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.

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.

Canada’s NWMO prepares for borehole drilling at South Bruce

Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization is getting ready to begin drilling the first borehole in South Bruce, Ontario, as the organization starts its evaluation of the site as a potential host for a deep geological repository for Canada’s spent nuclear fuel. The NWMO said that it has begun important technical and environmental work to prepare the site for drilling, including an evaluation conducted by a biologist on July 6, assessing the location for potential habitat use by sensitive species.

NRC recommends local advisory boards for decommissioning

Based on insights gained from public meetings and webinars, as well as feedback from a 2019 questionnaire, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is recommending that community advisory boards be formed to foster communication between local communities and licensees of nuclear power plants undergoing decommissioning. The recommendation comes in a report the NRC submitted to Congress on July 1 identifying best practices for establishing local community advisory boards, also known as community engagement panels, following the shutdown of nuclear power reactors.

Hanford workers prep for at-risk structures grouting

The DOE's OEM and contractor CHPRC are testing a conveyance system that will pump engineered grout through more than 1,500 feet of pipe to three underground at-risk structures at the Hanford Site. (Credit: OEM)

As the Hanford Site continues a phased remobilization of site operations, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management and its contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) recently began designing and constructing a full-scale, off-site mock-up to support the stabilization of three underground structures with engineered grout, the DOE announced on July 7.

Located near the former Plutonium Finishing Plant, the structures—the 216-Z-2 Crib, 216-Z-9 Crib, and 241-Z-361 Settling Tank—received liquid waste during Hanford’s plutonium production operations and contain residual radioactive and chemical contamination. A 2019 report indicates that the structures are at risk of age-related failure.

NRC extends comment period again for Holtec site

For the second time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the deadline for submitting comments on a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Holtec International’s application to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C waste in southeastern New Mexico. As published in the June 24 Federal Register, the new deadline is September 22.

OPG terminates repository project

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has officially canceled its plan to construct a deep geologic repository (DGR) for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste at its Bruce site, withdrawing the project from Canada’s federal environmental assessment process. In a June 15 letter to OPG, Canada’s minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, accepted the company’s request to withdraw the project and end the environmental assessment.

OPG also informed the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that the company was terminating the project and asked that its site preparation and construction license application be withdrawn.

SRS liquid waste facilities get upgrade to computer operating systems

Janice Sandford, forefront, and other operators are shown in the Defense Waste Processing Facility control room. Savannah River Remediation recently upgraded its control system hardware and software. Photo: David Lawrence/URS Corp.

An upgrade to modernize computer systems across the Savannah River Site's liquid waste facilities while maintaining cybersecurity industry standards was completed recently, the site’s liquid waste contractor announced on June 25. The Savannah River Site is located in Aiken, S.C.

Orano dismantles France’s Ulysse research reactor

The Ulysse reactor before dismantling. Photo: Orano

A five-year project to dismantle the Ulysse experimental nuclear reactor at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission’s (CEA) Saclay nuclear research site near Paris has been completed, according to an Orano press release on June 22. Orano was contracted to decommission the low-power research and training reactor.

NRC extends comment period again for Holtec storage site due to COVID-19

For the second time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the deadline for submitting comments on the draft environmental impact statement for Holtec International’s application to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C waste in southeastern New Mexico. As published in the June 24 Federal Register, the new deadline for comments is September 22.

Savannah River HB Line placed in safe shutdown status

The HB Line facility at SRS is located on top of the H Canyon chemical separations facility.

The HB Line facility at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina was recently placed in a reversible safe shutdown status, the DOE announced on June 24. The shutdown will save about $40 million a year starting in 2021, compared to 2016, when the facility’s plutonium feedstock operation was at its peak.

NextEra sets Duane Arnold D&D at $1 billion

Duane Arnold is to shut down in October. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/AsNuke

NextEra Energy is estimating that it will cost just over $1 billion to decommission its Duane Arnold Energy Center over a period of 60 years, including spent fuel management and site restoration costs, according to a post-shutdown decommissioning activities report (PSDAR) and a decommissioning cost estimate the company submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in April. The NRC, with publication in the June 19 Federal Register, is requesting comments on the Duane Arnold PSDAR until October 19.

DOE awards $350-million contract for Nevada site cleanup

Oak Ridge, Tenn.–based Navarro Research and Engineering has been awarded a 10-year environmental program services contract worth up to $350 million for cleanup services at the Nevada National Security Site, the Department of Energy announced on June 17. The new contract replaces the current NNSS cleanup contract, also held by Navarro Research and Engineering, which expires on July 31.

State drops objections to Pilgrim’s license transfer

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced on June 17 that the state has agreed to withdraw its petitions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission against the transfer of Pilgrim’s license to Holtec International for decommissioning. The settlement agreement, signed between Massachusetts and Holtec subsidiaries Holtec Pilgrim and Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI), also resolves two lawsuits the state filed to challenge the NRC’s approval of the license transfer application as well as several administrative challenges Holtec filed to contest conditions in the January 2020 state water permit for the plant.

In return, Holtec has agreed to provide additional decommissioning trust fund obligations along with stricter radiological cleanup limits and additional site monitoring and oversight.

NRC to host webinar on Holtec’s storage site application

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a webinar on June 23 to discuss Holtec International’s license application to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C waste in southeastern New Mexico.

DOE moves on sale and disposal of depleted uranium

The Department of Energy has signed an amendment to a 2016 sales agreement with Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) that will provide the company with access to large stockpiles of DOE-owned depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) tails as GLE looks to build its proposed uranium enrichment facility at the DOE’s Paducah site in Kentucky. As announced on June 5, the amendment is one of the conditions of a 2019 agreement by Australia’s Silex Systems Limited, Canada’s Cameco Corporation, and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy for the restructuring of GLE, the exclusive licensee of Silex’s laser uranium enrichment technology.

Separately, the DOE announced on June 5 that it has issued a formal record of decision for the shipment and disposal of depleted uranium oxide from the former gaseous diffusion plants at the department’s Paducah and Portsmouth sites in Ohio to one or more disposal facilities in the western United States.