Indian Point licenses to transfer to Holtec for decommissioning

Indian Point’s licenses will transfer to Holtec for decommissioning after the plant shuts down in 2021. Photo: Entergy Nuclear

The transfer of the Indian Point nuclear power plant licenses from Entergy to Holtec International, as owner, and Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI), as decommissioning operator, has been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The license transfers follow the transfer of the licenses of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant from Exelon and the Pilgrim plant from Entergy to Holtec in mid-2019. As with the Oyster Creek and Pilgrim plants, Holtec and HDI intend to expedite the decommissioning and dismantling of Indian Point.

Indian Point’s three pressurized water reactors are located in Buchanan, N.Y., approximately 24 miles north of New York City. Units 1 and 2 have been permanently shut down, in 1974 and 2020, respectively, and Unit 3 is scheduled to be shut down in April 2021. The license transfer also includes the plant’s independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI).

Palo Verde settles with NRC over apparent spent fuel storage violations

The Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona.

A confirmatory order issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Arizona Public Service Company documents the commitments the company has made as part of a settlement agreement with the agency. The settlement agreement stems from two apparent violations of NRC regulations involving spent nuclear fuel at APS’s Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Tonopah, Ariz.

The apparent violations involved APS’s failure to (1) perform a written evaluation for a change to the NAC MAGNASTOR dry cask storage system for spent fuel and obtain a license amendment for a change in methodology for performing tip-over calculations and (2) adequately analyze the consequences of a hypothetical MAGNASTOR CC5 spent fuel cask tip-over accident on the plant’s independent spent fuel storage installation pad.

The confirmatory order was issued on November 17. The apparent violations are described in a July 6 NRC inspection report.

2021 WM Symposia conference to go virtual

Citing ongoing developments with COVID-19, Waste Management Symposia has announced that it has decided to make its 2021 Waste Management Conference a virtual event. WM Symposia has been holding its annual conference for the management of radioactive waste, nuclear decommissioning, and related topics since 1974. The conference is typically held in early March in Phoenix, Ariz.

Savannah River's Ford Building comes down

Demolition of the Ford Building at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina has been completed, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) announced on November 18. The large metal storage building formerly contained mechanical systems used during the Cold War to remotely raise and lower control rods within nuclear reactor vessels.

Workers have also sealed the Ford Building’s original concrete flooring with six inches of new concrete. Teardown of the facility brings the number of structures that have been deactivated and decommissioned at the site to 292.

DOE to treat groundwater at Santa Susana Field Laboratory

In the November 10 Federal Register, the Department of Energy published a record of decision to begin groundwater remediation at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site in Ventura County, Calif. The cleanup of groundwater will take place at seven locations within Area IV of the former industrial research and development complex.

Santa Susana’s Area IV contains the Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC), which was used for liquid metals research and where 10 nuclear research reactors were built and operated. Under an agreement with the state of California, the DOE is currently removing inactive buildings from the ETEC as part of the site cleanup.

NRC passes on Pilgrim Watch’s license petition

The Pilgrim nuclear power plant was shut down in May 2019. Photo: Entergy Energy

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has denied a request by the antinuclear group Pilgrim Watch for a hearing in the transfer of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant’s license from Entergy to a subsidiary of Holtec International for decommissioning. The NRC commissioners issued the order denying Pilgrim Watch’s petition to intervene and request a hearing on November 12.

Pilgrim Watch submitted its petition against the transfer of Pilgrim’s license from Entergy to Holtec Decommissioning International in February 2019. The NRC staff, however, approved the transfer in August 2019, while the petition was still under review. NRC regulations allow staff to approve a license transfer under the condition that the commissioners may later move to “rescind, modify, or condition the approved transfer based on the outcome of any post-effectiveness hearing on the license transfer application.”

A separate petition against the license transfer submitted by the state of Massachusetts was withdrawn in June, following a settlement agreement between the state and Holtec.

Pilgrim permanently ceased operations in May 2019. Holtec plans to decommission the plant (with the exception of the independent spent fuel storage installation) on an eight-year schedule to permit partial site release by the NRC.

