitability of potential LLW disposal (or storage) sites. Criteria and other parameters of suitability were based on the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) requirements as well as supporting literature and reports. The resultant method was used to assess areas suitable for further evaluation as prospective disposal sites in Louisiana. Criteria were derived from the 10 minimum requirements in 10 CFR Part 61.50, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Regulatory Guide 0902, and studies at existing disposal sites. A suitability formula was developed permitting the use of weighting factors and normalization of all criteria. Data were compiled into GIS data sets and analyzed on a cell grid of approximately 14,000 cells (covering 181,300 square kilometers) using the suitability formula. Requirements were analyzed for each cell using multiple criteria/sub-criteria as well as surrogates for unavailable datasets. Additional criteria were also added when appropriate. The method designed in this project proved to be sufficient for initial screening tests in determining the most suitable areas for prospective disposal (or storage) sites. Cells above 90%, 95%, and 99% suitability include respectively 404, 88, and 4 cells suitable for further analysis. With these areas identified, the next step in siting a LLW storage facility would be on-site analysis using additional requirements as specified by relevant regulatory guidelines. The GIS based method provides an easy, economic, efficient and effectivemeans in evaluating potential sites for LLW storage facilities where sufficient GIS data exist.

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Health Physics

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