Waste Management

Environmental Management: GAO Report Shows Mission Far From Complete

September 23, 2022, 3:01PMRadwaste SolutionsSarah Templeton
The Effluent Management Facility, part of the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant at the Hanford Site. (Photo: Bechtel National)

This spring, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an insightful report reviewing and summarizing the status and performance of the largest projects and operations within the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), which is responsible for the cleanup of hazardous and radioactive waste at sites and facilities that have been contaminated from decades of nuclear weapons production and nuclear energy research.

The Decommissioning of Portsmouth’s X-326

September 22, 2022, 9:11AMRadwaste SolutionsGuest Contributor

In the 1950s, the U.S. Department of Energy constructed the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in rural southern Ohio to enrich uranium, alongside two other federally owned and managed facilities in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Paducah, Ky. The Cold War-era plant was built as a self-sufficient industrial city with more than 400 buildings and facilities centered around three massive gaseous diffusion process buildings that could enrich the level of the uranium-235 isotope for nuclear fuel in the defense and energy sectors.

Oak Ridge’s Changing Skyline

September 22, 2022, 9:10AMRadwaste SolutionsCarol Hendricks
An aerial photograph of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s “Reactor Hill,” with, from left to right, reactor buildings 3042, 3005, and 3010. The DOE and its contractors are removing these excess contaminated facilities to eliminate risks and clear land for future research missions. (Photos: UCOR)

The Department of Energy and its environmental cleanup contractor United Cleanup Oak Ridge (UCOR) are poised to meet critical milestones as they continue to move to the next generation of cleanup at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. On ORNL’s main campus, crews on “Reactor Hill”—so named because of the four remaining reactor facilities on that hillside—and at the Experimental Gas-Cooled Reactor (EGCR) just east of the campus continue rigorous schedules as they enter a new phase of progress in the cleanup program.

The DRUM program: Cataloging America’s Abandoned Uranium Mines

September 22, 2022, 9:06AMRadwaste SolutionsGuest Contributor
DRUM team members at the Telluride 18 mine in the Yellow Cat area of southwest Colorado.

Based on a review of U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) records and available data from numerous agencies, there are an estimated 4,225 mines across the country that provided uranium ore to the U.S. government for defense-related purposes between 1947 and 1970. To aid in the cleanup of these legacy uranium mines and establish a record of their locations and current conditions, the Defense-Related Uranium Mines (DRUM) program was established within the Department of Energy’s Office of Legacy Management (LM).

Holtec to provide spent fuel canisters to six Spanish reactors

September 21, 2022, 3:14PMRadwaste Solutions
Spain’s nuclear power plants are to use Holtec’s HI-STORM spent fuel storage technology. (Image: Holtec)

Holtec International announced that its flagship HI-STORM Multi-Purpose Canister (MPC) spent fuel storage technology was selected by Spain’s national company Enresa for a fleet of six nuclear power reactors at four plant sites in the country. Equipos Nucleares S.A. (ENSA), a Cantabria-based manufacturer of equipment for the Spanish nuclear fleet, was named a consortium partner with Holtec in the order, which was conducted under European Union procurement rules.

Atkins breaks ground on new technology center near Hanford Site

September 20, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions

Atkins Nuclear Secured Holding Corporation, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, celebrated the start of construction on its new, $20 million, state-of-the-art Atkins Technology Center (ATC) with a ground-breaking ceremony held on September 13 in Richland, Wash. Located near the Department of Energy’s Hanford nuclear reservation, the facility will be adjacent to the existing Atkins Engineering Laboratory.

Vit Plant delayed: Another defeat for cleaning up nuclear waste at Hanford

September 19, 2022, 12:37PMNuclear NewsJames Conca

The Hanford tanks, on which building began in 1943, were never supposed to hold waste for many decades. If grouting and disposal had occurred according to plans from the 1980s, this waste would already be in the ground and we would have saved almost $100 billion. (Photo: DOE)

At the end of June, a federal judge approved, with the agreement of the Washington State Department of Ecology, a request to push back the deadline 20 months for beginning nuclear waste treatment at the $17 billion Waste Treatment and Immobilization (Vit) Plant at the Hanford Site because of pandemic-related delays. The Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste program is the Department of Energy’s plan to start treating low-level radioactive waste first at the Vit Plant and then start treating high-level radioactive waste sometime in the 2030s.

This is the fifth delay granted by the court for the project, which should have begun operations in 2007. In one sense, this delay is good, since turning LLW into glass through vitrification is about as smart as singing into the wind. The chemistry of this waste makes it much better suited to grouting, a treatment used by everyone else in the United States and the world.

An Oak Ridge first: Demolition started on former reactor facility

September 14, 2022, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Demolition has begun on the Bulk Shielding Reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It marks the first teardown of a former reactor at the site. (Photo: DOE).

In a first for the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Site, a former reactor facility is being demolished. The site’s cleanup contractor, UCOR, began tearing down the Bulk Shielding Reactor, also known as Building 3010, last week.