Last of historic LLW removed from Lake Ontario shores

A truckload of LLW is moved away from the Lake Ontario shoreline to a long-term storage facility. Photo courtesy of CNL.

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) announced on November 9 that it has completed the excavation and transfer of about 450,000 cubic meters of historic low-level radioactive waste (LLW) and contaminated soils away from the Lake Ontario shoreline in Southeast Clarington, Ontario. The waste resulted from radium and uranium refining operations of the former Canadian Crown corporation Eldorado Nuclear and its private sector predecessors, which operated from the 1930s to 1988.

CNL said the placement of the last truckloads of waste in the aboveground mound at the new long-term waste management facility, located about 700 meters north of the shoreline site, marks a milestone for the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI), Canada’s cleanup and long-term management response to LLW in the municipalities of Port Hope and Clarington. CNL is implementing the PHAI on behalf of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

Nevada senators reiterate opposition to Yucca Mountain

Cortez Masto

Rosen

U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.) and Jacky Rosen (D., Nev.) sent a letter to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) to reiterate their annual request that zero funds be appropriated to support licensing activities for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in fiscal year 2021.

Earlier this year, Cortez Masto along with a majority of Nevada’s congressional delegation, including Rosen, reintroduced the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act. The bill would require the secretary of energy to obtain the consent of affected state and local governments, as well as tribal leaders, before making expenditures from the Nuclear Waste Fund for a nuclear waste repository.

Hanford evaporator facility gets upgrades

A graphic representation showing how the 242-A Evaporator creates storage space in the double-shell tanks at the Hanford Site. Image: DOE

Improvements to Hanford’s 242-A Evaporator Facility continue to be made as the Department of Energy prepares to begin its direct-feed low-activity waste (DFLAW) approach to treating radioactive liquid waste at the site near Richland, Wash. The DOE announced on November 3 that its Office of River Protection and contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) have completed several major upgrades and repairs at the evaporator, and more are planned.

Used to reduce waste volume by removing liquid from Hanford’s underground storage tanks, the 242-A Evaporator is fundamental to the Hanford Site tank waste mission and will play an essential part in the DFLAW treatment approach, according to the DOE.

DOE prepares experimental Oak Ridge reactor for deactivation

OREM and cleanup contractor UCOR are set to fully deactivate the Experimental Gas-Cooled Reactor at Oak Ridge for eventual demolition. Photo:DOE

With work recently completed on the removal of a former uranium enrichment complex at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), the Department of Energy is shifting focus to other remediation projects around the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. On October 27, the DOE announced that the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) is set to begin cleanup of the Experimental Gas-Cooled Reactor at the site.

OREM and cleanup subcontractor UCOR are in the planning stages to fully deactivate the reactor for eventual demolition. The reactor is one of 16 inactive research reactors and isotope facilities that OREM is addressing and cleaning up at Oak Ridge. The cleanup effort will happen concurrently with other OREM cleanup projects underway at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.

DOE completes cleanup at Nevada’s Tonopah Test Range

Weapon systems, research rockets, and artillery were tested on the Tonopah Test Range beginning in 1956. Photo: DOE

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced on October 27 that it has completed another of its 2020 priorities—completing the remediation activities on and around the Tonopah Test Range and conveying 70 sites into long-term stewardship. Cleanup of the historic site, located within the Nevada Test and Training Range about 160 miles northwest of Las Vegas, was completed in less than half the time initially estimated, according to the DOE.

Oversight of the 70 remediated sites has now been transferred from the Office of Environmental Management to the DOE’s Office of Legacy Management (LM), which provides long-term surveillance and maintenance of remediated and closed DOE sites. Undersecretary for Science Paul Dabbar and other representatives from the DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) celebrated the transfer of the sites to LM on October 20.

Uranium mining settlement could fund new cleanup industry

The Santa Fe New Mexican, in its October 24 edition, reported on a study by the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research that found that the state could use money from a nearly $1- billion federal mining settlement to create a new industry around the cleanup of abandoned uranium mines in the Southwest.

