Advanced liquid waste processing systems: Safely processing Fukushima’s wastewater

March 1, 2021, 3:01PMUpdated August 25, 2023, 3:21PMNuclear NewsJohn Fabian
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station site. Image: Courtesy of TEPCO.

Earlier this week, Japan announced its intention to move ahead with its plan to discharge re-treated, diluted tritiated wastewater from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean. This plan has been a topic of discussion--and for many a source of contention--since 2013. After a decade of talks, and with the endorsement of nuclear scientists, experts, and organizations around the globe, the time has come to act. By following safety standards in place and endorsed by the IAEA, the release of wastewater will pose no threat to the public or the environment.

The article below was originally published in the March 2021 issue of Nuclear News. (Also included in that issue is a great review article from Lake Barrett outlining the current status of the decontamination and decommissioning going on at Fukushima .) That month marked 10 years since the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan and crippled the Fukushima plant. The words that follow remain timely, since various news outlets continue to report on the dangers of Fukushima's wastewater without providing context to the Japanese plan to discharge it.

Sellafield marks two flight firsts in the use of drones at the U.K. site

August 8, 2023, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions

Technical specialist Peter King (left) and Sam Jay, UAV engineer and chief pilot, at Sellafield’s Engineering Centre of Excellence, with the Flyability Elios 3 drone. (Photo: Sellafield)

Sellafield Ltd., a subsidiary of the U.K. government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, announced that drone pilots have successfully completed two firsts in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) at the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria, England.

According to the company, the flights, which accessed a Sellafield building with limited space using a light detection and ranging (lidar) sensor and a radiation dosimeter, are helping improve the safety of employees during the decommissioning of the site’s legacy buildings.

Mapping flight: First, an Elios 3 drone equipped with a lidar sensor was able to successfully collect data from a site building. The data will be processed to produce a 3D model of the area, which will help inform engineering decisions. According to Sellafield, the mapping flight marks a major milestone for the site’s UAV team, enabling unparalleled efficiency in mapping and 3D modeling.

D&D practices in U.S. and Japan the subject of new workshop series

July 13, 2023, 7:14AMRadwaste Solutions

Tohoku University and the University of Michigan are jointly sponsoring a series of workshops focused on sharing experiences between Japan and the United States on the decontamination and decommissioning of commercial nuclear power plants.

A full agenda for the workshop can be found here.

The deadline for registration is August 1. A registration form, along with further information, can be found here.

Beyond the headlines: Japan’s treatment and release of Fukushima wastewater

July 5, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
A photo from 2021 of the Fukushima nuclear power station with the more than 1,000 water storage tanks on site. (Photo: TEPCO)

We’ve all seen the headlines such as “Should Japan Dump Fukushima's Radioactive Water into the Ocean?” along with “Japan Set to Pour Fukushima Waste into Pacific, Irking China” and “Japan Is Slowly but Surely Releasing Wastewater from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant into the Pacific Ocean.” The most recent spate of fearmongering was triggered by the IAEA’s July 4 announcement that the agency had finished its independent assessment of Japan’s plans to release the treated wastewater stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station and found the plan “consistent with IAEA Safety Standards.”

EnergySolutions sets its sights on nuclear new build

June 22, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
EnergySolutions is to explore options for building new nuclear facilities at company-owned sites, such as Wisconsin’s Kewaunee site, currently being decommissioned.

Utah-based decommissioning company EnergySolutions has entered the early phases of exploring the possible use of former nuclear sites acquired by the company, such as the closed Kewaunee nuclear power plant in Wisconsin, as potential locations for future new nuclear generation sites.

Holtec uses patented lift system to speed Indian Point decommissioning

June 20, 2023, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions
The Holtec HI-LIFT at Indian Point-3. (Image: Holtec)

Holtec International has said its patented HI-LIFT crane technology, being installed at the Indian Point-3 nuclear power plant, will speed the defueling of the spent nuclear fuel pool and avoid millions in excess decommissioning costs.

ORNL shuttered molten salt reactor made safer

May 12, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
For the first time in 26 years, work crews performed sampling of gaseous byproducts at the MSRE. (Photo: DOE)

The Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) facility is one of hundreds of old, contaminated buildings at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee that are slated to be taken down.

NorthStar to take ownership of Vallecitos for D&D

May 11, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
The Vallecitos Nuclear Center in northern California. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy announced May 9 that it intends to transfer ownership of the 1,600-acre GEH Vallecitos Nuclear Center to NorthStar Group Services for nuclear decontamination, decommissioning, and environmental site restoration.

NRC seeks to better understand new radiological survey technologies

May 8, 2023, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is issuing a request for information (RFI) aimed at understanding the current state-of-art radiological survey methods used to comply with decommissioning and license termination requirements. According to the commission, the information will help its staff better understand trends in radiological survey instrumentation and data analysis, including those used to survey both surface and subsurface residual radioactivity.

U.K. decommissioning bureau releases three-year business plan

April 26, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the governmental organization responsible for the cleanup and decommissioning of the United Kingdom’s 17 nuclear sites, has released its business plan for the fiscal years running from April 1, 2023, through March 31, 2026. The plan provides a summary of the activities and progress the NDA expects to make at its nuclear sites over the next three years.

