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D&D Industry News Archives

View archived deactivation and decommissioning news items.

Improved Ventilation Supports Cleanup of Contaminated Hanford Facility

April 29, 2024

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Workers with EM contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company recently installed a new ventilation system at the Hanford Site’s Reduction Oxidation Plant. The new system will help protect workers performing cleanup activities to prepare the massive former plutonium processing facility for demolition.

RICHLAND, Wash. — For the next several years, crews with EM Richland Operations Office (RL) contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company (CPCCo) can breathe easy while preparing the Hanford Site’s Reduction Oxidation Plant for demolition.

Over the last 30 months crews have installed and tested a more efficient and effective ventilation system for the plant. The state-of-the-art system significantly improves airflow and filtration inside the plant, allowing crews to safely perform cleanup activities at the former plutonium processing facility, including removing radiological and chemical hazards and disconnecting electrical and mechanical systems.

“The system can move more than 60,000 cubic feet of air per minute — more than three times the flow rate of the existing system,” said Andy Wiborg, RL Projects and Facilities Division team lead for Hanford’s Central Plateau Cleanup Project. “This improved ventilation allows for better control of contamination within the facility, allowing workers to safely continue cleanup work to prepare the aging facility for demolition.”

The installed ventilation system consists of three new exhauster units with air filters, more than 400 feet of above-ground stainless-steel ducting, and associated equipment that includes heat detectors, vibration sensors and fire-control units.

“I’m proud of our team’s work to install a robust ventilation system that will help workers safely complete challenging cleanup activities inside the plant for years to come,” said CPCCo End States Director Marty Ellis. “There were a lot of parts and pieces involved with this project. Our crews did a great job of troubleshooting issues and making modifications to ensure the system operates safely and efficiently.”

-Contributor: Mark McKenna
-Source: EM Newsletter

Los Alamos Completes Field Work for Two Soil Cleanup Campaigns

January 19, 2024

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EM cleanup contractor Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos removes contaminated soil from legacy Los Alamos National Laboratory operations in North Ancho Canyon.
 

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — The EM Los Alamos Field Office (EM-LA) and its legacy cleanup contractor at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) are making steady progress in a key program central to the legacy cleanup mission.

Over the course of 2023, EM-LA and Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos (N3B) completed investigation and soil remediation at two “Aggregate Areas” — the Threemile and North Ancho canyons. Aggregate Areas are geographical areas within watersheds or canyons that contain soil and debris contaminated from legacy operations at LANL.

Aggregate Areas are grouped into eight campaigns under the 2016 Compliance Order on Consent. That order is an enforceable agreement between the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and DOE for the cleanup of legacy waste at LANL, and establishes a structure for accomplishing cleanup work on a priority basis through the use of campaigns. Threemile Canyon is included in the Pajarito Watershed Campaign, while North Ancho Canyon is included in the Southern External Boundary Campaign. EM-LA and N3B currently have six Aggregate Area campaigns in progress.

“Cleaning up the land is one of our major areas of focus in the legacy cleanup mission at LANL,” N3B Environmental Program Manager Troy Thomson said. “By cleaning up these Aggregate Areas, we’re characterizing and removing contamination from these legacy soil sites.”

There are 23 Aggregate Areas within the LANL site. In 2024, EM-LA and N3B will perform site characterization and remediation at five Aggregate Areas: Twomile, Starmer/Upper Pajarito, Chaquehui, Lower Pajarito and Potrillo/Fence Canyon.

Work at each Aggregate Area involves identifying the nature and extent of radiological and hazardous contamination, remediating the site if necessary, and then submitting investigation reports, including risk assessments, to NMED for approval.

Cleanup within an Aggregate Area is based on investigation and can range from no cleanup necessary, to removing a small amount of debris, such as a fuel tank, to performing extensive remediation of multiple sites with contaminated soil, debris and other materials.

-Contributor: Todd Nelson
-Source: EM Newsletter

Savannah River Site Reaches New Milestone in Japanese Reactor Mission

January 19, 2024

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Crews installed an electrolytic dissolver in the H Canyon Chemical Separations Facility at Savannah River Site in January 2021 to dissolve nuclear material and support DOE’s nonproliferation mission. Before installing the dissolver there, employees conducted test runs in a mock-up facility.


Dissolving ‘dummy cans’ brings site a step closer to nonproliferation

AIKEN, S.C. – EM’s H Canyon Chemical Separations Facility at Savannah River Site (SRS) has arrived at a new milestone supporting disposal of nuclear material from a Japanese research reactor.

The achievement follows years of preparation by multiple site contractors that dissolved “dummy cans,” which are non-radioactive stainless steel containers similar to those that hold actual plutonium from Japan’s Fast Critical Assembly (FCA).