OPG launches Canadian hub for nuclear collaboration

Ontario Power Generation has officially opened its Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability, the company announced on October 23. Located in Ontario’s Durham Region, the new center is intended to integrate collaboration and research in the nuclear life cycle while also supporting the work under way to prepare for the decommissioning of OPG’s Pickering nuclear power plant.

WM Symposia announces scholarship funding for HBCUs

Waste Management Symposia, which hosts the Waste Management Conference every year in Phoenix, Ariz., announced on October 23 that it is putting an increased emphasis on funding scholarships at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and at institutions near Department of Energy sites. The organization said that the funding is part of its continuing effort to help the DOE and the nuclear industry develop the workforce of the future.

Milestone reached in Moab Site mill tailings removal project

Officials with the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action project display commemorative flags recognizing the milestone of disposing of 11 million tons of mill tailings. Photo: DOE

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced on October 20 that it has achieved a 2020 priority with the removal of another million tons of contaminated soil and debris from the Moab Site in southeastern Utah.

With this latest milestone, EM’s Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action project has disposed of a total of 11 million tons of mill tailings from the site along the Colorado River, putting the project two-thirds of the way toward completing the removal and disposal of 16 million tons of mill tailings.

Site employees also recently surpassed a safety milestone, exceeding 1,500 workdays without a lost-time injury or illness, the DOE said.

First-ever cleanup of uranium enrichment plant celebrated at Oak Ridge

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette speaks during an October 13 celebration marking the completion of the cleanup of Oak Ridge’s East Tennessee Technology Park.

The completion of the decades-long effort to clean up the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant was celebrated on October 13, with Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette joining U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, and other state and community leaders at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), where the uranium enrichment complex once stood.

“We are not only celebrating reaching this achievement, but also how this achievement will impact the future of this region moving forward,” Brouillette said. “We turned what was once an expensive government liability that presented risks to the community into an asset that the community can use to usher in new growth for East Tennessee.”

SRR renews agreement with Denmark Technical College

From left: Denmark Technical College president and CEO Willie Todd, Jr. gives SRR chief operating officer and deputy project manager Mark Schmitz and SRR president and project manager Phil Breidenbach a tour of a student lab.

Savannah River Remediation (SRR), the liquid waste contractor at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site, signed a memorandum of understanding on October 7 with Denmark Technical College (DTC), one of South Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

SRR signed an original MOU with DTC in 2019. The new MOU is effective through September 2021.

NRC approves Yucca Mountain roadmap

Yucca Mountain in Neveda.

The commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 3-2 in favor of a recommendation by agency staff to produce a knowledge management “roadmap” for the suspended Yucca Mountain license review. According to NRC staff, the roadmap, which would focus on the regulatory and technical bases of the NRC’s review of the proposed high-level waste repository, would assist staff in resuming licensing work should Congress appropriate funds to do so. The NRC staff said that the document would be completed within a year.

The staff proposes to use $164,000 from the Nuclear Waste Fund (NWF) to develop the document. The staff’s proposal, along with the voting records of the NRC commissioners, was posted to the NRC’s ADAMS website on October 9.

NRC denies challenge to Three Mile Island’s emergency plan

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected a petition by Three Mile Island Alert (TMIA) challenging Exelon’s request to revise its site emergency plan for the closed Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. Exelon submitted a request to the NRC to amend its TMI-1 license to reflect the reduced risks of the defueled reactor, which was permanently shut down in September 2019.

In an order issued on October 8, the NRC commissioners upheld a decision by an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board denying TMIA’s petition to intervene and request a hearing in the license amendment request. That decision, issued on January 23, 2020, found that the antinuclear group had not established standing in the case and that its contentions were inadmissible.

Report finds Hanford’s waste tanks at risk

The Office of Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Energy is raising concerns about the ability of the department to safely store radioactive waste in underground tanks at the Hanford Site until its cleanup mission there is complete. Specifically, the IG said that the tanks, which include 149 single-shell tanks (SST) and 28 double-shell tanks (DST), have deteriorated over time and there may not be enough space in the DSTs to accommodate waste from failed tanks.

The audit report, Tank Waste Management at the Hanford Site (DOE-OIG-20-57), was posted to the IG'S webpage on October 5.