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D&D Industry News Archives

View archived deactivation and decommissioning news items.

Radiation-Detecting Drone Soars Over Portsmouth for Collaborative Testing

November 21, 2023

radiation-detecting drone at portsmouth.jpg
The Portsmouth Site provides a safe and effective location for the Ohio Department of Health to test its radiation detection drone.

PIKE COUNTY, Ohio – A drone outfitted with radiation detectors recently underwent testing at the Portsmouth Site for potential future use as part of growing collaboration between EM and the state of Ohio.

“The Portsmouth Site has the radioactive source materials while the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has the drones,” Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office Nuclear Safety Oversight Lead Tom Hines said of the partnership. “We’re hoping to follow ODH’s lead and incorporate this into the DOE Emergency Management Program. The potential to use a drone to detect chemicals following an accidental release would be a highly valuable asset for the DOE response capability.”

The successful drone testing collected data for ODH to further develop its procedures and policies. The Ohio Department of Transportation supported the testing.

EM will also evaluate the data to determine if the technology is beneficial for use at its cleanup sites. The drone has video and photographic capabilities, and can connect wirelessly to a laptop. Data can also be shared through a smartphone app.

“This event allowed ODH to utilize radioactive source material they would not normally have access to,” said Rob Litten, source control coordinator for Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth (FBP), EM's decontamination and decommissioning contractor for the Portsmouth Site. “This increased the scope of their testing and confirmed the detection capabilities of the drones and detection equipment.”

ODH was pleased with the cooperation and flexibility of everyone involved with the testing, said Kevin Banks, nondestructive assay oversight with Enterprise Technical Assistance Services, the Portsmouth Site’s technical support contractor.

“ODH’s initial goal was to be able to create an exclusion zone with their technology in the event an accident containing radioactive material occurred,” Banks said. “Prior to today’s event, they had not been able to test the capabilities of their equipment due to their limited radioactive source access.”

Personnel would be prohibited from entering an exclusion zone due to an accident involving radioactive material.

-Contributor: Michelle Teeters
-Source: EM Newsletter

'Big Dig' Milestone: Ventilation System Shaft Reaches Final Depth at WIPP

November 21, 2023

ventilation system at wipp.jpg
With the air intake shaft’s black headframe towering in the background, a truck hauls away salt excavated during 24-hour shaft-sinking operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

CARLSBAD, N.M. – The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) recently marked a significant accomplishment when critical infrastructure that will supply air to the largest safety-related ventilation system in the DOE complex reached its final depth of 2,275 feet — after claiming an EM 2023 priority along the way.

The new air intake shaft — the underground waste repository’s largest utility shaft at 26 feet in diameter — supports the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS), which will increase underground airflow from 170,000 cubic feet per minute (cfm) to 540,000 cfm.

Increased airflow will allow for simultaneous waste emplacement, mining and bolting to take place in the underground at WIPP, the nation’s only repository for defense-related transuranic (TRU) waste. Bolting controls the movement of salt rock — known as salt creep — in the WIPP underground.

“Reaching this milestone is a real tribute to the crews who worked safely and compliantly around the clock,” said Mark Bollinger, EM Carlsbad Field Office manager. “Congratulations to the workforce on this big step toward the creation of more airflow in the WIPP underground, an important part of the new WIPP infrastructure.”

ventilation system at wipp 2.jpg 
Above the utility shaft’s final depth of 2,275 feet, crews are already cutting horizontally into the salt to create connecting passageways, or drifts, to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant mine.
 Salado Isolation Mining Contractors (SIMCO), WIPP’s management and operations contractor, is overseeing the SSCVS and utility shaft projects. Crews from SIMCO’s subcontractor, the joint partnership of Harrison Western and Shaft Sinkers, reached the shaft bottom by working a 24/7 schedule to support the project.

“Completion to depth is a great achievement,” said Ken Harrawood, SIMCO president and program manager. “This milestone sets the stage for all of our future progress to the west, including Panel 11.”