“This milestone is pushing H Canyon one step closer to dissolving nuclear material in support of the disposition of FCA fuel and the Department’s nonproliferation mission,” said Kevin Moeller, deputy facility manager for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), the site’s management and operations contractor. “The work we accomplish is making the world safer and we are excited to see advancements in this mission.”

Since 2019, H Canyon employees have conducted extensive planning for the FCA mission after the decision was made to send the FCA fuel to H Canyon to be dissolved and discarded as waste at SRS.

“The FCA fuel is different than the other material we have most recently been dissolving in H Canyon because it is coated in stainless steel cladding, rather than aluminum,” Moeller said. “The current dissolvers in the canyon are chemical dissolvers that use nitric acid to process the fuel; however, nitric acid alone doesn’t work on stainless steel. H Canyon had to replace a no-longer-in-service dissolver and install an electrolytic dissolver in its place.”

This is not the first time H Canyon has performed electrolytic dissolution. From 1969 to 1980, the facility used this method for fuel clad in stainless steel and zirconium. The fuel is lowered into a nitric acid solution, and electricity is used in the chemical dissolution process. This produces a liquid that is sent through the site’s liquid waste facilities, where it is made into glass through a process called vitrification. It is then safely stored onsite until a federal repository is identified.

“Our team is incredibly proud of this achievement that proves the electrolytic dissolver operates smoothly with only minor hiccups detected,” Technical Support Engineer and Dissolving Subject Matter Expert Nina Vinci said. “We plan to continue all startup related tasks and implement all new requirements to start dissolving the FCA fuel by February 2024.”

Moeller believes the extensive preparations ensured the success of the dummy can dissolution process and helped advance the FCA mission.

“This new milestone could not have been reached without the collaborative effort from organizations across SRS,” said Moeller. “With any new mission, you are bound to run into challenges along the way, but this team determined resolutions quickly and efficiently to remain on time and deliver top results.”

Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency sent the FCA fuel to SRS in 2016, fulfilling a pledge by Japan and the United States to remove all separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium from the FCA reactor in Japan. The fuel is currently stored onsite and will be transferred to the canyon for processing upon the completion of all preparation tasks. After the FCA campaign, the electrolytic dissolver can be used for dissolution for other non-aluminum based spent fuels, helping advance DOE’s nonproliferation mission.

-Contributor: Mackenzie McNabb
-Source: EM Newsletter

Team's Solution Ensures Integrity of Radioactive Material Containers at SRS

January 19, 2024

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Savannah River Site operators in plastic suits prepare for the drum venting operations.
 

AIKEN, S.C.  EM team members at the Savannah River Site (SRS) recently came up with a creative way to ensure the integrity of storage containers holding radioactive material in long-term storage.

The team, which included Savannah River National Laboratory employees, designed and fabricated a tool to pierce cans containing the radioactive material to relieve pressure caused by a buildup of hydrogen gasses. The material is stored in plastic bags and bottles inside the sealed cans, which are held within two 30-gallon drums.

“It is typical for hydrogen gasses, which are flammable, to be generated by decomposition of plastics inside the sealed cans,” said Steve Osteen, an operations specialist with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the SRS managing and operating contractor.

The team also created a safe process for venting the cans that includes the use of a containment hut and protective plastic suits for operators.

The team’s goal was to ensure the safety of both drums in storage. As a result of the team’s work, the drums can be safely stored at the site for an estimated 100 additional years if needed.

The two 30-gallon drums containing the radioactive material are stored in the Dry Fuel Storage Area of the site’s L Area Disassembly Basin. They were shipped to SRS from the Idaho Chemical Processing Plant in 2007 and 2008.

SRS had planned to send the material to the site’s HB Line facility for disposition. However, changes in the site’s mission prevented the material from being processed there before the facility went into safe shutdown in 2020. The drums now await a final onsite disposition path.

“The container piercing was executed safely and then the containers were returned to storage,” L Area Facility Manager Neil McIntosh said. “The safe execution of this process was a result of extensive planning, dry runs and mock-ups conducted by the team.”

The team practiced venting mock containers in plastic suits while simulating the confines of the containment hut.

“The evolution was practiced until proficiency was achieved and the team was ready to safely execute the work,” McIntosh said.

-Contributor: Lindsey MonBarren
-Source: EM Newsletter

West Valley Removes Legacy Waste, Setting Stage for More Cleanup Success

January 19, 2024

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Legacy waste containers leave the West Valley Demonstration Project en route to an offsite disposal facility. The ongoing demolition of the site’s Main Plant Process Building can be seen in the background.

