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.

NRC to host webinar on Holtec’s storage site application

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a webinar on June 23 to discuss Holtec International’s license application to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C waste in southeastern New Mexico.

DOE moves on sale and disposal of depleted uranium

The Department of Energy has signed an amendment to a 2016 sales agreement with Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) that will provide the company with access to large stockpiles of DOE-owned depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) tails as GLE looks to build its proposed uranium enrichment facility at the DOE’s Paducah site in Kentucky. As announced on June 5, the amendment is one of the conditions of a 2019 agreement by Australia’s Silex Systems Limited, Canada’s Cameco Corporation, and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy for the restructuring of GLE, the exclusive licensee of Silex’s laser uranium enrichment technology.

Separately, the DOE announced on June 5 that it has issued a formal record of decision for the shipment and disposal of depleted uranium oxide from the former gaseous diffusion plants at the department’s Paducah and Portsmouth sites in Ohio to one or more disposal facilities in the western United States.

Beyond Nuclear appeals NRC decision on CISF

The antinuclear organization Beyond Nuclear has filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit requesting a review of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to deny its petition against Holtec International’s application to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico.

Final RFP issued for $6.4-billion cleanup contract

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management on May 27 issued a final request for proposals for the cleanup of the Idaho National Laboratory site, near Idaho Falls, Idaho, and the Fort Saint Vrain facility near Platteville, Colo. The 10-year contract for the projects—collectively called the Idaho Cleanup Project—has an estimated ceiling of about $6.4 billion.

Cleanup of Santa Susana Field Lab site to resume

An aerial view of the Radioactive Materials Handling Facility at California’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory, with the DOE-owned buildings numbered. Photo: DOE

Under an agreement with the state of California, the Department of Energy will soon resume environmental cleanup of the Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC) at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site in Ventura, Calif., about 36 miles northwest of Los Angeles. In a legal order signed on May 19 with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the department has agreed to demolish 10 of the remaining DOE-owned buildings within the ETEC, including several of the most contaminated buildings.