Waste Management

Reducing the DOE’s liquid waste liability

April 30, 2021, 4:10PMRadwaste SolutionsTim Gregoire
Plant startup employees work in the process cell area of the Low-Activity Waste Facility at Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant.

During the annual National Cleanup Workshop, held virtually in September of last year due to the COVID-19 health crisis, William “Ike” White, senior advisor to the under secretary for science in the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management, said that despite the pandemic, 2020 was an inflection year for the DOE and his office.

AgCl proves effective in reducing Savannah River’s I-129 contamination

April 30, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
SRNS subcontractors Donald Miles and Richard Mooney drill for soil samples as part of a project to immobilize I-129 in the groundwater and soil at the Savannah River Site. Photo: DOE/SRNS

A silver chloride–based cleanup technology is expected to reduce radioactive iodine-129 contamination found in soil and groundwater near the center of the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina to levels well below regulatory limits. The I-129 was created during the production of plutonium and tritium at the site throughout the Cold War era.

DOE issues draft RFP for $21.5 billion Savannah River M&O contract

April 29, 2021, 3:05PMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management has released a draft request for proposals (RFP) for a new contract worth up to $21.5 billion over 10 years for the operation of the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The draft RFP contemplates a standalone, performance-based, cost-plus-award-fee management and operating (M&O) contract containing discrete contract line-item numbers/specifications with the potential for other contract types.

Hanford melter “heatup” explained on new website

April 29, 2021, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions

As the workers at Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) move closer to starting up the first of two melters inside the plant’s Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility, plant contractor Bechtel National has launched the Journey to Melter Heatup website that explains the WTP commissioning process, including critical activities such as the loss-of-power test and the melter heatup process.

Ukraine authorizes Chernobyl spent fuel storage

April 28, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
Participating in the ceremony to hand over the ISF-2 operating license are (from left) Valery Seyda, acting director general of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; and SNRIU Chairman Grigoriy Plachkov.

Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate (SNRIU) has authorized the operation of Chernobyl’s Interim Storage Facility (ISF-2), allowing spent nuclear fuel from the plant’s three undamaged reactors to be loaded into the dry storage facility. The handover of the ISF-2 operating license was carried out during a ceremony held on April 26, the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, and was attended by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

35 years later, Chernobyl continues to warn, inspire

April 26, 2021, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The New Safe Confinement in final position over reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 2017. Photo: Tim Porter

On April 26, 1986, reactor No. 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine exploded, sending radioactive material into the environment and across Europe. After 35 years, Ukrainians are looking to the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster “for inspiration, solace, and income,” according to an ABC News report.

Shipments of TRU waste to WIPP resume

April 21, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
Waste handlers take radiological readings as a crane lifts containers from a TRUPACT-II cask in the contact-handled waste bay at WIPP. Photo: DOE

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico is once again accepting shipments and processing transuranic waste following a two-month annual maintenance outage. According to the Department of Energy, WIPP is back to accepting five waste shipments per week, with post-pandemic plans to increase shipments to 10 per week.

Shrinking Y-12 will facilitate cleanup, reduce costs, DOE says

April 16, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Federal and contractor officials participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for the WEPAR project on April 7 at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. Photo: DOE

A project to reduce by approximately half the high-security protected area at the Department of Energy’s Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., will avoid millions of dollars in costs and accelerate cleanup, the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced.

Solar-powered microblowers remove SRS soil contaminants

April 15, 2021, 3:07PMRadwaste Solutions
SRNS engineers (from left) Will Jolin, John Bradley, and Joao Cardoso-Neto discuss a plan to move and repurpose equipment used at 19 soil cleanup sites. Photo: DOE

A project to passively remove nonradioactive contaminants from the soil and groundwater at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina is coming to an end, as workers prepare to remove solar-power “plugs” from 19 soil remediation locations at the site.

OIG: Risk-informed concept can be better applied to SNF licensing

April 15, 2021, 12:08PMRadwaste Solutions
The NRC-licensed independent spent fuel storage installation at Zion, Ill.

