DOE, New Mexico reach agreement on WIPP permit renewal

June 30, 2023, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, near Carlsbad, N.M. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) have negotiated a settlement on terms to renew the 10-year operating permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M. The DOE, along with WIPP’s operating contractor, Salado Isolation Mining Contractors, and the NMED negotiated the settlement with New Mexico stakeholders.

Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce receives DOE grant

June 6, 2023, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
The Paducah site. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management has awarded a $2 million grant to the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce for its work in considering the possible future uses of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant site in Kentucky. The project will consist of site mapping, community studies, data analysis, and development of recommended strategies.

Former West Valley fuel reprocessing cell dismantled

June 5, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

An excavator with a hydraulic hammer is used to dismantle the chemical process cell, as part of the deconstruction of the main plant process building at DOE-EM’s West Valley Demonstration Project. (Photo: DOE)

Work crews are currently dismantling the chemical process cell at the West Valley Demonstration Project in New York, with work expected to be completed over several months, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management noted late last month. Demolition of the cell, part of West Valley’s main plant processing building, includes the removal of racks used decades ago to store high-level radioactive waste canisters.

According to DOE-EM, a 2023 priority is to dispose of 9,000 tons of demolition waste from the processing building, one of the site’s last remaining major facilities. The demolition is expected to take about 30 months to complete.

The work: Earlier this year, work crews used a heavy-duty excavator with a hydraulic hammer to take out the outermost 3 feet of the cell’s 5-foot-thick reinforced-concrete walls. This lower-risk work allowed workers with CH2M HILL BWXT West Valley, DOE-EM's contractor for the project, to perform other deconstruction activities in parallel, which helped to accelerate the project’s schedule and lower cost, according to DOE-EM.

Idaho’s IWTU reaches 100 percent radiological operations

May 25, 2023, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
DOE-EM’s Greg Sosson (standing) views Integrated Waste Treatment activity during the facility’s first day of radiological operations. (Photo: DOE)

After initial runs using a mix of radiological waste and nonradioactive simulant, the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) at the Idaho National Laboratory site has progressed to treating sodium-bearing waste entirely, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (DOE-EM) announced on May 22.

DOE-EM outlines its cleanup goals for the coming decade

May 22, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management has released its Strategic Vision 2023–2033, a blueprint of the office’s anticipated cleanup achievements over the next decade. DOE-EM said the strategic vision is focused on the priorities of addressing radioactive liquid tank waste, demolishing contaminated buildings, remediating contaminated soil and groundwater, and safely managing and disposing of waste.

“The Strategic Vision 2023–2033 is intended to help us gaze further out to a place we want to be in the future,” DOE-EM senior advisor William “Ike” White said. “It sets EM on a course that will span a decade and inspire us all to achieve EM’s vital nuclear cleanup mission.”

INL waste treatment plant increases production

May 17, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
DOE-EM officials, IWTU employees, and others signed the first stainless steel canister prior to crews filling it with sodium-bearing waste and simulant. Once filled, that canister and 15 others were placed in a concrete vault for storage. (Photo: DOE)

Since the launch of operations just over a month ago, the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) at Idaho National Laboratory has increased sodium-bearing waste treatment fivefold. This activity is a vital step in removing the remaining liquid waste from nearby underground tanks at the site and protecting the underlying Snake River Plain Aquifer.

WIPP drivers surpass 16 million safe miles

May 2, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
A CAST Specialty Transportation truck delivering TRU waste packages to WIPP. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) recently marked a milestone after its drivers exceeded 16 million safe miles without a serious accident or injury—equivalent to 33 round trips to the moon or more than 642 trips around the world, the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management announced.

Hanford cites progress in retrieving tank waste, preps for future transfers

April 21, 2023, 9:33AMRadwaste Solutions
Photos taken inside Hanford’s Tank AX-101 before workers started removing radioactive and chemical waste from it in January. As of April 18, crews have removed 35 percent of the tank waste. (Photos: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) said in an April 18 release that workers have so far removed almost 150,000 gallons, or about 35 percent, of the radioactive and chemical waste from Tank AX-101 at the department’s Hanford Site near Richland, Wash. Retrieval from this tank began in January.

DOE-EM seeks candidates for cleanup advisory board

April 20, 2023, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management has put out the call for interested members of the public to fill vacancies on its Environmental Management Advisory Board (EMAB), which provides independent and external advice and recommendations to the DOE-EM assistant secretary on corporate issues.

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.

DOE awards $45 billion Hanford tank waste contract

April 14, 2023, 9:29AMRadwaste Solutions
Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, also known as the Vit Plant. (Photo: Bechtel National)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management awarded a 10-year contract worth up to $45 billion to Hanford Tank Waste Operations and Closure (H2C) of Lynchburg, Va., to oversee the management of liquid radioactive tank waste at the DOE’s Hanford Site in southeastern Washington state.