The drilling crews reached the depth of the WIPP waste disposal rooms in early July, achieving the EM 2023 priority ahead of schedule. Horizontal passageways were created on either side of the shaft. These will be further mined to connect to the existing WIPP underground and provide access drifts, or connecting passageways, for new waste disposal panels that have been authorized at WIPP.

The final depth of the air intake shaft, at 2,275 feet, provides space below the repository level for work areas and infrastructure, such as communications and electricity, that will support mining activities.

Located in Southeast New Mexico about 26 miles east of Carlsbad, WIPP was constructed in the 1980s for disposal of defense-generated TRU waste. The repository is carved out of a 2,000-foot-thick salt bed formed 250 million years ago. TRU waste is disposed of 2,150 feet underground in rooms mined from the salt bed.

-Contributor: Roy Neese
-Source: EM Newsletter

2023 Priorities Update: West Valley Achieves Main Plant Demolition Milestone

November 21, 2023

west valley demolition milestone.jpg
EM team members continue to demolish the Main Plant Process Building at the West Valley Demonstration Project as they begin removing hot cells within the facility’s analytical laboratory. Those cells were used during past fuel reprocessing and vitrification operations. A hot cell is a highly shielded room where activities involving high radiation levels can be safely performed.​

WEST VALLEY, N.Y. – Crews at the West Valley Demonstration Project (WVDP) recently accomplished an EM 2023 priority after safely shipping more than 9,000 tons of debris from the demolition of the Main Plant Process Building this year.

The disposal of 9,000 tons of Main Plant demolition waste by workers with EM cleanup contractor CH2M HILL BWXT West Valley (CHBWV) also met a site goal for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. EM launched the demolition project early last fall.

Over the past nine months, crews have packaged and shipped by rail more than 500 waste containers from the project for safe disposal offsite. Each container was loaded with an average of 38,000 pounds of debris.

And since the demolition project began in September last year, workers have safely packaged and shipped over 10,000 tons of demolition debris in total.

EM officials attributed the successful milestone of disposing of 9,000 tons of Main Plant teardown waste to extensive planning and preparation, an experienced workforce and adherence to safety.

“The WVDP team did an excellent job in their planning and preparation for this achievement,” said Stephen Bousquet, EM West Valley director of technical services and Main Plant federal project director. “The coordination and communication between site crews was outstanding and ensured that the work was performed safely, compliantly and efficiently.”

West Valley is expected to ship by rail about 1,000 more waste containers from the demolition project.

“This mode of transportation represents a better method for waste disposition that’s safer and more efficient,” CHBWV Waste and Site Operations Manager Peggy Loop said. “It will help to accelerate remediation efforts in the future.”

Shipping the demolition waste by rail enhances safety by reducing vehicle traffic associated with completing the shipments via truck. Train shipments increase efficiency by allowing more material to be shipped at once compared to trucking. The train shipments also cost less than truck shipments, saving taxpayer dollars.

A 35,100-square-foot, reinforced-concrete structure, the Main Plant is one of the last remaining major facilities at West Valley. Its successful demolition will further reduce environmental risks and position the site for the next cleanup phase.

The demolition is expected to be completed in summer 2025.

-Contributor: Joseph Pillittere
-Source: EM Newsletter

Teams Upgrade Hanford’s Effluent Treatment Facility

November 21, 2023

upgrade hanford effluent treatment facility.jpg
The Hanford Site’s Effluent Treatment Facility has been expanded to handle almost 7 million more gallons of wastewater per year when Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant begins treating waste from large underground tanks.​

RICHLAND, Wash. – Construction is complete on more than 40 upgrades that will increase the capability, efficiency and reliability of the Hanford Site’s Effluent Treatment Facility (ETF). The upgrades allow the facility to process liquid waste streams from the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) and other facilities during tank waste treatment operations.

