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D&D Industry News

Keep up with deactivation and decommissioning industry news and current events.

SRS Moves Closer to Accelerating Removal of Plutonium from South Carolina

April 12, 2021


Crews move equipment used to inspect drums holding radioactive material into a storage site in K Area at the Savannah River Site.​

AIKEN, S.C.  EM workers at the Savannah River Site (SRS) are setting the stage to accelerate the removal and disposal of plutonium from South Carolina.

They recently finished transferring equipment used to inspect drums holding the radioactive material from the site’s Solid Waste Management Facility (SWMF) to the K Area Criticality Control Overpack Characterization and Storage Pad. Characterization and shipping activities will be consolidated at that storage facility.

“The transfer of this equipment was no easy task,” DOE Nuclear Materials Senior Technical Advisor Maxcine Maxted said. “Weighing over 70,000 pounds and at 40 feet long, many departments had to be involved in the safe transport.”

Maxted said moving the equipment to K Area will allow SRS to eliminate the step of sending the drums to SWMF for characterization and shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico for final disposition.

“Now we can perform both of those tasks right from K Area, making the process more efficient,” Maxted said.

The relocated equipment includes an X-ray system that enables operators to inspect the contents of drums without opening them. The drums were developed to safely package and transport materials such as the downblended plutonium in the K Area that goes to WIPP for disposition. The downblended plutonium has been determined to be surplus to the nation’s defense needs.

“WIPP has specific standards for the type of materials allowed in their underground repository,” DOE-Savannah River Waste Disposition Programs Division Director Sonitza Blanco said. “The examination is performed under the certified Central Characterization Program, which is managed by the personnel from the managing and operating contractor of WIPP, Nuclear Waste Partnership. It verifies and validates that the waste within each container matches the documentation provided by SRS and that it does not contain any WIPP prohibited items.”

Following the inspection, employees ensure the contents of the drums are within radioactive limits. Next, the drums are certified for shipment to WIPP and loaded into a larger sealed container before leaving K Area.

The K Area storage facility will add capacity to store over 3,800 drums awaiting shipment. Construction is scheduled for completion later this year. After the storage facility is complete, DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will conduct regulatory reviews prior to WIPP authorizing the first shipment planned for 2022.

Workers also have completed extensive facility modifications and equipment upgrades at K Area to perform plutonium downblend more efficiently.

-Contributor: Lindsey MonBarren

-Source: EM Update

Team Completes Nearly 5,500 Procedures for Hanford Plant Operations

April 12, 2021

 A recent aerial view of the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant shows key facilities that will treat Hanford Site tank waste. The EM contractor team for the plant recently finished developing nearly 5,500 procedures required for operations.​

RICHLAND, Wash. – An EM Office of River Protection (ORP) contractor team has finished creating almost 5,500 step-by-step procedures required for operation of Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) systems and facilities needed for Hanford’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) approach to tank waste treatment.

The team of prime contractor Bechtel National, Inc. and subcontractor Waste Treatment Completion Company (WTCC) developed the bulk of the procedures for 119 systems, with 37 abnormal operating procedures and six emergency operating procedures covering potential events such as high winds, wildfire, or security issues.

DFLAW is a system of interdependent projects and infrastructure improvements, managed and highly integrated as a program, that must operate together to vitrify, or immobilize within glass, Hanford tank waste.

“Completing operating procedures is the catalyst for training plant staff before we start up the first melter in the Low-Activity Waste Facility,” said Mat Irwin, ORP deputy assistant manager for the plant. “This accomplishment makes it possible for the training department to develop scenarios and train operations staff; the commissioning team to develop work packages; and the operations team to follow procedures for running systems and managing the plant.”

A pair of 300-ton melters will use electricity to heat tank waste and glass-forming materials to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. The molten mixture will be poured into large stainless-steel containers that will be sealed and transported to Hanford’s nearby Integrated Disposal Facility.

The WTCC Technical Procedures Department is a group of 35 experienced writers who work with teams across the plant to review and approve procedures. The department’s collaboration with engineering, operations, safety, and many other departments was key to continuously improving and issuing the procedures on time.

