Quantitative Risk Assessment of the New York State Operated West Valley Radioactive Waste Disposal Area
This article is based on a quantitative risk assessment (QRA) that was performed on a radioactive waste disposal area within the Western New York Nuclear Service Center in western New York State. The QRA results were instrumental in the decision by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to support a strategy of in-place management of the disposal area for another decade. The QRA methodology adopted for this first of a kind application was a scenario-based approach in the framework of the triplet definition of risk (scenarios, likelihoods, consequences). The measure of risk is the frequency of occurrence of different levels of radiation dose to humans at prescribed locations. The risk from each scenario is determined by (1) the frequency of disruptive events or natural processes that cause a release of radioactive materials from the disposal area; (2) the physical form, quantity, and radionuclide content of the material that is released during each scenario; (3) distribution, dilution, and deposition of the released materials throughout the environment surrounding the disposal area; and (4) public exposure to the distributed material and the accumulated radiation dose from that exposure. The risks of the individual scenarios are assembled into a representation of the risk from the disposal area. In addition to quantifying the total risk to the public, the analysis ranks the importance of each contributing scenario, which facilitates taking corrective actions and implementing effective risk management. Perhaps most importantly, quantification of the uncertainties is an intrinsic part of the risk results. This approach to safety analysis has demonstrated many advantages of applying QRA principles to assessing the risk of facilities involving hazardous materials.