Final RFP issued for $6.4-billion cleanup contract

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management on May 27 issued a final request for proposals for the cleanup of the Idaho National Laboratory site, near Idaho Falls, Idaho, and the Fort Saint Vrain facility near Platteville, Colo. The 10-year contract for the projects—collectively called the Idaho Cleanup Project—has an estimated ceiling of about $6.4 billion.

Cleanup of Santa Susana Field Lab site to resume

An aerial view of the Radioactive Materials Handling Facility at California’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory, with the DOE-owned buildings numbered. Photo: DOE

Under an agreement with the state of California, the Department of Energy will soon resume environmental cleanup of the Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC) at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site in Ventura, Calif., about 36 miles northwest of Los Angeles. In a legal order signed on May 19 with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the department has agreed to demolish 10 of the remaining DOE-owned buildings within the ETEC, including several of the most contaminated buildings.

DOE awards $13-billion tank closure contract

The Department of Energy has awarded a $13-billion tank closure contract for services at its Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash. The 10-year contract was awarded on May 14 to Hanford Works Restoration, a joint venture of BWXT Technologies and Fluor Corporation that also includes DBD and INTERA, two preselected small businesses that provide specialized modeling and regulatory expertise, respectively.

Hanford Works Restoration will take over from Hanford’s current tank waste contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), whose contract expires at the end of September. The WRPS contract includes a clause that allows the DOE to end the contract earlier to align with a 60-day transition to the new contract.

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Thinking inside the box

The Optimus-H transport cask on display at the 2020 Waste Management Conference in Phoenix, Ariz.

Jeff England, director of transportation projects for NAC International, pointed to the large stainless steel canister, which looked like a giant-­sized silver dumbbell, perched on the flatbed of a semitrailer truck parked in the middle of the expansive exhibit hall in the Phoenix Convention Center. NAC, a provider of nuclear storage, transportation, and consulting services, was using the 2020 Waste Management Conference, held March 8–12 in Phoenix, Ariz., to unveil its newest transport casks, the Optimus-­H and Optimus-­L.

“These are a different niche,” England said of the casks, which were designed to transport radioactive materials, including remote-­handled transuranic waste, high-­activity intermediate-­level waste, low-­enriched uranium, and fissile materials. “You have a lot of [small] drum-­sized packages, and you also have a lot of big packages that will hold around 10 55-­gallon drums. But there’s not anything in between. We hold a 110-­gallon drum capacity.”

Uncertainties with WTP persist, GAO says

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management has not followed best practices or DOE policy in pursuing alternatives for pretreating radioactive tank waste at the Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash., according to a report released on May 12 by the Government Accountability Office. The DOE has spent over $400 million since 2013 looking into alternatives to pretreating Hanford’s low-activity waste (LAW), yet the department has not properly defined a mission need or a life-cycle cost estimate for its preferred alternative, according to the report.

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Waste Management Conference: Focused on the future

2020 Waste Management Conference plenary speakers included (from left) Michael Lempke, of Huntington Ingalls Industries, William Magwood, of the NEA, and the DOE’s William “Ike” White. Photo: WM Symposia/Flash Gordon.

The 2020 Waste Management Conference, held March 8–12 in Phoenix, Ariz., kicked off just days before the World Health Organization declared the spread of the novel coronavirus a pandemic. When the conference began, it was still unclear how extensive the coronavirus outbreak would be, and meeting organizers later learned that two attendees were tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the days following the meeting. Fortunately, neither of the attendees tested positive.

Jacobs to study C-14 in U.K. AGR graphite

The global engineering company Jacobs, under a contract with Radioactive Waste Management Ltd. (RWM), will be studying the release of radioactivity from irradiated graphite taken from reactor core samples at the United Kingdom’s nuclear power plants. According to Jacobs, the research will support RWM, a subsidiary of the U.K. government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, in its analysis of graphite behavior and the options for graphite waste management in the future.

Comment period on Texas SNF storage facility opens

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is requesting comments on its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Interim Storage Partners’ (ISP) proposed consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C (GTCC) waste in West Texas. The NRC published notice of the draft EIS in the May 8 Federal Register with a deadline of September 4 to submit comments. The NRC said that it is extending the usual 60-day comment period to allow more time for members of the public to submit comments during the COVID-19 health emergency.

Comments can be submitted through the federal rulemaking website with a search for Docket ID NRC–2016–0231.

Texas CISF poses no adverse environmental impacts

A rendering of Phase 1 of ISP’s proposed consolidated interim storage facility in Andrews County, Texas. Image: WCS

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Interim Storage Partners’ (ISP) proposed consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C (GTCC) waste in West Texas. Based on its environmental review of the CISF, the NRC staff issued a preliminary recommendation that an NRC license be granted to ISP to construct and operate the CISF to temporarily store up to 5,000 metric tons of uranium (MTU) in commercial spent fuel and GTCC waste for a licensing period of 40 years.

