Page 328 RCRA Permitting Deskbook
discusses the AEA, and the roles of the NRC and DOE. Section 10.2 discusses the types of mixed waste subject
to RCRA jurisdiction, including low-level a nd transuranic m ixed waste. Section 10.3 explores the turbulent
history of RCRA’s regulation of mixed waste and EPA’s Mixed Waste Rule. Section 10.4 discusses mixed waste
disposal, including the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), and the lack of disposal avai lability for low-level
radioactive a nd mixed waste. Section 10.5 discusse s RCRA permitting issues that may arise at facilities that
manage mixed wa ste.
10.1 Overview of Environmental Regulation of Radioactive Mixed Waste
Radioactive mixed waste is a term of art c oined in the
late 1970s. Mixed waste contains both radiological a nd
hazardous components that, as a practical matter, are
often inextricably linked.5 DOE generates and man-
ages the vast majority of mixed waste. EPA estimates
that commercial mixed waste volumes are very small
(approximately 2%) compared to the total volume of
mixed waste generated or stored by DOE.6 A large vol-
ume of DOE waste is considered mixed waste because it
contains radiological substances that are contained, dis-
solved, or suspended in a nonradioactive medium from
which physical separation is impractical.7 Mixed waste
diers f rom other types of solid and haz ardous wastes
in at least the following three important respects.
• The Composition of Mixed Waste Is Dierent
Mixed waste contains radiological isotopes that can
remain harmf ul to human health and the environment for thousands, or in the case of uranium-238, billions
of years.8 Due to its radiological components, it requires special considerations for handling, storage, and char-
acterization. Treatment technology has been slow and limited. According to some, certain t ypes of radioactive
materials are “nearly indestructible” and “cannot be treated to reduce toxicity.”9 Mixed wastes exist in the form
of solids (homogenous, debris, soils, gravels, and sludges) and liquids (aqueous and organic). ey have a broad
range of chemica l and radiological constituents, including radionuclides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),
heavy metals, orga nic solvents, and reactive compounds.
• Legacy Mixed Waste Pre-Dates RCRA
A considerable amount of mi xed waste is referred to as legacy waste, which EPA denes as waste generated by
historical activities and which has been in storage beyond RCRA accumulation time periods because appropri-
ate treatment technologies have not been developed, or treatment and disposal capacity has not been available.10
Mixed waste is a consequence of the Cold War and ongoing research a nd weapons production associated with
the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. Dating back to 1942 and the Manhattan Project, the United States has pro-
duced vast amounts of defense and civilian radioactive nuclear wa ste.11 A study by the congressional Oce of
Technological Assessment stated that historica l practices resulted in millions of cubic yards of radioactive and
Brown v. Kerr-M
cGee Chemical Corp., 767 F
.2d 1234, 1240-43, 15 ELR 20
686 (7th Cir
. 1985), cert. denied
, 475 U.S. 1066 (1986) (discussing
inseparable nature of mixed waste). See also ompson & Goo, supra note 4, at 10705.
U.S. EPA, Radiation Protection Program, About Mixed Waste (2009), available at www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/mixed-waste/about.html.
7. U.S. EPA, Radioactive Waste; Byproduct Material, 52 Fed. Reg. 15937, 15940 (May 1, 1987).
8. Uranium-238, an alpha emitting radionuclide, has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Applegate & Dycus, supra note 3, at 10636.
10. Mixed Waste Rule, supra note 3, at 27220.
11. In 1942, the Manhattan Project (the Manhattan Engineer District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) produced the atomic bombs dropped
in Japan at the end of World War II.
Image court esy o f Dawn Mange s.