“While this project is not the biggest demolition we’ve undertaken, it carries a lot of significance,” said Laura Wilkerson, acting manager for the Oak Ridge Office of the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM). “It is the first removal of a former reactor at [Oak Ridge National Laboratory], and it is a signal of much more to come at the site in the immediate future.”

Switzerland zeroes in on deep geological repository site

September 14, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
An illustration of Switzerland’s proposed deep geological repository. (Image: Nagra)

Nagra, Switzerland’s national cooperative for the disposal of radioactive waste, has announced that it has selected Nördlich Lägern as the site for a deep geological repository for radioactive waste. According to Nagra, extensive investigations have shown that Nördlich Lägern, located in northern Switzerland near the German border, is the most suitable area for a geologic repository with the best overall safety reserves.

New transfer lines installed on Hanford tank waste evaporator

September 8, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions

Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) crews recently finished installing about 1,300 feet of new waste transfer lines between a tank waste evaporator and a nearby tank farm at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash. WRPS is the tank operations contractor for the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM).

Basin added to support Hanford’s tank waste treatment

September 7, 2022, 12:07PMRadwaste Solutions
Retention basins at the Liquid Effluent Retention Facility on the Hanford Site, as seen in September 2021, at top, and recently with the nearly completed Basin 41 on the far left. (Photo: DOE)

Work is nearing completion on a fourth basin needed to ensure adequate storage for wastewater during tank waste treatment on the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site, in Washington state.

According to the DOE, its operations contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) has made significant progress on Basin 41 at the Liquid Effluent Retention Facility (LERF) since concrete was first poured for the perimeter one year ago.

Video: Watch this time-lapse video of the LERF Basin 41 construction.

INL engineers become drone pilots to prepare for waste vault testing

September 7, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s Calcine Retrieval Project (CRP) at the Idaho National Laboratory Site is progressing toward what is likely to be a first: flying a light detection and ranging-equipped drone inside a high-level radioactive waste vault to map its interior.

SONGS videos highlight decommissioning progress

September 6, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
The San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) recently shared a few videos on its YouTube channel, showing recent progress Southern California Edison has made in dismantling the plant’s turbine building. Decommissioning of the nuclear power plant, which permanently ceased operations in 2013, is being conducted by SONGS Decommissioning Solutions, a joint venture of EnergySolutions and AECOM.

Subcontracts awarded in support of Savannah River’s liquid waste mission

August 31, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

Department of Energy contractor Savannah River Mission Completion (SRMC) announced it has awarded four subcontracts worth a total of approximately $20 million to perform key engineering support for the liquid radioactive waste mission at the department’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C. Among the awardees are locally owned businesses and a woman-owned small business.

Hanford tests vitrification bubblers

August 30, 2022, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
A worker watches test bubblers in operation at the Hanford Site. (Photo: DOE)

Crews at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Washington state recently finished testing “bubblers” at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. Bubblers are used to transform radiological and chemical tank waste into a glass form for safe disposal.

Washington and DOE reach an agreement on leaking Hanford tanks

August 26, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
The B Farm underground waste tank area at Hanford. (Photo: DOE)

Washington state’s Department of Ecology and the U.S. Department of Energy have agreed on a plan for how to respond to two underground tanks that are leaking radioactive waste, as well as any future tank leaks, at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash.

In April 2021, following a year-long leak assessment, the DOE announced that Hanford’s Tank B-109 is leaking waste into the surrounding soil. Tank T-111 was discovered to be leaking in 2013. Currently, Tank B-109 is leaking about 1.5 gallons of waste per day, and Tank T-111 is leaking less than a gallon a day, according to the DOE.

Procedures enhanced for Savannah River waste facility

August 25, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
The Solid Waste Management Facility at the Savannah River Site. (Photo: DOE)

The Solid Waste Management Facility (SWMF) at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site recently was subject to an enhancement program designed to improve procedure format and quality. The program has led to a greater efficiency and a streamlined procedure review process at the facility, according to the DOE’s managing and operating contractor at SRS.

DOE prepares for construction of Savannah River’s final waste disposal units

August 18, 2022, 12:02PMRadwaste Solutions
Crews begin clearing the site on which Savannah River Site’s SDU 10 will sit. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced that it is preparing for construction of the final three planned saltstone disposal units (SDUs) at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which will complete the site’s liquid waste mission.

The SRS liquid waste contractor, Savannah River Mission Completion (SRMC), is overseeing the construction of the SDUs, which will receive decontaminated salt solution treated at Savannah River’s Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF).

NWTRB to hold public meeting on the disposal of spent fuel in clay

August 18, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) announced it will hold a public meeting on September 13–14 to review information on Department of Energy research and development activities related to the geologic disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in clay-bearing host rocks and R&D on clay-based engineered barriers. The hybrid (in-person/virtual) meeting will begin on both days at 12:00 p.m. EDT and is scheduled to adjourn at approximately 5:00 p.m. EDT.

The NWTRB is an independent federal agency that provides ongoing, objective evaluation of the technical and scientific validity of activities undertaken by the DOE related to implementing the Nuclear Waste Police Act.