Managed by EM Office of River Protection (ORP) tank operations contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), ETF is part of Hanford’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) Program to vitrify tank waste, immobilizing it in glass for safe onsite disposal.

“The ETF is the last step in the DFLAW process, and these upgrades prepare it for playing a key role in treating and disposing of contaminated wastewater from the vitrification process,” said Bibek Tamang, EM’s ETF program manager. “These upgrades were needed to prepare the ETF for 24/7 waste treatment operations.”

Upgrades to the nearly 30-year-old facility began in 2019. They include replacing monitoring and control systems, freeze protection systems and wastewater filtration systems, as well as the installation of a system to remove and safely dispose of hazardous byproducts of vitrification. Workers also constructed equipment to provide cooling water for the new system, and expanded a load-in station for more waste transfers from across the site.

In addition to preparing ETF to receive larger volumes of wastewater, WRPS expanded the capacity of the nearby Liquid Effluent Retention Facility (LERF) by adding a fourth 7.8 million-gallon storage basin to receive and store wastewater prior to treatment at ETF.

ETF’s upgrades were needed to handle the increased volume of wastewater that will be generated by the start of DFLAW operations. When fully operational, WTP is expected to transfer as much as 5.4 million gallons of effluent per year to ETF for processing, while Hanford’s Integrated Disposal Facility will add another 1.2 million gallons annually.

“ETF’s role in reducing tank waste volume is integral to the overall Hanford Tank Farms mission, since tank waste storage space is limited,” said Adam Mathews, ETF and LERF manager for WRPS. “The facility will become even more essential as the DFLAW process comes online.”

WRPS is testing the new systems in preparation for upcoming tank waste treatment activities to ensure ETF is ready to carry out its mission when 24/7 DFLAW operations begin.

-Contributor: Joan Lucas
-Source: EM Newsletter​

Idaho Site’s Largest Building Progressing Toward Closure

October 23, 2023

idaho site progressing toward closure.jpg 
EM crews use light construction equipment to remove the final pieces of asphalt from one of the pads at the Transuranic Storage Area-Retrieval Enclosure, which once housed thousands of barrels and boxes of waste.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho  EM recently moved a significant step toward closure of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site’s largest building, which could comfortably house a modern U.S. aircraft carrier.

EM and contractor Idaho Environmental Coalition were notified that the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality considers two concrete pads at the Transuranic Storage Area-Retrieval Enclosure (TSA-RE) officially closed following the completion of required work under the facility’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) interim operating permit.

The two pads represent more than half of the 7-acre TSA-RE. Closure means the pads can no longer be used for waste storage and do not require additional remediation.

idaho site progressing toward closure2.jpg 
Crews removed more than 7,500 tons of asphalt from Pads 1 and R at the Transuranic Storage Area-Retrieval Enclosure, allowing for their closure under federal regulations.
The TSA-RE pads received waste from DOE sites, primarily the former Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, Colorado, from 1970 to the late 1980s. Waste was stored outside on asphalt pads and covered with clean soil. The TSA-RE, a metal-framed building with metal siding, was constructed over the massive waste-storage mound. The building was constructed to allow for safe retrieval of the waste from the asphalt pads for treatment at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project (AMWTP) treatment facility. TSA-RE is part of the AMWTP complex.

In the lead-up to official closure of the two concrete pads at TSA-RE, crews removed more than 15 million pounds of asphalt, filling 860 waste containers.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Dave Martin, AMWTP operations director. “It’s a proud, yet bittersweet, time for the folks who have invested so much of their careers at AMWTP.”

Although the two concrete pads constitute the majority of the TSA-RE building footprint, waste destined for EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant or other off-site repositories is stored on a remaining asphalt pad permitted under a different RCRA permit and overseen by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

EM plans to demolish the TSA-RE building once it’s empty. Crews will then tear down other buildings and structures at the AMWTP until the entire AMWTP facility is closed near the end of this decade.