In introducing the report, NDA group chief executive officer David Peattie wrote, “This business plan sets out a challenging program of work, reducing hazards while contributing to a globally significant sustainability agenda, developing our people, and supporting our communities.”

The full report Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Business Plan: 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2026 can be found here.

DOE to consider recycling contaminated Portsmouth nickel

April 18, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Demolition of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant’s X-326 building was completed in June 2022. (Photo: Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth)

As part of its ongoing cleanup work, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management is looking into the potential reuse of approximately 6,400 tons of radiologically surface-contaminated nickel that has been removed from the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Ohio. DOE-EM began decommissioning the Portsmouth plant, one of three Cold War–era gaseous diffusion plant in the United States, in 2011.

NRC to issue guidance on the early use of decommissioning trust funds

April 17, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it is considering new guidance on the use of decommissioning trust funds for the disposal of major radioactive components from still operating nuclear power plants. A draft guidance document is to be issued for public comment in late May, NRC staff said during a public online meeting on April 13.

UCC completes nuclear diving project at legacy Sellafield pond

April 13, 2023, 12:02PMRadwaste Solutions

In December 2022, UCC UK became the first nuclear diving company in more than 60 years to enter Sellafield’s PFSP. (Photo: Sellafield Ltd.)

Underwater Construction Corporation (UCC) UK Ltd. announced that it has recently completed a nuclear diving pilot project at the Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP) at the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria, England. UCC UK said the project marks a significant decommissioning milestone for Sellafield, demonstrating the capability of the company’s methods and equipment to remediate the legacy nuclear pond while limiting worker dose.

The oldest pool on the Sellafield site, the PFSP was constructed between the late 1940s and early 1950s as a storage and cooling facility for irradiated fuel and isotopes from the two Windscale reactors and was in full operation until 1962. Then through the mid-1970s, the pond facility, one of six on the site, was used for storage of intermediate-level waste and fuel from the U.K. nuclear program.

Kewaunee to begin site restoration work in tandem with reactor D&D

April 11, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
The Kewanee nuclear power plant is located along the shore of Lake Michigan. (Photo: EnergySolutions)

EnergySolutions subsidiary KewauneeSolutions is hoping to begin site restoration work at the closed Kewaunee nuclear power plant in Wisconsin later this year and has submitted a request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to use the plant’s decommissioning trust fund to do so.

DOE hosts Japanese officials from nuclear decommissioning group

April 5, 2023, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Pictured at the DOE's EM headquarters, from left, are Ana Han, foreign affairs specialist, EM International Program; Joceline Nahigian, director, EM Office of Intergovernmental and Stakeholder Programs; Scott Whiteford, deputy director, DOE Office of Legacy Management; William “Ike” White, EM senior advisor; Masaki Nakagawa, special advisor to executive directors, NDF; Tokuhiro Yamamoto, executive director, NDF; Shin Morita, managing director, International Affairs Group, NDF; Taro Hokugo, managing director, International Affairs Group, NDF; Jeff Avery, EM principal deputy assistant secretary; Angela Watmore, deputy assistant secretary, EM Office of Acquisition and Project Management; and Ming Zhu, EM senior advisor for laboratory policy. (Photo: DOE)

Representatives from the Japan Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF) recently visited the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management (EM) headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the Hanford Site in Washington state to promote collaboration and provide updates on the status and plans to decommission Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, caused damage to the plant and surrounding communities. The NDF was created in September 2011 to oversee the decommissioning and cleanup of the plant, which is owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

Last Energy sets up microreactor deals for Poland and the U.K.

March 29, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News
A rendering of Last Energy's nuclear power plant. (Image: Last Energy)

Startup company Last Energy has announced power purchase agreements for 34 units of its 20-MWe nuclear power plants with four industrial partners in Poland and the United Kingdom. In total, according to the company, the deals represent more than $18.9 billion in electricity sales.

Moving mixed loads creating efficiencies in U.K. rail transportation

March 28, 2023, 7:01AMRadwaste SolutionsBeverley Stothart
Two British Class 88 locomotives transport a nuclear waste flask wagon across Great Britain. (Photos: NTS)

Since its formation in 2005, the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has been tasked with ensuring that the U.K.’s nuclear legacy sites are decommissioned and cleaned up safely, securely, cost-effectively, and in ways that protect the people and the environment.

Shipping Vermont Yankee’s LLW: Lessons for transporting used fuel

March 23, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste SolutionsJay Thomas, Mike Valenzano, and Nicolas Guibert
A loaded MP197HB cask is prepared for departure from the Vermont Yankee decommissioning site to West Texas. (Photos: Orano TN)

The rapid changes in the nuclear energy industry over the last decade, driven in part by fluctuating energy market prices and an aging fleet of reactors, have led to the closure of multiple reactors in the United States and other countries. These closures have increased the need for larger and more efficient ways to manage low-level radioactive waste processing and transport capacities. The safe transport of radioactive material is a key component of the overall nuclear industry reliability. Though sometimes perceived as a bottleneck and costly, it is necessary to send waste material to disposal.

GE Hitachi SMR reaches prelicensing milestone in Canada

March 16, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
A rendering of the BWRX-300 small modular reactor. (Image: NRC)

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s (GEH’s) BWRX-300 technology has completed phases 1 and 2 of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s vendor design review (VDR) process, the Wilmington, N.C.–based company announced yesterday.