How the Nuclear Regulatory Commission collects information in the licensing of spent nuclear fuel can be improved by a better understanding of the concept of risk-informed decision making, according to a report, Audit of the NRC’s Use of Requests for Additional Information in Licensing Processes for Spent Nuclear Fuel (OIG-21-A-08), by the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Next decade of DOE cleanup outlined in updated strategic vision

April 15, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
A radiological worker surveys the inside of a TRUPACT-II containment lid during waste handling operations at WIPP. Photo: DOE

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) has released its Strategic Vision 2021-2031 (hereinafter referred to as the 2021 Strategic Vision), a blueprint to the cleanup program’s anticipated accomplishments over the next decade. The new strategic vision updates EM’s previous report, A Time of Transition and Transformation: EM Vision 2020-2030, released in March of last year.

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.

Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth awarded $690 million contract extension

April 8, 2021, 6:59AMRadwaste Solutions
Workers remove asbestos siding panels from a Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant building. Photo: Business Wire

Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth, a joint venture of Fluor and BWX Technologies, along with engineering company Jacob, have received a contract extension valued at up to $690 million, including options, from the Department of Energy. The contract, announced April 6, is for environmental management work at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Piketon, Ohio.

Stanford scholars: Breaking U.S. nuclear waste stalemate could be key to Biden’s climate goals

April 7, 2021, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Dry cask storage at the closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California. Photo: Southern California Edison

Saying they are cautiously optimistic that the Biden administration can change the U.S. trajectory on nuclear waste, some Stanford University experts have offered their recommendations on how it can be done in a recent Stanford news posting.

Rep. Newhouse urges DOE to uphold HLW interpretation

April 7, 2021, 7:02AMRadwaste Solutions


In a letter written to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R., Wash.) has urged the Department of Energy to maintain its 2019 interpretation of high-level radioactive waste. Newhouse was responding to a letter sent to Granholm by several special interest groups and state leaders asking that the DOE immediately rescind the HLW interpretation.

That special interests/state leaders letter, sent on February 26—one day after Granholm was confirmed as energy secretary—was signed by Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson, Washington State director of ecology Laura Watson, and Phil Rigdon of the Yakama Nation, along with representatives from Natural Resources Defense Council, Hanford Challenge, and Columbia Riverkeeper. The letter said, in part, “We look forward to working with you on the Department’s cleanup of legacy nuclear waste at sites such as the Hanford Nuclear Reservation located near Tri-Cities, Washington. Washington houses 60 percent of the nation’s High-Level Radioactive Waste with 56 million gallons stored in 177 underground storage tanks at Hanford."

Hanford’s new wastewater filter system to increase efficiency, lower costs

April 2, 2021, 11:59AMRadwaste Solutions
A front-and-back illustration of the new Hanford ETF filter system, which is intended to eliminate the need to shut down operations every 12 hours to replace filters during wastewater processing. Image: DOE

A new wastewater filter system being installed at Hanford’s Effluent Treatment Facility (ETF) is expected to increase waste processing throughput, improve efficiency, and save money as the site in southeastern Washington gears up to treat tank waste, the Department of Energy announced.

Sparks from Los Alamos waste drum prompt WIPP evacuation

April 2, 2021, 6:56AMRadwaste Solutions

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's underground repository in New Mexico was evacuated for 13 days in March following an incident at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where a drum being packed with transuranic waste began emitting sparks.

As reported on March 31 by the Carlsbad Current Argus, an evacuation order was given on March 5 after WIPP was informed by the National Nuclear Security Administration that similar at-risk drums from LANL were emplaced for disposal in the repository. The order was lifted on March 18 after it was determined that the drums were compliant with WIPP’s waste acceptance criteria and did not pose a risk.

LANL cleanup modifies fieldwork to protect threatened species

March 31, 2021, 3:01PMRadwaste Solutions
The Mexican spotted owl, which finds a home in northern New Mexico’s canyons and forests, is a threatened species that the DOE strives to protect. Photo: Don Ulrich, taken in Flagstaff, Ariz.

To protect a treasured ecological species of northern New Mexico, the Los Alamos Field Office (EM-LA) of the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management and its contractor N3B this month began their annual task of modifying legacy waste cleanup activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory ahead of the Mexican spotted owl breeding season.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the owl as a threatened species in 1993, when population numbers were decreasing drastically due to the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of their habitat.

New Mexico sues NRC over used fuel storage site licensing

March 31, 2021, 9:31AMRadwaste Solutions
Holtec’s proposed HI-STORE interim storage facility. Image: Holtec

New Mexico attorney general Hector Balderas has filed suit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the United States, seeking to stop Holtec International’s application to build and operate its HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel in the state. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico on March 29, seeks a declaratory judgment that the NRC is acting beyond the scope of its authority and an injunction preventing the licensing from moving forward.