The origins of The Reactor Safety Study

September 3, 2021, 3:56PMNuclear NewsThomas R. Wellock
An aerial view of the Hanford reservation and Columbia River that shows the N (nearest), KE/KW (center), and B (top right) reactors. (Photo: U.S. DOE )

In March 1972, Stephen Hanauer, a technical advisor with the Atomic Energy Commission, met with Norman Rasmussen, a nuclear engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The AEC had recruited Rasmussen to develop a report, The Reactor Safety Study (WASH-1400), to estimate the probabilities and consequences of a major nuclear power plant accident. With thousands of safety components in a modern reactor, the task was mind-boggling. Rasmussen proposed a novel approach based on more powerful computers, “fault tree” methodology, and an expanding body of operational data. By calculating and aggregating probabilities for innumerable failure chains of components, he believed he could develop a meaningful estimate of overall accident risk. WASH-1400 would be a first-of-its-kind probabilistic risk assessment (PRA).

Pipeline connecting Hanford tank farm to Vit Plant completed

August 20, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
Hanford workers fit sections of double-walled pipe in place, connecting the site’s tank farms to the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. (Screen shot: WRPS/YouTube)

The Department of Energy is celebrating a major milestone in its tank waste mission at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash. DOE tank operations contractor Washington River Protection Solutions has finished construction of the pipeline that will carry treated waste from an underground tank to the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) for vitrification.

Subcontracts awarded to enclose Hanford’s K East Reactor building

August 12, 2021, 9:07AMRadwaste Solutions
An artist’s rendition of the K East Reactor safe-storage enclosure. (Image: DOE)

DGR Grant Construction will construct a safe-storage enclosure over the K East Reactor building at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Washington state. Two construction subcontracts, worth about $9.5 million, were awarded to the Richland, Wash.–based company by Central Plateau Cleanup Company, the DOE’s Richland Operations Office site cleanup contractor.

Backup battery system will keep Hanford’s waste melters from going cold

July 15, 2021, 6:31AMRadwaste Solutions
The DOE recently completed startup testing on the uninterruptable electrical power system for Hanford’s Low-Activity Waste Facility.

Department of Energy workers recently finished startup testing of a battery-powered backup electrical system for the Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash. According to the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), the uninterruptable electrical power system is vital to safeguarding the facility, part of Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, in the unlikely event of a temporary power loss to the plant.

Hanford hosts roundtable on tribal government policy

July 14, 2021, 12:03PMRadwaste Solutions
An undated historical photo of a portion of the Hanford Site. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy's Office of River Protection and the Richland Operations Office hosted a roundtable discussion recently with tribal nations located near the Hanford Site to review the Department’s tribal government policy—Order 144.1, the American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Government Policy—and discuss opportunities for strengthening tribal consultation.

The Office of River Protection is within the purview of the DOE's Office of Environmental Management (EM). The Hanford Site, in eastern Washington state, is a 586-square-mile site that was used as a nuclear production complex during the World War II era.

Final stage of cleanup resumes at Hanford’s Plutonium Finishing Plant

June 7, 2021, 9:29AMRadwaste Solutions
A loaded waste container at the site of the former Plutonium Finishing Plant is surveyed to ensure that it is safe for transfer to Hanford’s on-site disposal facility. (Photo: DOE)

Final cleanup activities at the Hanford Site’s demolished Plutonium Finishing Plant have resumed following a pause in work prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Energy announced. Crews with the DOE’s Richland Operations Office and site contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company will remove, package, and dispose of rubble remaining from the demolition of the plant’s plutonium reclamation facility, which was torn down in 2017.

Preparations made to remove radioactive debris from Hanford reactor basin

May 5, 2021, 12:01PMRadwaste Solutions
Ray Geimer with DOE contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company, left, shows company president Scott Sax a mock-up of parts of a vertical pipe casing system at Hanford’s Maintenance and Storage Facility. Photo: DOE

Workers at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site near Richland, Wash., recently completed testing a mock-up of a system that will be used to isolate and stabilize about 15,000 pounds of radioactive debris in the site’s K West Reactor spent fuel storage basin.

