Historic Fort Belvoir SM-1 reactor to be decommissioned

Aerial view of the SM-1 nuclear power plant at Fort Belvoir in the 1960s. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a contract for the final decommissioning, dismantling, and disposal of the facility.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced on August 28 that it has awarded a contract worth about $68 million to the joint venture APTIM AECOM Decommissioning, of Alexandria, Va., for the decommissioning, dismantling, and disposal of the deactivated SM-1 nuclear power plant.

SM-1, located at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Va., was the U.S. Army’s first nuclear reactor and the first facility in the United States to provide nuclear-generated power for a sustained period to the commercial grid.

Decommissioning crews are expected to begin mobilizing in early 2021, and the work is anticipated to take about five years to complete, according to the USACE.

Yucca Mountain? The Bulletin says to look elsewhere

Noting that both presidential candidates are opposed to the Yucca Mountain repository project in Nevada, David Klaus writes in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that “it is time for everyone else to accept that Yucca Mountain is finally off the table, and for the United States to begin to seriously consider realistic alternatives for safely managing the more than 80,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel currently sitting at 72 operating and shutdown commercial nuclear reactor sites across the country.”

Florida PSC clears way for accelerated Crystal River-3 D&D

Crystal River-3 as it is now and how Duke Energy envisions the site will look by 2027.

The Florida Public Service Commission voted unanimously on August 18 to approve Duke Energy Florida’s plan to accelerate the decontamination and decommissioning of its Crystal River-3 nuclear power plant. The commission vote marks the final regulatory approval needed to finalize, in October, Duke Energy’s contract with Accelerated Decommissioning Partners (ADP). According to Duke Energy, ADP will complete the decommissioning by 2027, rather than the 2074 date that was originally announced.

Duke Energy permanently ceased operations at Crystal River-3 in 2013 and, in June 2019, the company applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to transfer the reactor’s license to ADP, a joint venture of NorthStar Group Services and Orano Decommissioning Holdings. The NRC approved the license transfer in April. NorthStar will also be contracted to demolish the permanently shut down coal-fired Crystal River-1 and -2.

NRC schedules webinars on Holtec’s proposed New Mexico storage site

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has scheduled four webinars in late August and early September to present its draft environmental findings and receive comments on Holtec International’s proposed consolidated spent nuclear fuel storage facility in New Mexico. Webinars were previously held on June 23 and July 9.

As published in the August 13 Federal Register, the public comment webinars will be held on August 20 from 6–9 p.m., August 25 from 2–5 p.m., August 26 from 6–9 p.m., and September 2 from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. All times are Eastern. Information for the webinars is posted on the NRC’s Public Meetings webpage.

DOE to ship Savannah River waste to Texas under new HLW interpretation

The Department of Energy’s demonstration case of how it applies its interpretation of high-level radioactive waste is set to go forward, as the department issued an environmental assessment (EA) report, Final Environmental Assessment for the Commercial Disposal of Defense Waste Processing Facility Recycle Wastewater from the Savannah River Site (final EA), and a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the disposal of the waste at an off-site facility.

Based on the final EA, the DOE intends to ship up to 8 gallons of recycle wastewater from the Savannah River Site’s Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF) to the Waste Control Specialists disposal facility in Andrews County, Texas, starting within the next 12 months. Under the final EA, up to 10,000 gallons DWPF recycle wastewater may be disposed of at a licensed facility outside of South Carolina.

U.K.’s RWM launches geological disposal research office

RWM’s new research office will study geological disposal of nuclear waste in the U.K.

Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), the U.K. government organization tasked with planning for a geological disposal facility (GDF) for radioactive waste in the United Kingdom, announced on August 4 that, in partnership with the University of Manchester and the University of Sheffield, it has established the Research Support Office (RSO) to “harness the U.K.’s vast array of research capabilities in geo-disposal science and technology.”

The new office is to provide RWM with independent research to help guide the organization in designing and building a U.K. deep geological facility for the permanent disposal of high- and intermediate-level waste.

The art of the 10,000-year warning

How to warn future generations to the location of buried long-lived radioactive waste has been debated for decades. Everything from massive obelisks inscribed with ominous warnings and fields of concrete “thorns,” to “atomic priesthoods” and cats that change color when exposed to ionizing radiation—all are real ideas that have been proposed. Others argue, rather convincingly, whether any such warning is needed at all.

The multifaceted issue of nuclear semiotics is the subject of a recent article in the web magazine BBC Future.

Comment period extended for Texas interim SNF site

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the deadline for public comments on a draft environmental impact statement for Interim Storage Partners’ (ISP) license application to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C waste in Andrews County, Texas. The NRC said the 60-day extension, to November 3, was to allow more time for members of the public to develop and submit comments in light of the events associated with the COVID-19 health emergency.

DOE marks 75th anniversary of Trinity Test by highlighting cleanup progress

On July 16, 1945, the research and development efforts of the nation’s once-secret Manhattan Project were realized when the detonation of the world’s first atomic device occurred in Alamogordo, N.M., more than 200 miles south of Los Alamos, in what was code-named the Trinity Test—a name inspired by the poems of John Donne.

