A four-year campaign to repatriate 161 kilograms of highly enriched uranium liquid target residue material (TRM) from Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, Canada, to the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., has been completed, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) announced on January 12.
The campaign was conducted under the U.S.-Origin Foreign Research Reactor Spent Nuclear Fuel Acceptance Program, established in 1996 to return U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel and other weapons-grade nuclear material from civilian sites worldwide. Other partners involved in the effort included the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), and Savannah River National Laboratory as well as state and tribal governments.
The TRM is the by-product of the production of medical isotopes from AECL’s now-shuttered National Research Universal reactor. The repatriation of the material, begun in 2017 and completed in 2020, involved 115 separate truck shipments, covering some 150,000 miles, according to the announcements.
What they’re saying: “Completing this multiyear project with Canada marks another important step in the global effort to minimize the civilian use of HEU around the world,” said William Bookless, the NNSA’s acting administrator. “This significant achievement could not have been accomplished without the strong cooperation and hard work from all our partners in Canada and the United States.”
Richard Sexton, president and chief executive officer of AECL, said, “This is another great example of AECL and NNSA working together to advance our shared nonproliferation objectives and advance global nuclear security.”
At SRS: Also on January 12, EM Operations at the Savannah River Site announced the completion of its part in the campaign: the receipt and processing of the TRM at the site’s H Canyon facility. “The TRM HEU was unique in that it was received already dissolved and in liquid form,” said Bill Giddings, SRNS’s TRM program manager, in the EM announcement. “Most of the HEU H Canyon receives comes in the form of spent nuclear fuel rods that need to be dissolved before we can process the resulting solution. To process TRM, we needed to do some facility modifications and creative problem solving to ensure we maintained the safety of our employees and facility, while staying on schedule and in budget.”
In case you missed it: Last year, the NNSA and AECL signed a memorandum of understanding—called Cooperation and Exchange of Information in Nuclear Security, Safeguards, and Nonproliferation Matters—to enable more effective collaboration in the areas of nuclear safety and security. The five-year agreement was signed virtually on October 16.