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Dismantlement of the TSF-SNAP Reactor Assembly

Fred J. Peretz

Nuclear Technology / Volume 166 / Number 3 / Pages 252-262

June 2009


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This paper describes the dismantlement of the Tower Shielding Facility (TSF)-Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power (SNAP) reactor, a SNAP-10A reactor used to validate radiation source terms and shield performance models at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) from 1967 through 1973. After shutdown, it was placed in storage at the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12), eventually falling under the auspices of the Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Disposition Program.

To facilitate downblending of the HEU present in the fuel elements, the TSF-SNAP was moved to ORNL on June 24, 2006. The reactor assembly was removed from its packaging, inspected, and the sodium-potassium (NaK) coolant was drained. A superheated steam process was used to chemically react the residual NaK inside the reactor assembly. The heat exchanger assembly was removed from the top of the reactor vessel, and the criticality safety sleeve was exchanged for a new safety sleeve that allowed for the removal of the vessel lid. A chain-mounted tubing cutter was used to separate the lid from the vessel, and the 36 fuel elements were removed and packaged in four U.S. Department of Transportation 2R/6M containers. The fuel elements were returned to Y-12 on July 13, 2006.

The return of the fuel elements and disposal of all other reactor materials accomplished the formal objectives of the dismantlement project. In addition, a project model was established for the handling of a fully fueled liquid-metal-cooled reactor assembly. Current criticality safety codes have been benchmarked against experiments performed by Atomics International in the 1950s and 1960s. Execution of this project provides valuable experience applicable to future projects addressing space and liquid-metal-cooled reactors.

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