Radwaste Solutions on the Newswire

Finland’s Onkalo repository a “game changer,” says IAEA’s Grossi

Onkalo, Finland’s deep geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel, has been characterized as a game changer for the long-term sustainability of nuclear energy by Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Finland has had the determination to move forward with the project and to bring it to fruition,” Grossi said during a November 26 visit to Olkiluoto, Finland, where the repository is under construction. “Waste management has always been at the center of many debates about nuclear energy and the sustainability of nuclear activity around the world. Everybody knew of the idea of a geological repository for high-level radioactive nuclear waste, but Finland did it.”

Posiva Oy, the Finnish company tasked with researching and creating a method for the permanent disposal of spent fuel from Finland’s Olkiluoto and Loviisa nuclear power plants, obtained a license to construct the Onkalo repository in 2015, marking the first time that a construction license for a geological disposal facility was issued anywhere in the world. The site near the Olkiluoto plant was chosen following several years of screening a number of potential sites.

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New Mexico denies authorization extension for WIPP utility shaft

Construction of a new utility shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant transuranic waste repository may be put on hold after the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) denied a request by the Department of Energy and its contractor to extend state authorization of the project. The shaft is part of WIPP’s Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System, a $300-million project intended to allow simultaneous mining and waste emplacement activities in the geologic repository by increasing ventilation to the underground.

The NMED in April 2020 approved a request by the DOE and WIPP operator Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) for temporary authorization to begin construction of the utility shaft while the state reviews a modification to WIPP’s permit allowing the addition to the repository. That authorization expired on October 24, and the DOE and NWP asked for an extension of the authorization for an additional 180 days while the permit modification process continues.

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Indian Point licenses to transfer to Holtec for decommissioning

Indian Point’s licenses will transfer to Holtec for decommissioning after the plant shuts down in 2021. Photo: Entergy Nuclear

The transfer of the Indian Point nuclear power plant licenses from Entergy to Holtec International, as owner, and Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI), as decommissioning operator, has been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The license transfers follow the transfer of the licenses of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant from Exelon and the Pilgrim plant from Entergy to Holtec in mid-2019. As with the Oyster Creek and Pilgrim plants, Holtec and HDI intend to expedite the decommissioning and dismantling of Indian Point.

Indian Point’s three pressurized water reactors are located in Buchanan, N.Y., approximately 24 miles north of New York City. Units 1 and 2 have been permanently shut down, in 1974 and 2020, respectively, and Unit 3 is scheduled to be shut down in April 2021. The license transfer also includes the plant’s independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI).

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Palo Verde settles with NRC over apparent spent fuel storage violations

The Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona.

A confirmatory order issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Arizona Public Service Company documents the commitments the company has made as part of a settlement agreement with the agency. The settlement agreement stems from two apparent violations of NRC regulations involving spent nuclear fuel at APS’s Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Tonopah, Ariz.

The apparent violations involved APS’s failure to (1) perform a written evaluation for a change to the NAC MAGNASTOR dry cask storage system for spent fuel and obtain a license amendment for a change in methodology for performing tip-over calculations and (2) adequately analyze the consequences of a hypothetical MAGNASTOR CC5 spent fuel cask tip-over accident on the plant’s independent spent fuel storage installation pad.

The confirmatory order was issued on November 17. The apparent violations are described in a July 6 NRC inspection report.

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2021 WM Symposia conference to go virtual

Citing ongoing developments with COVID-19, Waste Management Symposia has announced that it has decided to make its 2021 Waste Management Conference a virtual event. WM Symposia has been holding its annual conference for the management of radioactive waste, nuclear decommissioning, and related topics since 1974. The conference is typically held in early March in Phoenix, Ariz.

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Savannah River's Ford Building comes down

Demolition of the Ford Building at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina has been completed, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) announced on November 18. The large metal storage building formerly contained mechanical systems used during the Cold War to remotely raise and lower control rods within nuclear reactor vessels.

Workers have also sealed the Ford Building’s original concrete flooring with six inches of new concrete. Teardown of the facility brings the number of structures that have been deactivated and decommissioned at the site to 292.

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DOE to treat groundwater at Santa Susana Field Laboratory

In the November 10 Federal Register, the Department of Energy published a record of decision to begin groundwater remediation at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site in Ventura County, Calif. The cleanup of groundwater will take place at seven locations within Area IV of the former industrial research and development complex.

Santa Susana’s Area IV contains the Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC), which was used for liquid metals research and where 10 nuclear research reactors were built and operated. Under an agreement with the state of California, the DOE is currently removing inactive buildings from the ETEC as part of the site cleanup.

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NRC passes on Pilgrim Watch’s license petition

The Pilgrim nuclear power plant was shut down in May 2019. Photo: Entergy Energy

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has denied a request by the antinuclear group Pilgrim Watch for a hearing in the transfer of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant’s license from Entergy to a subsidiary of Holtec International for decommissioning. The NRC commissioners issued the order denying Pilgrim Watch’s petition to intervene and request a hearing on November 12.

Pilgrim Watch submitted its petition against the transfer of Pilgrim’s license from Entergy to Holtec Decommissioning International in February 2019. The NRC staff, however, approved the transfer in August 2019, while the petition was still under review. NRC regulations allow staff to approve a license transfer under the condition that the commissioners may later move to “rescind, modify, or condition the approved transfer based on the outcome of any post-effectiveness hearing on the license transfer application.”

A separate petition against the license transfer submitted by the state of Massachusetts was withdrawn in June, following a settlement agreement between the state and Holtec.

Pilgrim permanently ceased operations in May 2019. Holtec plans to decommission the plant (with the exception of the independent spent fuel storage installation) on an eight-year schedule to permit partial site release by the NRC.

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Last of historic LLW removed from Lake Ontario shores

A truckload of LLW is moved away from the Lake Ontario shoreline to a long-term storage facility. Photo courtesy of CNL.

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) announced on November 9 that it has completed the excavation and transfer of about 450,000 cubic meters of historic low-level radioactive waste (LLW) and contaminated soils away from the Lake Ontario shoreline in Southeast Clarington, Ontario. The waste resulted from radium and uranium refining operations of the former Canadian Crown corporation Eldorado Nuclear and its private sector predecessors, which operated from the 1930s to 1988.

CNL said the placement of the last truckloads of waste in the aboveground mound at the new long-term waste management facility, located about 700 meters north of the shoreline site, marks a milestone for the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI), Canada’s cleanup and long-term management response to LLW in the municipalities of Port Hope and Clarington. CNL is implementing the PHAI on behalf of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

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Hanford evaporator facility gets upgrades

A graphic representation showing how the 242-A Evaporator creates storage space in the double-shell tanks at the Hanford Site. Image: DOE

Improvements to Hanford’s 242-A Evaporator Facility continue to be made as the Department of Energy prepares to begin its direct-feed low-activity waste (DFLAW) approach to treating radioactive liquid waste at the site near Richland, Wash. The DOE announced on November 3 that its Office of River Protection and contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) have completed several major upgrades and repairs at the evaporator, and more are planned.

Used to reduce waste volume by removing liquid from Hanford’s underground storage tanks, the 242-A Evaporator is fundamental to the Hanford Site tank waste mission and will play an essential part in the DFLAW treatment approach, according to the DOE.

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