Tara Kinsell reports on TENORM stuck in Greene County. Fracking in Pennsylvannia is generating such waste. This material includes biproducts from oil and gas exploration and pumping. A more permanent solution to transportation and storage needs to be found to contain or reclaim radioactive materials. Here is an excerpt:
It isn’t like we are taking nuclear fuel rods. It is mostly medical waste and low level drill cuttings coming up from deep digs, not really high level radiation,” Poister said. “The problem lately is making sure it doesn’t leach into the ground so it doesn’t become a larger problem. Obviously you don’t want that stuff sitting on site. It is supposed to be safely disposed of.”
He said there are stringent guidelines that must be followed when dealing with TENORM.
Companies face fines when they are out of compliance. However, looking at fines for various infractions, including some for failure to properly dispose of or clean up waste that threatened polluting waters of the commonwealth, resulted in fines of just a few thousand dollars. It seems like a drop in the bucket for wells that are raking in millions.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) estimates the United States may produce more than 1 billion tons of TENORM annually from all sources. Large quantities of TENORM are currently undisposed of with much of it existing in abandoned mine sites across the country, according to the NRC.
Poister said TENORM is part of the reason the DEP launched a study in January to look at naturally occurring levels of radioactivity in materials associated with oil and gas development.
Flowback waters, treatment solids, drill cuttings, transportation issues, storage and disposal of drilling wastes and levels of radon in natural gas are being looked at, along with the potential of exposure to industry employees and the public.