“Most of our team has both U.S. Navy and commercial nuclear experience,” said Shavon Asselin, WTCC operations procedures manager. “Their experience played a major role in completing this goal. I'm proud to be a part of such a driven and talented team.”

The WTP facilities can be viewed using the self-guided Hanford Virtual Tour.

-Contributor: Sheila Gideon

-Source: EM Update

WIPP Completes Initial Test for Restarting 700-C Ventilation Fan

February 02, 2021

A view of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant 700-C ventilation fan, which has successfully undergone an initial short-duration test as a first step toward restarting the system.​

CARLSBAD, N.M.  EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has conducted an initial short-duration test of its ventilation fan known as 700-C — the first step toward restarting the system to help provide additional airflow in the underground waste repository.

“Based on preliminary data, the 700-C fan initial test has been successfully completed,” EM Carlsbad Field Office Manager Reinhard Knerr said. “The eventual restart of this fan is very important to improve underground working conditions and fully support the DOE’s operational mission.”

EM and WIPP management and operations contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) are analyzing the test data and will make available the full results once the analysis is complete. A follow-up virtual public meeting will then be held to discuss the findings. Data will be posted to the 700-C webpage as soon as it is available. Once the data had been evaluated and accepted, WIPP will move forward to return the 700-C fan to full operation.

Sean Dunagan, NWP president and project manager, said the WIPP team was pleased to have finished the four-hour 700-C fan test.

“Most importantly, throughout testing, protective measures were in place that ensured the safety of our employees and the community, which is our top priority,” Dunagan said.

Those measures included specific weather criteria that had to be met, which resulted in some delays in completion of the test. During testing, air monitoring activities were conducted by NWP and the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, an independent organization managed by New Mexico State University-Carlsbad. Out of an abundance of caution, only personnel involved in the testing, and essential safety and security personnel were allowed onsite. The 700-C fan has been thoroughly inspected to ensure its operational safety.

“This is a great first step toward restart of the 700-C fan,” said Rick Fuentes, United Steelworkers Local 12-9477 president, representing the bargaining unit employees. “The improved airflow that will result from restart will greatly benefit the health and safety of the workforce at WIPP.”

-Contributor: Victoria Parker

-Contributor: EM Update Newsletter

Los Alamos Protects Environment by Disposing of Purged Well Water, Industrial Materials

February 02, 2021

EM crews at Los Alamos National Laboratory empty purged well water into a truck for offsite disposal.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. – The EM Los Alamos Field Office (EM-LA) and cleanup contractor N3B have been shipping hundreds of containers of purged well water and other materials from sites across Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for offsite disposal in recent months.

Since September, crews have shipped more than 211,000 gallons of purged well water and drilling fluids, along with nearly 100 cubic yards of petroleum-contaminated soil and run-of-the-mill industrial materials linked to past LANL operations. Those materials include residual drill cuttings and pipes leftover from installing wells.

The purged well water is stagnant water removed from monitoring wells before sampling — a process that ensures samples are representative of actual aquifer conditions, including potential contamination.

With about 260,000 gallons of the well water stored in tanks across LANL sites, crews found a lack of available holding tanks that could impact cleanup operations, especially where EM-LA operates a treatment system for chromium-contaminated groundwater beneath LANL.

Shipment of the well water began with about 32,000 gallons, or eight truckloads, leaving Mortandad Canyon each week.

Other materials being dispositioned include hazardous preservatives once used to safeguard stormwater samples during transport to analytical laboratories, in addition to low-level radiological waste, such as pit liners used during well installation to contain drill cuttings with trace levels of man-made radionuclides.

“Along with operations being impeded if we didn’t remove these materials, their disposition was critical to upholding our environmental stewardship mission,” said Erik Loechell, a program manager with N3B. “We don’t want that waste getting into the environment.”

The materials are slated for shipment for offsite disposal by August this year. About 170 cubic yards of solid waste and 30,000 gallons of well water are also scheduled for disposal by August.

Prior to shipment, the materials are being stored in safe configurations, with solid waste primarily kept in lined and sealed containers and well water stored in tanks routinely monitored for structural integrity.