-Contributor: Erik Simpson
-Srouce: EM Update Newsletter

Oak Ridge Sets Pace of Cleanup Nationwide

October 23, 2023

Oak ridge reactor demolition.jpg
Remedial actions vary from tearing down buildings to digging up contaminated soil and treating groundwater plumes. Crews are working to complete an action at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory by demolishing the Low Intensity Test Reactor. They are making progress, and the project is scheduled for completion this fall.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Recent figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its contractors are conducting cleanup at a rate leading the nation among federal facility sites.

Government-sponsored environmental cleanup in the United States extends far beyond DOE’s 15 active EM cleanup sites. It also includes scores of U.S. Department of Defense sites, and those overseen by other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Interior.

There are 175 federal facilities, or sites, on the Superfund National Priorities List where cleanup is needed across the country. Those sites require cleanup tasks, known as remedial actions, which can range from tearing down buildings to digging up contaminated soil and treating groundwater plumes.

Remedial action completions are an important national target for EPA, and they are reported to Congress annually.

The latest reports show that from fiscal years 2018 to 2022, OREM accounted for 13% of all completed federal facility remedial actions in the U.S., and 40% of all completed actions in EPA’s Region 4, which includes Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina.

EPA’s Region 4 includes 20 federal facilities located at EM’s Oak Ridge, Savannah River and Paducah sites, in addition to 17 military bases.

“Remedial actions can vary in size and complexity across different federal facilities, but even with those considerations, these figures highlight a special focus and diligence from our employees that set us apart,” said OREM Manager Jay Mullis. “Their approach continues to reinforce our reputation as a site where federal investments lead to visible progress and enhanced safety.”

Crews in Oak Ridge were the first in the world to remove a former uranium enrichment complex that operated during the Manhattan Project and Cold War. That effort, completed at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) in 2020, involved removing more than 500 buildings with a total footprint that could cover 225 football fields.

Today, workers are in the final stages of removing all contaminated soil at ETTP. They’re also taking down old reactors at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and preparing former enrichment facilities for demolition at the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12).

Together these projects are eliminating hazards and opening land for reuse. Cleaned land at ETTP is transferred to the community for economic development, and it is helping support expanding research and national security missions at ORNL and Y-12.

“Regional and national data show OREM has an incredibly high-performing Superfund cleanup program,” said Cathy Amoroso, EPA Region 4 Superfund Division manager for DOE coordination. “Oak Ridge’s numbers showcase how our teams are working together through complex issues and producing tangible successes that are resulting in meaningful risk reductions for nearby residents.”

-Contributor: Ben Williams
-Source: EM Update Newsletter

National Academies Focus on Hanford Cleanup Approaches by SRNL-led Center

October 23, 2023

hanford cleanup approaches by SRNL-led center.jpg 
A view of the Low-Activity Waste Facility at the Hanford Site. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently held a public meeting to discuss its third and final report that reviews the “Follow on Report of Analysis of Approaches to Supplemental Treatment of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation,” completed by the Federally Funded Research and Development Center, which is led by EM’s Savannah River National Laboratory.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) recently held a public meeting to discuss its third and final report centered on EM’s tank waste cleanup mission at the Hanford Site in Washington state.

The academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide expert advice on some of the most pressing challenges facing the nation and world. Their work helps shape sound policies, inform public opinion and advance the pursuit of science, engineering and medicine.

The NASEM report reviews the “Follow on Report of Analysis of Approaches to Supplemental Treatment of Low-Activity Waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation,” issued in January. That report was completed by the Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), led by EM’s Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL).

The NASEM report is the third providing a concurrent review of the analysis required by the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act for approaches to supplemental treatment of low-activity waste stored in large underground tanks at the Hanford Site.

“The final National Academies review report documents the committee findings and recommendations from its review of the final Federally Funded Research and Development Center’s report,” said Bill Bates, deputy associate laboratory director for environmental and legacy management at SRNL. “Throughout the multiyear process, the committee provided constructive input to the FFRDC that has been used to strengthen our final report.”

