Savannah River works to speed up shipments of surplus Pu to WIPP

April 9, 2021, 2:59PMRadwaste Solutions
Crews move equipment used to inspect drums holding diluted plutonium into a storage site in K Area at the Savannah River Site. Photo: DOE

Workers at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina recently finished transferring equipment to the site’s K Area in preparation of shipping downblended plutonium to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico for disposal. The plutonium is part of the 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium the National Nuclear Security Administration plans to ship to WIPP under the “dilute and dispose” option the department adopted following the cancellation of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility project.

Upgrades completed at world’s only TRIGA fuel fabrication facility

April 8, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News
The Maryland University Training Reactor, one of 12 TRIGA reactors currently operating at universities in the United States. Photo: University of Maryland

TRIGA International, the only supplier of TRIGA reactor fuel in the world, recently completed a major renovation project at its fuel fabrication facility in Romans, France. The Department of Energy, which provided both technical and financial support for the project, said the upgrades ensure the continued operation of 36 TRIGA reactors around the world, including 18 in the United States.

WSU students deliver nuclear safeguards designs for the NNSA

March 19, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Meeting remotely, WSU students deliver two nonproliferation projects to NNSA and PNNL staff. Source: NNSA

In a program sponsored by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, teams of engineering students from Washington State University designed, built, and delivered prototype equipment to address challenges encountered by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory staff in research on nuclear safeguards.

As reported on March 11 by the NNSA, two teams of WSU students presented their projects to PNNL staff during an online meeting in December 2020. One team created physical training aids for safeguards courses to demonstrate two methods of nuclear fuel reprocessing. The other team developed an enrichment monitor mounting bracket that the International Atomic Energy Agency could use to help monitor uranium hexafluoride gas in enrichment facilities.

NNSA extends comment period on scope of “dilute and dispose” EIS

February 4, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration has extended to February 18 the public comment period for the scoping of its planned environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program, which would dilute and dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus military grade plutonium.

The NNSA on December 16 announced its intent to prepare the EIS, which will examine the agency’s preferred alternative, “dilute and dispose,” also known as “plutonium downblending,” and other alternatives for disposing of the material. The NNSA has been pursuing the dilute-and-dispose approach to managing the surplus plutonium following the cancellation of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the DOE’s Savannah River Site.

ANS weighs in on NNSA’s Pu disposition plan

February 1, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

The American Nuclear Society is urging the National Nuclear Security Administration to rethink its “dilute-and-dispose” plan for managing surplus weapons-grade plutonium. In comments submitted to the NNSA, ANS notes that a better solution for the agency’s inventory of surplus plutonium is to convert it to nuclear fuel for advanced reactors, as was originally intended.

The comments are in response to a December 16 Federal Register notice by the NNSA that it intends to prepare an environmental impact statement on the scope of its Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program. According to the notice, the NNSA intends to dispose of the entire 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium using its dilute-and-dispose approach, whereby the material will be downblended and shipped as transuranic waste to the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico.

Under the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, signed by the United States and Russia in 2000, the 34 tons of plutonium was to be converted to mixed-oxide nuclear fuel using the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site, in South Carolina. However, the Obama administration, citing rising costs, halted construction on the facility in 2016, and the project was eventually canceled in 2019.

American Nuclear Society recommends NNSA use surplus plutonium for clean energy

February 1, 2021, 11:16AMPress Releases

La Grange Park, IL – The American Nuclear Society (ANS) is recommending that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) consider using surplus plutonium from nuclear weapons as fuel for advanced reactors to generate carbon-free energy, rather than diluting and disposing 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico as proposed by the NNSA.

Kim Budil selected as director of Lawrence Livermore Lab

January 28, 2021, 3:02PMANS Nuclear Cafe


Kim Budil has been named director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The announcement was made to laboratory employees today by Charlene Zettel, chair of Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLNS), which manages the laboratory for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Budil will begin her new role on March 2.

Details: Budil is the 13th director of LLNL since it was established in 1952 and its first woman director. She will also serve as president of LLNS, replacing Bill Goldstein, who announced his plans to step down last July, pending the successful search for his successor.

Initial Los Alamos comingled TRU waste delivered to WIPP

January 26, 2021, 12:09PMRadwaste Solutions

Workers at LANL's RANT facility load the first comingled TRU waste shipment from the DOE and the NNSA. Photo: DOE

The Los Alamos field offices of the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management and the National Nuclear Security Administration have completed their first comingled shipment of transuranic (TRU) waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

"Comingling NNSA and EM waste allows for more efficient shipments to WIPP," Kirk Lachman, EM Los Alamos field office manager, said on January 14. "Reducing LANL’s above-ground waste inventory is an important issue to our local communities and is one of our mission priorities.”

The comingled shipment consisted of one Transuranic Package Transporter Model 3 container with a total of 28 drums and containers inside.

ANS member Joyce Connery appointed as DNFSB chair

January 25, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

President Biden has appointed Joyce Connery as chair of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB). Connery, an ANS member since 2012, was appointed to the board in August 2015 for a term ending in October 2019. She was confirmed again by the Senate as a DNFSB member on July 2, 2020, for a term expiring on October 18, 2024. Connery previously held the chairmanship from August 2015 until January 2017.

NNSA to hold virtual public meetings regarding Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program

January 19, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration will hold two virtual public meetings on a new environmental impact statement for its Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program (SPDP). The meetings will be held on Monday, January 25, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) and Tuesday, January 26, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET). Participants can join by computer, telephone, or other device. A Notice of Intent contains a full description of the proposal and other options for providing public comment until February 1.