WEST VALLEY, N.Y.  EM and contractor CH2M HILL BWXT West Valley (CHBWV) have safely disposed of several containers and boxes of legacy waste and equipment from the West Valley Demonstration Project cleanup.

“This accomplishment reduces stored waste at the site and prepares us for the continuation of our cleanup mission,” EM West Valley Project Management Director and Main Plant Federal Project Director Stephen Bousquet said. “By performing this work now, we can use our highly skilled workforce to further reduce legacy risks.”

Crews moved four of the waste packages into containers approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that have steel-reinforced concrete shielding. They sent them by truck to a rail yard in Lockport, New York, where they were loaded onto rail cars and shipped for safe disposal. Each container held water filtering materials from the former Fuel Receiving and Storage facility at the site.

CHBWV workers also successfully shipped two containers that held vessels from a cell of the Main Plant Process Building to an offsite disposal facility. They also shipped seven waste boxes offsite for disposal that contained storage racks and other oversized equipment used during past operations at the site.

“Our team continues to use their combined knowledge to safely and deliberately complete high risk work activities,” CHBWV Waste and Site Operations Manager Peggy Loop said. “I’m proud of their efforts, accomplishments and the work they continue to do on this project.”

-Contributor: Joseph Pillittere
-Source: EM Newsletter

EM Worker Safety is Central to Wearable Robotics Team Efforts

December 14, 2023

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Members of the wearable robotics team gather for a photo at their recent meeting at Florida International University (FIU). They represent EM’s Technology Development Office; Sandia, Savannah River and Los Alamos national laboratories; Georgia Institute of Technology; FIU; Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition; and Washington River Protection Solutions.
 
MIAMI – Over 30 members of a team exploring the use of wearable devices to improve worker safety recently gathered at Florida International University (FIU) to discuss efforts to develop, evaluate and deploy the technology at EM cleanup sites.

FIU is among six organizations funded by EM to better understand the strains site workers face due to the physically challenging nature of their work, and to find solutions to reduce such impacts using wearable devices.

The wearable robotics program, which began in fiscal year 2020, is exploring the use of commercially available devices as well as custom solutions tailored to the unique needs of EM workers, such as compatibility with personnel protective equipment and operating in secure environments.

In a meeting with the team members, EM Office of Technology Development Program Manager Jean P. Pabón emphasized EM’s critical need to safeguard the health and safety of the workforce.

Pabón also acknowledged the team’s tremendous potential to develop innovative solutions to address EM’s challenges and needs at the field sites.

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Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition employees exhibit a prototype for wearable robotics during the wearable robotics team’s visit to Florida International University.
 
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From left are Leonel Lagos, Florida International University; Jean P. Pabón, EM Office of Technology Development; Jason Wheeler, Sandia National Laboratories; Gwendolyn Bryan, Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition; Ani Mazumdar, Georgia Institute of Technology; Beth Boardman, Los Alamos National Laboratory; and Michael Leonard, Washington River Protection Solutions. Tanner Goins with Savannah River National Laboratory is not pictured.
 

In addition to FIU, the team includes representatives from Sandia National Laboratories, which leads the group’s efforts, Los Alamos and Savannah River national laboratories, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC). Three employees from Washington River Protection Solutions, an EM Office of River Protection contractor at the Hanford Site in Washington state, also attended the meeting.

Team members provided updates on their work, addressed challenges and opportunities and discussed next steps in their efforts. They also participated in tours of the FIU laboratories, where many robotic development efforts for EM sites are underway.

“The team meets every month virtually, but these in-person meetings provide a unique opportunity to dive deeper into specific areas and to physically try on devices,” said Jason Wheeler, the Sandia project lead.

The group plans to continue meeting in person one or two times a year. Previous team meetings were held at Sandia and IHMC.

-Contributors: Leonel Lagos, Jason Wheeler
-Source: EM Newsletter

New Reliable Source to Supply Nitrogen to Idaho Waste Treatment Facility

December 14, 2023

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Crews recently installed a new nitrogen plant adjacent to the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit. Onsite generation of nitrogen will allow the plant to maintain steady-state operations.
 

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — When EM's radioactive liquid waste treatment facility at the Idaho National Laboratory Site resumes operations early next year, it will be using nitrogen generated onsite, a reliable source of the gas necessary for mission completion.

Quite simply, the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) cannot run without nitrogen.

During the last year, a host of challenges affected the ability of IWTU to dependably receive daily shipments of the inert gas. Nitrogen is crucial to keeping the billions of tiny beads in the IWTU’s primary reaction vessel moving while liquid waste is injected into the super-heated vessel allowing the liquid to adhere to the beads. Nitrogen is also used to prepare the granulated activated carbon beds — which remove mercury from the treated sodium-bearing liquid waste — for operations, and other plant functions.

