Decontamination and Decommissioning

Oak Ridge project team honored with Achievement Award

January 13, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Oak Ridge before-and-after views: At left is the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant when it was closed in the late 1980s, and at right is a view of the site today, known as the East Tennessee Technology Park. (Photo: DOE)

Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm honored a Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM) team from Oak Ridge with the Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award during a virtual ceremony yesterday for successfully removing a former uranium enrichment complex. The project cleared 13 million square feet of deteriorated, contaminated structures from the site.

NRC approves transfer of Palisades, Big Rock Point to Holtec for decommissioning

December 14, 2021, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
The Palisades power plant, in Covert Township, Mich.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the transfer of the Palisades nuclear power plant licenses from Entergy Nuclear Operations to Holtec International, as owner, and Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI), as decommissioning operator. Holtec and HDI intend to decommission the single-unit pressurized water reactor, located in Covert, Mich., under an accelerated schedule.

Proposed D&D rule expected to be published in early 2022, NRC says

December 10, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission expects to publish its proposed rulemaking for nuclear power reactors transitioning to decontamination and decommissioning in early 2022, according to Patricia Holahan, director of the NRC’s Division of Decommissioning, Uranium Recovery, and Waste Programs. Holahan spoke during the December 1 opening plenary session of the topical meeting, Decommissioning, Environmental Science and Remote Technology 2021, held in conjunction with the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo.

On November 3, the NRC commissioners approved the publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register, subject to edits and comments by the commissioners. According to Holahan, who also serves as special assistant to the director of the NRC’s Division of Rulemaking, Environmental, and Financial Support, the NRC staff will incorporate the commission-directed changes into the proposed rule before it is published in the FR. The new rule is intended to make the decommissioning process more efficient by reducing the need for license exemptions and amendments.

Last remaining support building at West Valley’s Main Plant set to come down

December 10, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
Crews take down the Load-In Facility at the West Valley Demonstration Project. The demolition is scheduled for completion early next year. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is set to complete the 69th building demolition at the West Valley Demonstration Project early next year, when crews finish knocking down the last structure standing that supported operations at the former Main Plant Process Building.

At Senate hearing, Markey attacks, Hanson defends

December 8, 2021, 9:36AMANS Nuclear Cafe


At an otherwise congenial Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversight hearing held last week by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) made clear his strong disagreement with the agency’s November 3 decision to approve a proposed rule amending regulations for nuclear plants undergoing decommissioning.

“I fear the NRC now stands for Not Recognizing Concerns,” Markey said. “The NRC has decided that the best way to shield itself from criticism around the decommissioning process is to take itself out of the process. In the latest version of the proposed decommissioning rule, the NRC would have no ability to approve, no ability to change, no ability to deny plants’ decommissioning proposals, known as post-shutdown decommissioning activities reports. Its only job would be to acknowledge receipt of the report. Our independent nuclear safety regulator would serve as a glorified filing cabinet. Ceding the job of regulator to the nuclear industry itself is not a win for safety, communities, or for the energy sector.”

Maximizing decommissioning lessons learned

December 7, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear NewsLarry W. Camper

Larry W. Camper

The track record for the successful decommissioning of nuclear facilities, both nationally and internationally, is impressive. In the United States, we have decommissioned many nuclear facilities, including complex materials sites, uranium recovery sites, research and test reactors, and nuclear power plants. To date, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 10 nuclear power plants have been completely decommissioned for unrestricted use, and another 26 power reactor sites are currently undergoing decommissioning through either SAFSTOR or DECON, following NRC regulatory requirements. In addition, the Nuclear Energy Institute identifies three nuclear power plants that were successfully decommissioned outside of NRC jurisdiction. While such a track record is impressive, the nuclear industry must be vigilant in focusing on lessons learned in order to continue to make gains in efficiency, cost savings, improved environmental stewardship, and enhanced stakeholder confidence. In reviewing the outcomes of decommissioning over many years, a number of key lessons learned have emerged.

The U.S. Army’s Deactivated Nuclear Power Plant Program

November 24, 2021, 2:30PMNuclear Newsthe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, Deactivated Nuclear Power Plant Program staff
The Sturgis is towed from the Galveston, Texas, pier to the shipping channel on September 25, 2018, as it heads toward Brownsville, Texas, for final shipbreaking and recycling. Over the past three years in Galveston, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been implementing the challenging and complex effort to decommission the MH-1A—the deactivated nuclear reactor that was onboard the Sturgis vessel.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Baltimore District, is home to the North Atlantic Division’s Radiological Health Physics Regional (RHPR) Center of Expertise, which is leading the decommissioning of Army reactors.

From 1956 to 1976, the Army’s nuclear power program operated several small nuclear reactors to confirm the feasibility of their meeting military power needs on land. Three Army reactors were deactivated in the 1970s and placed into safe storage awaiting future decommissioning.

