UK reactor desk to get a second act in the film industry

The inspection desk in use at Sizewell A.

A piece of British nuclear history may be coming to a movie theatre (or streaming service) near you. The United Kingdom’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) sold, at auction, a reactor in-core inspection desk to an Oxford-based film studio known to have been involved with productions such as World War Z, Iron Man 2, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The inspection desk, which was used to remotely check conditions deep inside the gas-cooled reactors at Sizewell A nuclear power plant in Suffolk, England, received a high bid of £10,200 (about $13,000), according to a September 7 press notice from Magnox Ltd., the NDA company responsible for the cleanup of the U.K.’s former Magnox reactors. The desk was last used in 2005, just before the site stopped generating electricity.

Hanford nears another cleanup goal

Hanford’s largest groundwater treatment plant, the 200 West Pump and Treat Facility, removes tons of chemical and radioactive contaminants from more than 2 billion gallons of groundwater each year. Photo: DOE/OEM

Fiscal year 2020 marks the sixth consecutive year that the Hanford Site, in southeastern Washington State, has treated more than 2 billion gallons of groundwater to remove contamination from decades of past operations to produce plutonium for the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

The goal this fiscal year, which ends September 30, is to treat at least 2.4 billion gallons, the Department of Energy reported on September 8.

DOE issues RFP for nationwide mixed LLW treatment services

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management issued a final request for proposal (RFP) last week for its Nationwide Low-Level Mixed Low-Level Waste Treatment Services procurement. According to the DOE, the RFP is being issued on a full-and-open, unrestricted basis. The DOE intends to issue one or more basic ordering agreements as a result of this RFP.

The final RFP was can be found on the website of the DOE’s Environmental Management Consolidated Business Center. It also will be posted to the Fedconnect website. The deadline for RFPs is September 30.

Licensing board denies reopening Holtec CISF license proceeding

A licensing board of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued an order last week denying calls to reopen proceedings against Holtec International’s application to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage site for used nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico.

Fasken Land and Minerals, an oil and gas company based in Midland, Texas, along with Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners, an association of oil and gas producers and royalty owners (collectively called Fasken), filed motions with the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) seeking to reopen the record and submit an amended late contention against Holtec’s license application.

Crews make progress on Hanford tank farm improvements

Crews work on Hanford's tank farm improvements. Photo: DOE

Work crews at the Department of Energy's Hanford Site recently completed removal and staging of 52 large concrete covers used to shield hoses for transferring radioactive waste between waste tanks in Hanford’s AY and AP farms. (Tank farms are groups of tanks.) The covers, known as “barns,” are being staged as part of an infrastructure improvement project until they can be used in the building of a hose system that will transfer waste from Hanford's A farm to the AP farm.

DOE ends dispute with South Carolina on Pu removal

The DOE is working to remove plutonium stored at its Savannah River Site.

The Department of Energy has reached a settlement with the state of South Carolina to remove 9.5 metric tons (t) of plutonium from the state, the agency announced on August 31. Under the settlement, which resolves litigation over the storage of surplus plutonium at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C., the state will receive an upfront lump sum of $600 million in economic and impact assistance payments. In return, the DOE will be allowed more time (through 2037) to remove the plutonium from the state without the threat of lawsuits.

The settlement stems from the DOE's termination of the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility in 2018. The MOX facility was intended to meet a nonproliferation agreement between the United States and Russia to dispose of 34 t of weapons-grade plutonium by converting it to nuclear fuel for commercial power reactors. Reported to be 70-percent completed when construction was halted, the MOX facility was approximately $13 billion over budget and 32 years behind schedule, according to the DOE.

Work continues at WIPP to increase underground ventilation

A bucket of dirt is lifted out of the utility shaft that is being excavated at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. (Photo: DOE OEM)

Work crews continue with a project to place a utility shaft at a location west of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M., the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management announced on September 1.

Historic Fort Belvoir SM-1 reactor to be decommissioned

Aerial view of the SM-1 nuclear power plant at Fort Belvoir in the 1960s. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a contract for the final decommissioning, dismantling, and disposal of the facility.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced on August 28 that it has awarded a contract worth about $68 million to the joint venture APTIM AECOM Decommissioning, of Alexandria, Va., for the decommissioning, dismantling, and disposal of the deactivated SM-1 nuclear power plant.

SM-1, located at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Va., was the U.S. Army’s first nuclear reactor and the first facility in the United States to provide nuclear-generated power for a sustained period to the commercial grid.

Decommissioning crews are expected to begin mobilizing in early 2021, and the work is anticipated to take about five years to complete, according to the USACE.

Yucca Mountain? The Bulletin says to look elsewhere

Noting that both presidential candidates are opposed to the Yucca Mountain repository project in Nevada, David Klaus writes in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that “it is time for everyone else to accept that Yucca Mountain is finally off the table, and for the United States to begin to seriously consider realistic alternatives for safely managing the more than 80,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel currently sitting at 72 operating and shutdown commercial nuclear reactor sites across the country.”

Florida PSC clears way for accelerated Crystal River-3 D&D

Crystal River-3 as it is now and how Duke Energy envisions the site will look by 2027.

The Florida Public Service Commission voted unanimously on August 18 to approve Duke Energy Florida’s plan to accelerate the decontamination and decommissioning of its Crystal River-3 nuclear power plant. The commission vote marks the final regulatory approval needed to finalize, in October, Duke Energy’s contract with Accelerated Decommissioning Partners (ADP). According to Duke Energy, ADP will complete the decommissioning by 2027, rather than the 2074 date that was originally announced.

