Radwaste Solutions on the Newswire

Savannah River Site moves closer to closing F Tank Farm

Workers at the Savannah River Site’s F Tank Farm (FTF) are preparing to close radioactive waste tanks, according to a March 2 release from SRS. The last time a waste tank was closed at the farm was in April 2016.

The FTF is a 22-acre site that contains 22 of the 51 tanks spanning two SRS tank farms. (The separate-site H Tank Farm houses the remaining 29 tanks.) The FTF’s 22 tanks are below-grade, carbon steel and reinforced concrete tanks that store or previously have stored liquid radioactive waste generated at SRS, in South Carolina.

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Search for new Hanford tank waste contractor begins

Workers retrieve waste from a single-shell tank at the Hanford Site earlier this year. Photo: DOE

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) has issued a draft request for proposals for the new Integrated Tank Disposition Contract at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash. The 10-year, $26.5 billion contract will replace the Tank Operations Contract currently held by Washington River Protection Solutions, and the scope will be expanded to include the operation of the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) after radiological, or “hot,” commissioning of the plant is completed.

The DOE had awarded a tank closure contract to a team led by BWX Technologies in May of last year, but later rescinded that decision after protests were raised by the two losing contract bidders.

About 56 million gallons of radioactive waste is contained in Hanford’s 177 aging underground tanks. The WTP, which is still under construction, will vitrify the waste after it has been separated into low- and high-activity waste streams.

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Demolition of former radioisotope lab underway at ORNL

A view of the demolition of a hot cell inside a protective cover at the former radioisotope development lab at ORNL. Photo: DOE

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and contractor UCOR have begun removing the two remaining structures at the former radioisotope development laboratory at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee.

“This project launches our next phase of major demolition and cleanup at ORNL,” said Nathan Felosi, ORNL’s portfolio federal project director for OREM. “Our work is eliminating contaminated structures, like this one, that are on DOE’s list of high-risk facilities and clearing space for future research missions.”

The project is scheduled to be completed this spring, OREM reported on February 23.

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EPA awards $220 million in uranium mine cleanup contracts

The Environmental Protection Agency has awarded three contracts for cleanup efforts at more than 50 abandoned uranium mine sites in and around the Navajo Nation in the southwestern United States. The Navaho Area Abandoned Mine Remedial Construction and Services Contracts, worth up to $220 million over the next five years, were awarded to the Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture, Environmental Quality Management, and Arrowhead Contracting, the agency announced on February 11.

According to the EPA, the cleanup work is slated to begin later this year, following the completion of assessments in coordination with the Navajo Nation EPA, the tribe’s environmental agency. The sites are in New Mexico’s Grants Mining District and 10 Navajo Nation chapters. The companies selected have experience working on hazardous waste sites across the country, including cleaning up other abandoned mine sites in the Southwest, the EPA said.

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Hanford subcontractor to support transfer of radioactive capsules to dry storage

A subcontractor has been selected to continue making modifications to a Hanford facility to transfer nearly 2,000 highly radioactive capsules to safer interim dry storage.

Central Plateau Cleanup Company, the Department of Energy’s prime cleanup contractor for the Central Plateau area of the Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash., recently awarded a $9.5 million construction subcontract to Apollo Mechanical Contractors. Apollo will continue work on the site’s Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility (WESF), where nearly 2,000 highly radioactive capsules containing cesium and strontium are stored underwater.

Apollo will modify the WESF and install equipment needed to transfer the radioactive capsules from a water-filled basin to safer interim dry storage. In the 1970s, to reduce the temperature of the waste inside Hanford’s waste tanks, cesium and strontium were removed from the tanks and moved to the WESF. The DOE expects that the transfer of the capsules to dry storage will be completed by 2025.

“While the 1,936 cesium and strontium capsules are currently in safe storage, WESF is an aging facility,” said Gary Pyles, project manager for the DOE’s Richland Operations Office. “Moving the capsules will enable the planned deactivation of WESF and will reduce the risk and significantly reduce the annual costs for storing the capsules.”

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Beyond Nuclear appeals NRC decision in Texas CISF licensing proceeding

The antinuclear organization Beyond Nuclear is appealing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s dismissal of its petition to intervene in the proceeding for Interim Storage Partners’ (ISP) application to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel in western Texas. Beyond Nuclear filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on February 10, asking the court to order the dismissal of the license application.

ISP, a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and Orano, submitted its application for the CISF with the NRC in June 2018. In September 2018, Beyond Nuclear filed a motion to dismiss the application. An NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board denied Beyond Nuclear’s request for a hearing in the licensing proceedings, and in December 2020, the NRC issued an order upholding that decision.

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Savannah River crews remove cesium columns from tank closure unit

Work crews remove the first column filled with cesium from the Tank Closure Cesium Removal unit by crane in H tank farm at the Savannah River Site. Photo: DOE

Columns filled with cesium have been removed at the Savannah River Site in a demonstration project designed to accelerate removal of radioactive salt waste from underground tanks.

“On the surface, it appeared to be like any other crane lift and equipment transport, which are routinely performed in the tank farms. However, this equipment contained cesium-rich, high-level waste, which was transported aboveground via roadway to an on-site interim safe storage pad,” said Savannah River Remediation (SRR) president and project manager Phil Breidenbach. “It was all handled safely and executed with outstanding teamwork by our highly skilled workforce.”

Operated by liquid waste contractor SRR, a system known as the Tank Closure Cesium Removal (TCCR) unit removes cesium from the salt waste in Tank 10 in the site's H Tank Farm. The TCCR is a pilot demonstration that helps accelerate tank closure at the site, according to a report by the Department of Energy on February 9.

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DOE gets go-ahead to build spent fuel/high-level waste railcars

Graphical rendering of Fortis railcar design with spent nuclear fuel cask. Image: DOE

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) recently gave the Department of Energy approval to begin building and testing Fortis, a high-tech railcar designed specifically to transport the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Fortis is one of two specialized railcars under development by the DOE that could be operational within the next five years.

Fortis is an eight-axle, flat-deck railcar that will be able to transport large containers of spent fuel and HLW. It is equipped with high-tech sensors and monitoring systems that report 11 different performance features back to the operators in real time. The railcar design was completed earlier this year, with technical support from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

According to the DOE, AAR signed off on the design in January, allowing the department to begin fabricating and testing the prototype in compliance with the rail industry’s highest design standard for railcars transporting spent fuel and HLW.

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NRC report updates decommissioning cost guidance

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has updated its guidance for nuclear power plant owners and operators in estimating the cost of decommissioning their reactors. Licensed power reactor operators are required under NRC regulations to annually adjust the estimated costs (in current year dollars) of decommissioning their plants to ensure that adequate funds are available when needed.

NUREG-1307, Revision 18, Report on Waste Burial Charges: Changes in Decommissioning Waste Disposal Costs at Low-Level Waste Burial Facilities, issued on February 3, explains the formula acceptable to the NRC for determining the minimum decommissioning fund requirements for nuclear power reactor licensees. Specifically, NUREG-1307 provides the adjustment factor and updates the values for the labor, energy, and waste burial escalation factors of the minimum formula.

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NNSA extends comment period on scope of “dilute and dispose” EIS

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration has extended to February 18 the public comment period for the scoping of its planned environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program, which would dilute and dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus military grade plutonium.

The NNSA on December 16 announced its intent to prepare the EIS, which will examine the agency’s preferred alternative, “dilute and dispose,” also known as “plutonium downblending,” and other alternatives for disposing of the material. The NNSA has been pursuing the dilute-and-dispose approach to managing the surplus plutonium following the cancellation of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the DOE’s Savannah River Site.

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