-Contributor: Kate Keenan

-Source: EM Update Newsletter

FIU has successfully completed a Design & Development of Convolutional AutoEncoder algorithm to identify cracks in D&D mock-up facility

December 23, 2020

ML Task.pngConvolutional AutoEncoder (CAE) architecture developed by the FIU team

Florida International University has successfully completed a Design & Development of Convolutional AutoEncoder algorithm to identify cracks in D&D mock-up facility. ​This task supports structural health monitoring of D&D facility to identify cracks and structural defects for surveillance and maintenance. Structural health monitoring is imperative to the ongoing surveillance and maintenance (S&M) across the DOE complex. Deep Learning algorithms provide state-of-start technologies capable of facilitating the assessment of structural integrity in aging nuclear facilities. The FIU team has implemented a robust solution for anomaly detection as part of the structural health monitoring system.

The anomalies are defects (cracks) on D&D concrete structures . The proposed architecture uses a Convolutional AutoEncoder (CAE) – deep learning approach followed by an image post processing routine to generate an anomaly heat map of the predicted defects in the input images. This approach provides a robust solution by training on defect-free wall images for anomaly detection in an unsupervised learning manner.


Abstract: In this paper, we have proposed a semi-supervised based anomaly detection mechanism, which involves a convolutional auto-encoder, to facilitate the structural healthcare monitoring of DOE infrastructure. In this regard, the cracks and spalling are considered as the anomalies on the concrete structures, whereas the normal/healthy surfaces of the concrete structures are considered and grouped as the normal class. We employ an unsupervised learning methodology for training the model, as it only takes the normal class image datasets as its input data. After the model is trained, the proposed “semi-supervised” anomaly detection approach does not require any prior knowledge of the concrete defects. It traces the possible anomalies/defects with the least involvement of the domain experts.

Click link below to read full paper.

Task 6 - Structural Health Monitoring Deliverable_2020_P3_D2_Report_FINAL.pdfTask 6 - Structural Health Monitoring Deliverable_2020_P3_D2_Report_FINAL.pdf

DOE, FIU Welcome New Fellows Into Program Shaping Cleanup Workforce

January 06, 2021

DOE and Florida International University (FIU) officials recently introduced FIU science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students as the new DOE Fellows Class of 2020 in a virtual ceremony. Top row, from left, Fellows Brendon Cintas, Eduardo Rojas, Stevens Charles, and Sebastian Story; second row, from left, Fellows Christian Dau, Joel Adams, Ryan Ocampo, Phuong Pham, and Christian Gonzalez Lopez; third row, from left, Fellows Josue Estrada, Alicia Maratos, Adrian Muino, and Lorryn Andrade, and FIU Applied Research Center Executive Director Inés Triay; fourth row, from left, EM Minority Serving Institutions Partnership Program Manager Genia McKinley, Fellow Thi Tran, FIU DOE Fellows Program Director and Director of Research Dr. Leonel Lagos, DOE Fellows Program Manager Ravi Gudavalli, and DOE Office of Legacy Management (LM) Site Manager Jalena Dayvault; and fifth row, from left, LM Director Carmelo Melendez, Fellow Olivia Bustillo, Class of 2019, Fellow Aurelien Meray, and Fellow Gisselle Gutierrez-Zuniga, Class of 2019.

MIAMI  DOE and Florida International University (FIU) officials recently introduced the EM Fellows Class of 2020 — 15 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students inducted into a program intended to shape future candidates for the cleanup workforce.

The FIU students join current fellows in the university’s Science & Technology Workforce Development Program, also known as the DOE Fellows program. An additional FIU STEM student was inducted as a DOE Office of Legacy Management (LM) Fellow.

Undergraduate and graduate minority STEM students at FIU are usually welcomed into the program annually in a ceremony hosted at FIU’s Modesto Maidique campus. This year, due to health and safety concerns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held virtually.

The Fellows program strives to attract, train, and retain the next-generation workforce in nuclear, engineering, science, and construction fields to assist in addressing EM's many long-term scientific and basic research needs, and complex cleanup challenges.

Students in the Fellows program work with DOE scientists and researchers at FIU’s Applied Research Center (ARC) — which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year — to learn about EM and LM technical areas of need.

In an address during the ceremony, EM Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Nicole Nelson-Jean reflected on her experience in a similar mentorship program, which helped steer her on the path to a successful federal government career.