IWTU now has a turnkey, commercial nitrogen gas generator source, next to the facility, which will reliably provide the millions of cubic feet of high-purity nitrogen that the facility uses weekly during operations. Nitrogen is generated by simply separating the gas from ambient air.

“Having nitrogen generation right next to the plant allows us to have a constant, real-time supply of this gas for reliable, steady-state operations,” said Bill Kirby, senior director for liquid waste and fuels with EM cleanup contractor Idaho Environmental Coalition.

The new electric motor-driven system not only resolves the challenges of relying on offsite sources for nitrogen, it also is significantly more environmentally friendly. During its peak usage during startup and shutdown, IWTU required as many as four tanker-truck loads of nitrogen delivered daily. The switch to an onsite nitrogen source not only eliminates carbon monoxide from the diesel trucks delivering the product, but also removes six diesel-powered compressors used in the prior system.

“We have also partnered with a small business to provide the system as well as the maintenance to keep it operational,” said Kirby. “Their level of customer service is consistent with what we’ve noticed with other small businesses we employ to complete the overall cleanup mission in Idaho.”

Following five months of operations, IWTU is in a maintenance phase to replace the carbon in a downstream vessel that removes mercury during the steam-reforming process.

Starting with its launch in April, IWTU has converted more than 68,000 gallons of sodium-bearing waste from nearby underground waste tanks to a safer, granular solid. The treated material, which is about the size of coarse coffee grounds, was transferred to stainless-steel canisters and placed in concrete vaults for onsite storage.

-Contributor: Erik Simpson
-Source: EM Newsletter

DOE, FIU Welcome New Fellows Into Program to Help Build EM Workforce

December 14, 2023

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MIAMI – Florida International University (FIU) and DOE inducted 12 fellows — 10 from EM and two from the DOE Office of Legacy Management — into the Science and Technology Workforce Development Program during a ceremony last week. The program is part of a cooperative agreement between EM and FIU. DOE, FIU students, parents and staff were invited to participate in the program hosted by FIU at the university’s campus. The program is an initiative designed to create a pipeline of minority engineers and scientists specially trained and mentored to enter EM’s workforce. Among the speakers at the ceremony was Greg Sosson, EM principal deputy assistant secretary for field operations, pictured here.

Idaho Site Makes Demolition Progress in Advance of Placing Landfill Cover

December 14, 2023

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Idaho Environmental Coalition decontamination and dismantlement crews use heavy equipment to remove the Accelerated Retrieval Project III last month.
 

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho  EM crews are returning the site of a Cold War-era landfill on the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site to its native desert landscape.

During the past year, decontamination and dismantlement (D&D) crews with EM’s INL Site cleanup contractor, Idaho Environmental Coalition, have demolished four of the soft-sided buildings used by the Accelerated Retrieval Project (ARP) within the landfill known as the Subsurface Disposal Area (SDA).

Demolition of the ARP II, III, IV and V buildings this year leaves the ARP VII, VIII and IX structures and a soft-sided waste storage building standing on the SDA. Those structures are planned to be demolished by December 2024.

The SDA is a 97-acre, triangular-shaped section of the Radioactive Waste Management Complex, established in 1952 for shallow burial of contaminated INL Site waste. From 1954 through 1970, the SDA accepted Cold War weapons wastes for disposal from sites in Colorado, New Mexico and other waste generators throughout the United States.

In 2008, the DOE, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state of Idaho agreed to exhume targeted waste — such as plutonium filters, graphite molds, sludges, and a potentially reactive form of uranium — from a combined area of 5.69 acres from the SDA footprint. This remediation was completed in early 2022, approximately 18 months ahead of schedule.

As with all ARP building removals, crews follow prescribed processes to ensure worker safety and protection of the environment. Prior to demolition, they perform extensive decontamination of the structures and place clean soil over the excavated areas to ensure safe maneuvering.

Each facility is examined for downgrade from an operating hazardous facility to one that can be safely and compliantly demolished. Once downgraded, crews remove all equipment, interior fabrics, and electrical and heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems. Then they complete final decontamination and apply fixatives. Next, each facility’s skeletal structure is weakened under the guidance and oversight of engineering personnel prior to the structure being pulled down by dual bulldozers. The building debris is then reduced in size and buried within the footprint of the SDA.

Once the remaining ARP buildings are demolished, preparations will begin to install an earthen cover over the entire SDA as the final Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act remedy. The evapotranspiration cover will require upwards of 250,000 dump truck loads of soil and rock in what will be the largest single environmental remedy in the history of the INL Site.

-Contributor: Erik Simpson
-Source: EM Newsletter

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