Researchers investigate effects of heat on water migration at WIPP

Deep in the underground of a New Mexico desert, the Department of Energy is studying the effects of high-level, heat-generating radioactive waste on water migration in the salt formations. At the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M., a collaboration between Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories is performing a series of borehole-scale process tests, called the Brine Availability Test in Salt (BATS) project.

National Academies: Disposing of surplus plutonium at WIPP viable

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s early-stage plan to dilute and dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is technically viable, according to an April 30 release from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Objections to Holtec's CISF license application dismissed

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected a number of contentions filed against Holtec International’s application to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico. On April 23, the commissioners voted to dismiss five separate appeals of the presiding Atomic Safety and Licensing Board’s decision to deny requests to intervene in the proceeding for Holtec’s license application.

Decommissioning effort delayed for two Fukushima Daiichi buildings

Decommissioning work in parts of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan has been delayed after engineers discovered that sandbags placed in the basements of buildings near Units 1 and 3 were found to contain excessive radiation levels. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) operates the plant and is in charge of the decommissioning efforts following the accident caused by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

NRC extends comment period for LLW rule

Recognizing the impacts of the current COVID–19 pandemic, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has decided to extend the public comment period on a proposed interpretation of its low-level radioactive waste disposal regulations. The new deadline for comments is July 20. The proposed LLW interpretive rule, announced on March 6, would permit licensees to dispose of waste by transfer to persons who hold specific exemptions for the purpose of disposal (NN, Apr. 2020, p. 47).

IAEA supports discharge of treated water at Daiichi

An International Atomic Energy Agency team of experts said in a review published on April 2 that the two options for the controlled disposal of treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are “technically feasible.” A Japanese advisory subcommittee outlined the two options—vapor release and discharge to the sea—for the water that is being stored at the plant following the 2011 accident.

ADP CR3 gets go ahead for Crystal River-3 D&D

The NRC approved the transfer of the reactor's license to ADP CR3 for decommissioning.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the license transfer for the Crystal River-3 nuclear power plant from Duke Energy Florida to ADP CR3, enabling active decommissioning of the shuttered nuclear power plant, the agency announced on April 1.

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Modernizing liquid waste processing

Large-scale testing is done on the Spinionic rotating bed reactor system.

We live in a world where we are continually driven to increase efficiency while decreasing costs—to do more with less. The nuclear industry is no different. Developing innovative techniques or adapting creative ideas found in other industries can support that pursuit to reduce cost and, in this case, volumes of waste, while providing program certainty. Such actions build confidence in our industry and allow nuclear power to continue to be part of the narrative of our clean-energy future.

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Methodology for volume reduction of radioactive metallic waste

As nuclear power plants age and retire from service, many countries face significant challenges concerning the safe long-term storage and disposal of large volumes of low- and intermediate-level radioactive wastes (L&ILW). In Canada, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is currently in the process of obtaining regulatory approval for a deep geological repository (L&ILW DGR) for such wastes from decommissioning and refurbishment of its heavy water reactors. OPG is exploring innovative methods and technologies to improve safety and reduce the processing, transportation, and disposal costs of these wastes. The volumes of metallic waste are of particular concern, because when metal corrodes it produces hydrogen that could lead to pressure buildup in the L&ILW DGR.

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CNL Technologies for Heavy Water Detritiation

Heavy water is used both for moderating nuclear fission and transporting heat in CANDU reactors. As a result of heavy water use in these systems, tritium is produced in small quantities from thermal neutron activation of deuterium. The presence of tritium in the heavy water contributes to the radiation dose of the reactor staff and radioactive emission from the reactor facility. Tritium dose is usually controlled through design and operating procedures that minimize leaks and limit exposure to the tritiated water. Many of the CANDU operators have also reduced the operational tritium concentration through detritiation of the heavy water from the reactor. Detritiation is carried out in a centralized facility, such as the Tritium Removal Facility in Darlington, which provides this service to Ontario’s nuclear reactor fleet. Detritiation reduces both tritium emission and dose to workers and the public from reactor operation.

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Calling all Casks

A large-scale campaign to move spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in the United States to a central repository or interim storage site does not appear to be coming anytime soon. External pressures, however, including a growing number of nuclear power plant closures and increased stakeholder demand to remove stranded spent fuel and HLW, are shifting focus to building the infrastructure needed to move large volumes of waste. This includes the design and manufacture of shielded transportation casks for shipping the waste by truck or rail.