SRNL led the FFRDC team efforts, collaborating with researchers from DOE’s Los AlamosPacific Northwest and Sandia national laboratories, as well as the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation, Institute for Defense Analyses, Parsons and TechSource to identify and analyze pathways for treating a portion of the low-activity waste at EM’s largest, most complex cleanup site: Hanford.

In its January report, the FFRDC team recommended multiple pathways for off-site grout solidification and disposal of low-activity waste be secured in parallel with the planned direct-feed low-activity waste vitrification process, which immobilizes the waste in glass.

The FFRDC team report says that, among other benefits, the recommended approach would provide the following:

  • The capability to most rapidly reduce the amount of waste stored in Hanford’s underground single-shell and double-shell tanks;
  • Additional long-term environmental protection, including two aquifers underlying the site and the Columbia River;
  • Reduced potential for individual “choke points” to delay the Hanford tank-waste treatment and disposal mission; and
  • Minimized financial demands and reduced mission duration and life-cycle costs.

The FFRDC report notes that only grout-based alternatives allow for the near-term disposition of low-activity waste that achieves the fastest reduction of risk of potential tank leaks. It also notes that grout-based alternatives are clearly executable at benchmark funding levels and have the highest probability of successful completion.

Vitrification, the FFRDC report said, has a lower probability of successful implementation for the supplemental treatment of low-activity waste because it is significantly more expensive than other technologies, such as grout.

The FFRDC report also says that fluidized bed steam reforming — which can convert radioactive liquid waste to a dry, granular mineral product — is a “first-of-a-kind technology” for Hanford and uncertainties in the process, performance and cost are higher than for grout or vitrification.

“The FFRDC team was extremely collaborative and worked well across all aspects of this effort,” said Bates. “We are hopeful that the report will help inform decision-makers and enable them to use the decision framework developed by the team.”

The FFRDC report developed and assessed some alternatives that would use off-site disposal to eliminate concern over additional potential effects on groundwater and the Columbia River from on-site disposal of non-vitrified low-activity waste, noting that about 70% of the inventory of contaminants could be removed from the Hanford Site in some alternatives.

Nearly 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical waste remain to be treated at Hanford, and the FFRDC’s efforts provide a framework for decision-makers to develop part of the path toward expediting site closure while reducing risks and costs.

The NASEM report supports the use of that framework, while emphasizing the importance of the future regulatory and permitting processes, and stakeholder input.

-Contributor: Christopher O’Neil
-Source: EM Update Newsletter

The Manhattan Project: EM's Origin Story

October 23, 2023

Students arrive at B Reactor at the Hanford Site in Washington state for a tour. DOE works with elementary, middle and high schools around the region to highlight B Reactor’s role in ushering in the atomic age, and the importance of STEM education.

Editor's Note

EM Update is highlighting the following piece featured on EM’s website as the new biopic on J. Robert Oppenheimer is set to hit theaters. This EM story — which is not an endorsement of the film — focuses on the Manhattan Project, the origin of EM’s nuclear cleanup mission. America’s greatest scientific and engineering minds, craft workers and military members worked side by side at several secret sites including Los Alamos, New Mexico, Richland, Washington, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.


On July 16, 1945, the research and development efforts of the nation’s once-secret Manhattan Project were realized with the detonation of the world’s first nuclear device at the code-named “Trinity” test site over 200 miles south of Los Alamos, New Mexico.

This first-ever detonation of a nuclear device thrust mankind into a new era marked by the development of weapons with previously unimaginable power, and a complicated legacy that includes the fields of nuclear medicine and nuclear energy, the growth of a vital national laboratory system, and the vast environmental cleanup responsibilities entrusted to EM.