Radiological operations of Idaho’s IWTU begin

April 12, 2023, 3:08PMRadwaste Solutions

IWTU operators prepare to introduce radiological sodium-bearing liquid waste into the facility Tuesday. (Photo: DOE)

More than a decade after construction was declared completed, Idaho’s long-delayed Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) has begun radiological operations, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced.

On Tuesday, crews at the Idaho National Laboratory Site began sending radioactive sodium-bearing liquid waste from nearby underground tanks to the IWTU for treatment. The 900,000 gallons of waste was generated during decontamination activities following spent nuclear fuel reprocessing that ended in 1992.

The IWTU uses steam reforming fluidized-bed reactor technology to convert liquid waste to a granular solid resembling coarse sand more suitable for long-term disposal.

Nuclear oversight board to discuss Savannah River safety concerns

April 12, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
The DOE's Savannah River Site. (Photo: DOE)

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) is scheduled to visit the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina the week of May 8 to discuss ongoing safety concerns and the protection of the public and workforce, as well as the DOE’s effectiveness in addressing those concerns.

Hanford restarts liquid waste treatment after maintenance outage

March 20, 2023, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions

Workers change out spent 27,000-pound TSCR filter columns and place them on a nearby storage pad during a planned outage. (Photo: DOE)

Following a second planned maintenance outage, the Tank-Side Cesium Removal (TSCR) system at the Hanford Site in Washington state has resumed processing liquid tank waste, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced on March 14.

According to EM, its Office of River Protection (ORP) and contractor Washington River Protection Solutions processed more than 25,000 gallons of waste during the previous week and has treated a total of 406,000 gallons of radioactive liquid waste since TSCR began operations early last year.

A key component in Hanford’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste program for treating tank waste, TSCR removes radioactive cesium and solids from tank waste and delivers low-activity waste to a nearby million-gallon tank, where it is staged until it can be fed to the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant for vitrification.

Outage improvements: During outages, workers change out filter columns that remove radioactive solids during waste processing, perform maintenance, and apply lessons learned from operations. According to EM, many improvements to the treatment system during outages over the past year came from recommendations made by workers and contractor and federal staff on the project team.

Hanford’s DFLAW operations unlikely to begin in 2023

March 8, 2023, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

Hanford manager Brian Vance discusses the DFLAW program during a panel session at the 2023 Waste Management Symposia. (Photo: DOE)

Hanford’s waste vitrification operations are unlikely to start by the Department of Energy’s year-end goal, said Brian Vance, manager of the DOE’s Office of River Protection and Richland Operations Office for the Hanford Site in Washington state. The DOE is working to meet its obligations to begin processing Hanford’s low-level radioactive tank waste as part of its Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) program.

“The probability for 2023 is very low,” Vance said, regarding the department’s plan to begin vitrifying the tank waste. Vance made his remarks during a panel session of the 2023 Waste Management Symposia in Phoenix, Ariz., on February 28.

Savannah River’s DWPF receives upgrades, exits outage

February 15, 2023, 9:40AMRadwaste Solutions
Savannah River’s DWPF has completed the conversion from formic acid to glycolic acid in the waste vitrification process. (Photo: DOE)

The Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF) at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina has resumed operations after a completing a processing improvement that the DOE said will enable safer operations and more efficient vitrification of radioactive waste.

Bechtel’s SIMCO assumes WIPP operations

February 14, 2023, 3:02PMRadwaste Solutions
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico. (Photo: EPA)

Salado Isolation Mining Contractors (SIMCO), a single-purpose entity comprised of Bechtel National and Los Alamos Technical Associates as a teaming contractor, has assumed responsibility for managing and operating the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

Idaho’s IWTU resumes heat-up following repairs

February 2, 2023, 7:01AMRadwaste SolutionsJohn Fabian

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) said that heat-up of Idaho’s Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) resumed in January. Crews began heating the IWTU in December in preparation of radiological operations, but the facility was shut down 10 days later after operators noticed a small leak of nonradioactive material inside one of the unit’s processing cells.

Located at the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory Site, the IWTU is intended to treat Idaho’s 900,000 gallons of sodium-bearing liquid waste, converting it to a solid using a steam-reforming process.

After repairs were made to the IWTU equipment responsible for the leak, crews removed a partial obstruction that was in a line into the carbon reduction reformer, a key treatment vessel in the steam-reforming process, EM said.

Cell leak delays startup of Idaho’s IWTU

January 19, 2023, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions

Ten days after beginning a heat-up process to prepare for radiological operations at Idaho’s Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU), operators noticed a small leak of nonradioactive, nonhazardous solids in a cell, resulting in the facility’s shutdown in late December, the Department of Energy announced on January 10.