Duke Energy permanently ceased operations at Crystal River-3 in 2013 and, in June 2019, the company applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to transfer the reactor’s license to ADP, a joint venture of NorthStar Group Services and Orano Decommissioning Holdings. The NRC approved the license transfer in April. NorthStar will also be contracted to demolish the permanently shut down coal-fired Crystal River-1 and -2.

Salt Waste Processing Facility at SRS approved for start

The Department of Energy approved the start of operations at the Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF) at the Savannah River Site (SRS), authorizing hot (radioactive) operations to begin at the facility, the agency announced on August 17.

The approval comes five months ahead of the current baseline completion date of January 31, 2021. Parsons Corporation, which designed and built the first-of-a-kind facility, will operate it for one year.

“This is a considerable achievement for EM's (Environmental Management) cleanup program and will drive significant progress in treating the tank waste at SRS in the next decade,” said William “Ike” White, senior advisor for the EM to the Under Secretary for Science.

NRC schedules webinars on Holtec’s proposed New Mexico storage site

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has scheduled four webinars in late August and early September to present its draft environmental findings and receive comments on Holtec International’s proposed consolidated spent nuclear fuel storage facility in New Mexico. Webinars were previously held on June 23 and July 9.

As published in the August 13 Federal Register, the public comment webinars will be held on August 20 from 6–9 p.m., August 25 from 2–5 p.m., August 26 from 6–9 p.m., and September 2 from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. All times are Eastern. Information for the webinars is posted on the NRC’s Public Meetings webpage.

DOE to ship Savannah River waste to Texas under new HLW interpretation

The Department of Energy’s demonstration case of how it applies its interpretation of high-level radioactive waste is set to go forward, as the department issued an environmental assessment (EA) report, Final Environmental Assessment for the Commercial Disposal of Defense Waste Processing Facility Recycle Wastewater from the Savannah River Site (final EA), and a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the disposal of the waste at an off-site facility.

Based on the final EA, the DOE intends to ship up to 8 gallons of recycle wastewater from the Savannah River Site’s Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF) to the Waste Control Specialists disposal facility in Andrews County, Texas, starting within the next 12 months. Under the final EA, up to 10,000 gallons DWPF recycle wastewater may be disposed of at a licensed facility outside of South Carolina.

U.K.’s RWM launches geological disposal research office

RWM’s new research office will study geological disposal of nuclear waste in the U.K.

Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), the U.K. government organization tasked with planning for a geological disposal facility (GDF) for radioactive waste in the United Kingdom, announced on August 4 that, in partnership with the University of Manchester and the University of Sheffield, it has established the Research Support Office (RSO) to “harness the U.K.’s vast array of research capabilities in geo-disposal science and technology.”

The new office is to provide RWM with independent research to help guide the organization in designing and building a U.K. deep geological facility for the permanent disposal of high- and intermediate-level waste.

The art of the 10,000-year warning

How to warn future generations to the location of buried long-lived radioactive waste has been debated for decades. Everything from massive obelisks inscribed with ominous warnings and fields of concrete “thorns,” to “atomic priesthoods” and cats that change color when exposed to ionizing radiation—all are real ideas that have been proposed. Others argue, rather convincingly, whether any such warning is needed at all.

The multifaceted issue of nuclear semiotics is the subject of a recent article in the web magazine BBC Future.

Demolition under way on last remaining building at ETTP in Oak Ridge

Demolition begins on Building K-1600 at ETTP. The 42,000-square-foot structure was formerly used as a test and demonstration facility for uranium enrichment centrifuges. Graphics: OREM

Demolition has begun on Building K-1600 at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) reported on July 28. The work is being done by OREM and its contractor UCOR.

Cleanup activities resume at DOE’s Energy Technology Engineering Center

Workers from DOE contractor North Wind gather furnishings taken from buildings in the Radioactive Materials Handling Complex that is being demolished at the Energy Technology Engineering Center. Photo: DOE OEM

After more than a decade, cleanup work has resumed at the Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC), a former nuclear and liquid metals research site in Ventura County, California.

Comment period extended for Texas interim SNF site

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the deadline for public comments on a draft environmental impact statement for Interim Storage Partners’ (ISP) license application to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C waste in Andrews County, Texas. The NRC said the 60-day extension, to November 3, was to allow more time for members of the public to develop and submit comments in light of the events associated with the COVID-19 health emergency.

DOE begins search for WIPP operations contractor

The Department of Energy on July 16 issued a request for information (RFI) for the operation of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. The DOE's Office of Environmental Management is currently in the acquisition planning phase to offer a new contract to provide services at WIPP. The RFI solicits input, through capability statements, from contractors that have the capabilities necessary to meet the major elements of scope for the upcoming competitive procurement process.

DOE marks 75th anniversary of Trinity Test by highlighting cleanup progress

On July 16, 1945, the research and development efforts of the nation’s once-secret Manhattan Project were realized when the detonation of the world’s first atomic device occurred in Alamogordo, N.M., more than 200 miles south of Los Alamos, in what was code-named the Trinity Test—a name inspired by the poems of John Donne.

On the 75th anniversary of this landmark event, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is highlighting the cleanup, long-term management, and historical significance of the Manhattan Project sites—Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash.—that were conceived, built, and operated in secrecy as they supported weapons development during World War II.