On the 75th anniversary of this landmark event, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is highlighting the cleanup, long-term management, and historical significance of the Manhattan Project sites—Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash.—that were conceived, built, and operated in secrecy as they supported weapons development during World War II.

Canada’s NWMO prepares for borehole drilling at South Bruce

Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization is getting ready to begin drilling the first borehole in South Bruce, Ontario, as the organization starts its evaluation of the site as a potential host for a deep geological repository for Canada’s spent nuclear fuel. The NWMO said that it has begun important technical and environmental work to prepare the site for drilling, including an evaluation conducted by a biologist on July 6, assessing the location for potential habitat use by sensitive species.

NRC recommends local advisory boards for decommissioning

Based on insights gained from public meetings and webinars, as well as feedback from a 2019 questionnaire, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is recommending that community advisory boards be formed to foster communication between local communities and licensees of nuclear power plants undergoing decommissioning. The recommendation comes in a report the NRC submitted to Congress on July 1 identifying best practices for establishing local community advisory boards, also known as community engagement panels, following the shutdown of nuclear power reactors.

Hanford workers prep for at-risk structures grouting

The DOE's OEM and contractor CHPRC are testing a conveyance system that will pump engineered grout through more than 1,500 feet of pipe to three underground at-risk structures at the Hanford Site. (Credit: OEM)

As the Hanford Site continues a phased remobilization of site operations, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management and its contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) recently began designing and constructing a full-scale, off-site mock-up to support the stabilization of three underground structures with engineered grout, the DOE announced on July 7.

Located near the former Plutonium Finishing Plant, the structures—the 216-Z-2 Crib, 216-Z-9 Crib, and 241-Z-361 Settling Tank—received liquid waste during Hanford’s plutonium production operations and contain residual radioactive and chemical contamination. A 2019 report indicates that the structures are at risk of age-related failure.

NRC extends comment period again for Holtec site

For the second time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the deadline for submitting comments on a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Holtec International’s application to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C waste in southeastern New Mexico. As published in the June 24 Federal Register, the new deadline is September 22.

OPG terminates repository project

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has officially canceled its plan to construct a deep geologic repository (DGR) for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste at its Bruce site, withdrawing the project from Canada’s federal environmental assessment process. In a June 15 letter to OPG, Canada’s minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, accepted the company’s request to withdraw the project and end the environmental assessment.

OPG also informed the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that the company was terminating the project and asked that its site preparation and construction license application be withdrawn.

Orano dismantles France’s Ulysse research reactor

The Ulysse reactor before dismantling. Photo: Orano

A five-year project to dismantle the Ulysse experimental nuclear reactor at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission’s (CEA) Saclay nuclear research site near Paris has been completed, according to an Orano press release on June 22. Orano was contracted to decommission the low-power research and training reactor.

NRC extends comment period again for Holtec storage site due to COVID-19

For the second time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the deadline for submitting comments on the draft environmental impact statement for Holtec International’s application to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C waste in southeastern New Mexico. As published in the June 24 Federal Register, the new deadline for comments is September 22.

NextEra sets Duane Arnold D&D at $1 billion

Duane Arnold is to shut down in October. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/AsNuke

NextEra Energy is estimating that it will cost just over $1 billion to decommission its Duane Arnold Energy Center over a period of 60 years, including spent fuel management and site restoration costs, according to a post-shutdown decommissioning activities report (PSDAR) and a decommissioning cost estimate the company submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in April. The NRC, with publication in the June 19 Federal Register, is requesting comments on the Duane Arnold PSDAR until October 19.

DOE awards $350-million contract for Nevada site cleanup

Oak Ridge, Tenn.–based Navarro Research and Engineering has been awarded a 10-year environmental program services contract worth up to $350 million for cleanup services at the Nevada National Security Site, the Department of Energy announced on June 17. The new contract replaces the current NNSS cleanup contract, also held by Navarro Research and Engineering, which expires on July 31.

Piercy discusses wide-ranging topics on Titans of Nuclear podcast

ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy was a recent guest on the Titans of Nuclear podcast, hosted by Bret Kugelmass. The podcasts feature interviews with experts throughout the nuclear community, covering advanced technology, economics, policy, industry, and more.

The wide-ranging discussion with Piercy tackled diverse subjects—from his Washington, D.C., policymaking background, to ANS’s role in addressing challenging nuclear issues, to waste management and climate change.

State drops objections to Pilgrim’s license transfer

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced on June 17 that the state has agreed to withdraw its petitions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission against the transfer of Pilgrim’s license to Holtec International for decommissioning. The settlement agreement, signed between Massachusetts and Holtec subsidiaries Holtec Pilgrim and Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI), also resolves two lawsuits the state filed to challenge the NRC’s approval of the license transfer application as well as several administrative challenges Holtec filed to contest conditions in the January 2020 state water permit for the plant.

In return, Holtec has agreed to provide additional decommissioning trust fund obligations along with stricter radiological cleanup limits and additional site monitoring and oversight.