Leak discovered in single-shell waste tank at Hanford

May 3, 2021, 9:29AMRadwaste Solutions
The B Complex area tank farm at the DOE’s Hanford Site in Washington. Photo: DOE

The Department of Energy announced that it has determined that an underground single-shell waste tank at its Hanford Site near Richland, Wash., is likely leaking into the soil beneath the tank. The DOE said that the leaking tank poses no increased health or safety risk to the Hanford workforce or the public.

Hanford melter “heatup” explained on new website

April 29, 2021, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions

As the workers at Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) move closer to starting up the first of two melters inside the plant’s Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility, plant contractor Bechtel National has launched the Journey to Melter Heatup website that explains the WTP commissioning process, including critical activities such as the loss-of-power test and the melter heatup process.

Divers inspect large water tanks at Hanford

April 22, 2021, 12:05PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Diver John Lehto (right) receives final instructions from Carter Thomas before entering a 300,000-gallon water tank at the Hanford Site. Lehto and Thomas are employees of Hanford Site subcontractor Associated Underwater Services. Photos: DOE EM

The Department of Energy’s Richland Operations Office contractors Central Plateau Cleanup Company (CPCCo) and Hanford Mission Integration Solutions (HMIS) teamed up recently to dive into inspection and maintenance activities at the Hanford Site in Washington state.

Project video: View this video for sights and sounds from this unique project.

Rep. Newhouse urges DOE to uphold HLW interpretation

April 7, 2021, 7:02AMRadwaste Solutions

Newhouse

In a letter written to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R., Wash.) has urged the Department of Energy to maintain its 2019 interpretation of high-level radioactive waste. Newhouse was responding to a letter sent to Granholm by several special interest groups and state leaders asking that the DOE immediately rescind the HLW interpretation.

That special interests/state leaders letter, sent on February 26—one day after Granholm was confirmed as energy secretary—was signed by Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson, Washington State director of ecology Laura Watson, and Phil Rigdon of the Yakama Nation, along with representatives from Natural Resources Defense Council, Hanford Challenge, and Columbia Riverkeeper. The letter said, in part, “We look forward to working with you on the Department’s cleanup of legacy nuclear waste at sites such as the Hanford Nuclear Reservation located near Tri-Cities, Washington. Washington houses 60 percent of the nation’s High-Level Radioactive Waste with 56 million gallons stored in 177 underground storage tanks at Hanford."

Hanford’s new wastewater filter system to increase efficiency, lower costs

April 2, 2021, 11:59AMRadwaste Solutions
A front-and-back illustration of the new Hanford ETF filter system, which is intended to eliminate the need to shut down operations every 12 hours to replace filters during wastewater processing. Image: DOE

A new wastewater filter system being installed at Hanford’s Effluent Treatment Facility (ETF) is expected to increase waste processing throughput, improve efficiency, and save money as the site in southeastern Washington gears up to treat tank waste, the Department of Energy announced.

Search for new Hanford tank waste contractor begins

March 1, 2021, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions

Workers retrieve waste from a single-shell tank at the Hanford Site earlier this year. Photo: DOE

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) has issued a draft request for proposals for the new Integrated Tank Disposition Contract at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash. The 10-year, $26.5 billion contract will replace the Tank Operations Contract currently held by Washington River Protection Solutions, and the scope will be expanded to include the operation of the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) after radiological, or “hot,” commissioning of the plant is completed.

The DOE had awarded a tank closure contract to a team led by BWX Technologies in May of last year, but later rescinded that decision after protests were raised by the two losing contract bidders.

About 56 million gallons of radioactive waste is contained in Hanford’s 177 aging underground tanks. The WTP, which is still under construction, will vitrify the waste after it has been separated into low- and high-activity waste streams.

Hanford subcontractor to support transfer of radioactive capsules to dry storage

February 17, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

A subcontractor has been selected to continue making modifications to a Hanford facility to transfer nearly 2,000 highly radioactive capsules to safer interim dry storage.