Humboldt Bay officially decommissioned, site released for unrestricted use

November 23, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
The Humboldt Bay nuclear power plant as seen from Humboldt Hill in 2010. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.)

The license for Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s Humboldt Bay Unit 3 nuclear power plant near Eureka, Calif., has been terminated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the site has been released for unrestricted use. A 65-MWe boiling water reactor plant, Humboldt Bay-3 operated commercially from 1963 to 1976.

Representative Mike Levin: The spent fuel caucus and SONGS

November 19, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear NewsTim Gregoire


On July 21, Rep. Mike Levin (D., Calif.), whose district includes the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), announced with Rep. Rodney Davis (R., Ill.) the formation of the bipartisan House Spent Nuclear Fuel Solutions Caucus. The caucus, according to its members, seeks to address the challenges associated with stranded U.S. commercial spent fuel and to serve as a forum for those who want to make progress on the issue, regardless of whether they have a preferred solution.

Rep. Levin talked with Nuclear News staff writer Tim Gregoire about his goals for the caucus and finding an answer to the country’s spent nuclear fuel dilemma.

NRC commissioner Wright addresses evolving D&D model

November 11, 2021, 12:03PMRadwaste Solutions


In a prerecorded video speech to last week’s Decommissioning Strategy Forum in Summerlin, Nev., Nuclear Regulatory Commission commissioner David Wright addressed public concerns about the growing number of utilities transferring their nuclear power reactor licenses to outside companies for accelerated decontamination and decommissioning after plant closure.

“While the NRC’s reactor decommissioning financial assurance program considers the potential for non-utility companies to conduct decommissioning, we have heard concerns about the use of these new license transfer models, given the significant acceleration of decommissioning schedules and withdrawals from decommissioning trust funds,” Wright said in his November 1 speech.

Decommissioning San Onofre

November 5, 2021, 3:37PMNuclear NewsJohn Dobken

Imagine it’s January 1998. A specially equipped train from the Department of Energy rolls up to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) to pick up spent nuclear fuel and take it to the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada. This scene is repeated thousands of times at nuclear plant sites across the U.S. over the ensuing decades. The solution to permanent spent fuel disposal as outlined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (and its amendments) is working as intended. The nation’s commercial spent fuel is safely isolated deep underground for the long term.

But that is not what happened. Work on Yucca Mountain has been stalled for a full decade, and the organization within the DOE that by law is responsible for managing the spent fuel program has been defunded and disbanded.

NRC approves proposed decommissioning rulemaking

November 4, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Wisconsin’s Kewaunee nuclear power plant, which shut down in 2013, is being transitioned to decommissioning. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday approved a proposed rule to amend its regulations for nuclear power plants that are transitioning from operations to decommissioning. After changes requested by the NRC commissioners are made by agency staff, the proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register, initiating a 75-day comment period.

Spotlight On: The ANS Decommissioning and Environmental Sciences Division

October 28, 2021, 7:02AMRadwaste SolutionsANS

“A group of professionals having fun in the fields of decommissioning and environmental sciences for the nuclear industry.”

That’s how the ANS DESD describes itself on its website. The focus of this professional division is the development and use of skills and technologies needed for the optimal management of the end-­of-­life care (decommissioning, decontamination, and remediation), long-­term surveillance, and maintenance of nuclear installations, materials, facilities, and sites.

Radiation-mapping robots deployed at Chernobyl

October 13, 2021, 7:01AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Inside the New Safe Confinement covering the sarcophagus of Chernobyl’s Unit 4. (Photo: SSE Chornobyl NPP)

A team of scientists from the United Kingdom’s University of Bristol were given access to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, advancing a project to train robots and artificial intelligence systems to measure radiation and create 3D maps.

A slideshow of the team’s visit to Chernobyl’s Unit 4 control room and New Safe Confinement structure, where they deployed radiation mapping and scanning sensors, including a LIDAR-equipped robot call Rooster, appears on Gizmodo.

Cold War–era cooling tower at Savannah River Site demolished

October 12, 2021, 7:02AMRadwaste Solutions
Workers demolish a large industrial cooling tower built in 1952 at the DOE’s Savannah River Site. (Photo: SRNS)

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), the management and operations contractor for the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site, has torn down a large industrial cooling tower at the site’s D Area complex. The cooling tower, built in 1952, is one of more than 30 structures being removed from SRS’s D Area as the DOE works to reduce the site’s footprint.

DOE demolishes last of ETEC buildings at California’s Santa Susana site

October 5, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
The Sodium Pump Test Facility was the last DOE building to be demolished at the Energy Technology Engineering Center site in California. (Photo: DOE)

The demolition of the final of 18 DOE-owned buildings at the Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC) has been completed, according to the DOE. The ETEC is the former liquid metals research facility located at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), northwest of Los Angeles.