Today, EM continues cleanup activities from the impacts of national security efforts in World War II across the remaining Manhattan Project sites and those involved in the Cold War. EM’s charge also includes support for the preservation and recognition of some of the historic facilities of the Manhattan Project.

The B Reactor at the Hanford Site in Washington state was constructed in 1943 and produced plutonium used in the Trinity Test, as well as for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Now one of five Hanford facilities in the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, B Reactor, has had visitors from all 50 states and more than 90 countries worldwide.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) was established for a single purpose: to design and build an atomic bomb. The EM Los Alamos Field Office, established in 2015, pursues an active legacy cleanup mission. It investigates hazardous chemical and radioactive materials contamination as a result of past LANL operations and remediates sites where such materials are found above acceptable regulatory levels.

manhattan2.jpgLos Alamos National Laboratory

K-25 Building Site, now known as the East Tennessee Technology Park
The Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge once produced the world’s first few grams of plutonium, created the first sparks of nuclear-generated electricity and went on to serve as one of the most prestigious nuclear research facilities in the world. Today, the Graphite Reactor serves as one of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park’s most popular attractions in Oak Ridge.

The K-25 building produced uranium for the world’s first nuclear weapons. The K-25 site, now known as the East Tennessee Technology Park, has been transformed by the EM program. More than 500 facilities have been demolished and much of the land has been transferred to the community for economic development, conservation and historic preservation including the K-25 History Center that opened in 2020.

-Source: EM Update Newletter

DOE Fellows Help Demonstrate Robotic Monitoring of EM Waste Site

October 23, 2023

DOE Fellow Brendon Cintas presents a robot he modified to better serve EM’s mission at the Hanford Site after adding multiple cameras, data-collection technology and remote-control capability, during a recent demonstration at Hanford.
RICHLAND, Wash.  EM has partnered with Florida International University (FIU) to build DOE’s workforce while furthering the Hanford Site cleanup mission.

EM collaborates with FIU to offer paid research opportunities and summer internships for minority-student scientists and engineers across the cleanup program’s facilities.

EM Office of River Protection (ORP) contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) sponsored one such opportunity by sending a robot that it had previously purchased for radiation mapping to FIU in March 2023 so students could explore enhancing the robot’s capabilities and potential uses. Brendon Cintas, a mechanical engineering graduate student and DOE Fellow, went to work repurposing the technology to enhance the tools available for monitoring Hanford’s large underground waste tanks.

DOE-Fellow-FIU 2.jpg

“Rather than it being specifically a tool for surveying and radiation mapping, we wanted it to be a multifunctional tool that could be deployed with a variety of uses,” said Cintas. “We basically hit the reset button and rebuilt the robot from the ground up.”

Working with WRPS engineers, Cintas and his team adapted the tool to better serve the Hanford mission, adding multiple cameras, data-collection technology and remote-control capability. The base vehicle was built to be compatible with a variety of plug-and-play components, allowing for multiple options to tackle different objectives.

Cintas and his team recently demonstrated the robot at Hanford.

DOE-Fellow-FIU 3.jpg 
EM partners with Florida International University to offer paid research opportunities and summer internships for minority-student scientists and engineers across EM facilities, like this robot Brendon Cintas is developing to help monitor large underground waste tanks at the Hanford Site.
“Brendon’s commitment to advancing technology for nuclear facility monitoring has greatly contributed to achieving both safety and excellence,” said Doug Reid, a WRPS mechanical engineer who advised Cintas throughout the project. “WRPS’ continued support for sponsoring DOE-FIU Fellows has been instrumental in fostering young talent and driving groundbreaking advancements in the field. I am proud to be a part of this work.”

Cintas and other students will continue developing the robot at FIU. Planned improvements include adding more data-gathering technology, improved cooling, weatherproofing, radiation shielding, additional cameras, and a more agile base. These modifications will enable the robot to generate radiation maps with greater precision, monitor air quality and traverse more challenging terrain.

-Contributor: Derek Miceli
-Source: EM Update Newsletter

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