Central Plateau Cleanup Company, the Department of Energy’s prime cleanup contractor for the Central Plateau area of the Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash., recently awarded a $9.5 million construction subcontract to Apollo Mechanical Contractors. Apollo will continue work on the site’s Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility (WESF), where nearly 2,000 highly radioactive capsules containing cesium and strontium are stored underwater.

Apollo will modify the WESF and install equipment needed to transfer the radioactive capsules from a water-filled basin to safer interim dry storage. In the 1970s, to reduce the temperature of the waste inside Hanford’s waste tanks, cesium and strontium were removed from the tanks and moved to the WESF. The DOE expects that the transfer of the capsules to dry storage will be completed by 2025.

“While the 1,936 cesium and strontium capsules are currently in safe storage, WESF is an aging facility,” said Gary Pyles, project manager for the DOE’s Richland Operations Office. “Moving the capsules will enable the planned deactivation of WESF and will reduce the risk and significantly reduce the annual costs for storing the capsules.”

Waste transport system testing underway at Hanford

January 27, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

A screen capture from a video that shows "bogie" testing in action. Source: DOE

Startup engineers at the Hanford Site’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) have been performing mechanical equipment testing on the two units that make up the “bogie,” or cart transport rail system, in the lower level of the Low-Activity Waste (LAW) facility.

During future plant operations, containers will be filled with vitrified radioactive and chemical waste and placed on the bogie transport rail that leads to the facility’s finishing line area before the containers are moved to storage.

To date, all 94 systems in the LAW facility have been turned over to startup, and 38 of those have been handed over for commissioning, according to the DOE on January 26.

View this video to learn more about the transport system testing.

The year in review 2020: Waste Management

January 8, 2021, 2:50PMRadwaste Solutions

Here is a look back at the top stories of 2020 from our Waste Management section in Newswire and Nuclear News magazine. Remember to check back to Newswire soon for more top stories from 2020.

Waste Management section

  • First-ever cleanup of uranium enrichment plant celebrated at Oak Ridge: 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, where the uranium enrichment complex once stood. Read more.

Reclassification of HLW could reduce risks while saving billions, DOE says

January 8, 2021, 7:02AMRadwaste Solutions

An engineered stainless steel container designed to hold LLW at Hanford. Photo: Bechtel National, Inc.

A Department of Energy report to the U.S. Congress shows that the reclassification of high-level radioactive waste could save more than $200 billion in treatment and disposal costs while allowing DOE sites to be cleaned up sooner—all still without jeopardizing public health and safety.

The report, Evaluation of Potential Opportunities to Classify Certain Defense Nuclear Waste from Reprocessing as Other than High-Level Radioactive Waste, identifies potential opportunities for the DOE to reduce risk to public and environment while completing its cleanup mission more efficiently and effectively. Those opportunities are based on the DOE’s 2019 interpretation of the statutory term HLW, which classifies waste based on its radiological characteristics rather than its origin.

Under the DOE’s interpretation of HLW, waste from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel may be determined to be non-HLW if the waste (1) does not exceed concentration limits for Class C low-level radioactive waste as set out in federal regulations and meets the performance objectives of a disposal facility; or (2) does not require disposal in a deep geologic repository and meets the performance objectives of a disposal facility as demonstrated through a performance assessment conducted in accordance with applicable requirements.

Hanford evaporator facility gets upgrades

November 4, 2020, 9:33AMRadwaste Solutions

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.

Report finds Hanford’s waste tanks at risk

October 8, 2020, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

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.

DOE extends comment period on Hanford LAW document

September 23, 2020, 9:00AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy has extended until November 27 the public comment period on the Draft Waste Incidental to Reprocessing Evaluation for Vitrified Low-Activity Waste Disposed Onsite at the Hanford Site, Washington, which supports the DOE’s decision to dispose of vitrified low-level radioactive waste at an on-site disposal facility at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash. Notice of the comment extension was published in the September 22 Federal Register.

The DOE initially made the draft waste incidental to reprocessing (WIR) evaluation available in the May 26 Federal Register, opening a 120-day comment period. The DOE said it is extending the comment period an additional 60 days in response to requests.