The program: The SPDP EIS will analyze alternatives for the disposition of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium using the capabilities at multiple sites across the United States. The NNSA’s preferred alternative, the dilute and dispose approach (also known as plutonium downblending), includes converting pit and non-pit plutonium to oxide, blending the oxidized plutonium with an adulterant, and emplacing the resulting transuranic waste underground in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), in New Mexico. The approach would require new, modified, or existing capabilities at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the Pantex Plant in Texas, and WIPP.

NNSA releases contractor performance evaluations

January 19, 2021, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The National Nuclear Security Administration last week released performance evaluation summaries on the effectiveness of its management and operating (M&O) contractors in meeting the agency’s expectations during fiscal year 2020.

The summaries feature assessment “scorecards,” as well as links to M&O contractor performance evaluation and measurement plans. Also included are specific contractor accomplishments, plus issues requiring attention.

Acting NNSA administrator to step down on Inauguration Day

January 14, 2021, 10:56AMANS Nuclear Cafe


The acting head of the National Nuclear Security Administration will resign January 20, Inauguration Day, according to a report in the Aiken (S.C.) Standard. William Bookless, who has more than four decades of experience in the nuclear security field, will also retire from federal service that day, the agency confirmed to the Standard.

The NNSA has made no official announcement or named a replacement for Bookless as of Thursday morning.

U.S., Canada complete nuclear material shipping effort

January 13, 2021, 7:02AMRadwaste Solutions

A four-year campaign to repatriate 161 kilograms of highly enriched uranium liquid target residue material (TRM) from Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, Canada, to the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., has been completed, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) announced on January 12.

The campaign was conducted under the U.S.-Origin Foreign Research Reactor Spent Nuclear Fuel Acceptance Program, established in 1996 to return U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel and other weapons-grade nuclear material from civilian sites worldwide. Other partners involved in the effort included the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), and Savannah River National Laboratory as well as state and tribal governments.

The TRM is the by-product of the production of medical isotopes from AECL’s now-shuttered National Research Universal reactor. The repatriation of the material, begun in 2017 and completed in 2020, involved 115 separate truck shipments, covering some 150,000 miles, according to the announcements.

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.

Congress set to pass year-end funding bill

December 22, 2020, 12:08PMNuclear News

The final text of the approximately 5,600-page Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 was released on December 22. While the timing of final passage is still fluid, the Senate was expected to approve it and send it on to President Trump to sign into law, according to John Starkey, American Nuclear Society government relations director.

Below are some key funding highlights from the legislation pertaining to nuclear energy.

NNSA reportedly hacked as part of “extensive espionage operation”

December 18, 2020, 9:30AMNuclear News

In an exclusive story published yesterday, the news website Politico reports that networks of the National Nuclear Security Administration and other federal entities have been hacked “as part of an extensive espionage operation.”

Citing officials familiar with the matter, the story says that network breaches have been identified at the NNSA’s Office of Secure Transportation (which is responsible for the transport of government-owned special nuclear materials), Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the Department of Energy’s Richland Field Office, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

According to the story, the hackers are believed to have gained access to the networks “by compromising the software company SolarWinds, which sells IT management products to hundreds of government and private-sector clients.”

NNSA to review its “dilute and dispose” option for surplus Pu

December 17, 2020, 9:31AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration intends to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) evaluating alternatives for the safe disposal of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium through its Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program (SPDP). The NNSA published in the December 16 Federal Register its intent to prepare the EIS, which will examine the agency’s preferred alternative, “dilute and dispose,” also known as “plutonium downblending,” and other identified alternatives for disposing of the material.

The NNSA is offering the public the opportunity to comment on the proposed scope of the EIS until February 1. In light of the COVID-19 health crisis, the agency will host an Internet- and phone-based virtual public scoping meeting in place of an in-person meeting. The date of the meeting will be provided in a future notice posted on the NNSA website.

DOE to provide $12 million for nuclear data research

December 8, 2020, 3:03PMNuclear News

The U.S. Department of Energy plans to provide up to $12 million for new research on nuclear data in support of crosscutting research. The aim of the program is to expand and improve the quality of data needed for a wide range of nuclear-related activities, from basic research in nuclear science to isotope production and nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

“Increasingly, precise data on the properties of atomic nuclei are central to enabling groundbreaking advances in medicine, commerce, and national security,” said Chris Fall, director of the DOE’s Office of Science, on December 7. “This program targets crosscutting opportunities to enhance the curation of existing nuclear data archives, as well as research to lay the groundwork for new applications in areas of national need.”

WIPP could run out of disposal space, GAO says

December 4, 2020, 9:29AMRadwaste Solutions

The aboveground portion of WIPP’s current ventilation system. Photo: GAO

A study of the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico has found that the repository faces long-term issues with ensuring sufficient physical space and statutory capacity to dispose of the federal government’s inventory of transuranic (TRU) waste. WIPP is the United States’ only repository for the disposal of TRU waste generated by the DOE’s nuclear weapons research and production.

The Government Accountability Office study, Better Planning Needed to Avoid Potential Disruptions at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (CAO-21-48), was published on November 19.

2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting: Medical isotopes production and applications

November 16, 2020, 5:28PMNuclear News

The Monday session “Advancement in Medical Isotopes Production and Applications” of the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting was sponsored by the Isotopes & Radiation Division and co-chaired by Lin-Wen Hu of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and James Bowen of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Radioisotopes produced from nuclear reactors and accelerators are widely used for medical diagnostics and cancer therapy. Technetium-99m (decay product of molybdenum-99), for example, is used in more than 80 percent of nuclear medicine diagnostic procedures. The session featured speakers who discussed the advancement and status of domestic production and applications of medical isotopes.