Nelson-Jean stressed the importance of such programs to the environmental missions of EM and LM. She commended the DOE Fellows program’s success stories, highlighting former DOE Fellows hired by DOE and its national laboratories, including EM’s Savannah River National Laboratory.

Gisselle Gutierrez-Zuniga, who was inducted into the program last year as an undergraduate student, delivered a message to the new Fellows highlighting her personal experience, which she found fulfilling academically and professionally. Also participating was LM Director Carmelo Melendez, who delivered a keynote address to the new DOE Fellows.

Since its inception in 2007, the Fellows program has inducted 179 STEM students mentored in research, development, and deployment of new cleanup technologies. The Fellows program has resulted in a 95% hiring rate for students who complete the program, including three Fellows hired by DOE, nine by DOE contractors or national laboratories, 19 hired by other government agencies, and 74 hired by the STEM industry.

“FIU continues to train and mentor future leaders,” said DOE Fellows Director Dr. Leonel Lagos, the DOE-FIU Cooperative Agreement’s principal investigator. “This program provides the opportunity for many first-generation students to complete their degrees at FIU, obtain hands-on research and work experience, and participate in internships across the DOE complex.”

-Contributors: Ravi Gudavalli, Angelique Lawrence, Genia McKinley​


Oak Ridge's UCOR Earns 98% of Fee for Second Half of Fiscal 2020

January 06, 2021

UCOR completed demolition on the final structures at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) during the performance evaluation period of April 2020 through September 2020. Pictured is Building K-1600, the final structure to fall at ETTP. It was previously used for centrifuge technology research and development.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.  EM recently awarded Oak Ridge cleanup contractor UCOR $28 million for its performance from April 2020 through September 2020, amounting to 98% of the available fee for the evaluation period.

The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) issued its fee determination scorecard for UCOR for the second six-month period of fiscal 2020 after completing its evaluation of the contractor.

EM releases information relating to contractor fee payments — earned by completing work called for in the contracts — to further transparency in its cleanup program.

The contractor received “excellent” ratings for project management and business systems, quality and safety culture, and regulatory and stakeholder activity; a “good” rating for operations management; and “high confidence” for cost and schedule incentive, according to the scorecard.

Among UCOR’s significant accomplishments:

  • Achieved all performance-based incentives designed to complete Vision 2020, resulting in the world’s first demolition of a former uranium enrichment complex at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP). The project finished ahead of schedule and under budget.
  • Seamlessly transitioned to limited operations and implemented the Phase 1 resumption-of-work plan during the COVID-19 pandemic, with effective safety protocols and no confirmed workplace COVID-19 cases.
  • Successfully transitioned approximately 250 workers from ETTP to perform cleanup work at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex upon achieving Vision 2020.
  • Implemented effective safety and health programs, and received the DOE “Legacy of Stars Award,” which is provided to sites that have earned the DOE Voluntary Protection Program Star of Excellence for three consecutive years.
  • Maintained regulatory compliance. UCOR had no regulatory permit infractions, non-compliances, reportable spills, or notices of violation. The contractor also met all enforceable regulatory milestones or supported renegotiation of them.
  • UCOR hosted numerous visits and formal regulatory inspections by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency personnel with no violations identified.
  • Provided excellent support as part of the Regulatory Partnership initiative, enabling the Executive Leadership and Emerging Issues Teams to proceed more quickly to address longstanding issues, fostering improved relationships between OREM and regulators.

OREM also noted areas for improvement. UCOR experienced several issues with work planning and controls, including conducting a task without an approved work plan. Additionally, there were several transportation collision incidents. In response, the contractor promptly established a collision taskforce to evaluate options for improving the transportation program’s performance.

View the fee determination letter and UCOR's scorecard here.

-Contributor: Ben Williams​

-Source: EM Newsletter


3D Printing Improves Radiological Safety at SRS at Low Cost

September 09, 2020

 Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) Senior Health Physicist Michael Ratliff, left, examines parts created by SRNS Principal Scientist Andy Warren using a 3D printer.

AIKEN, S.C. – An employee at the Savannah River Site (SRS) recently discovered how 3D printers can create unique objects at a low cost to improve safety and operations.

EM and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), the site’s management and operations contractor, analyze about 80,000 industrial air monitoring filters each year for radiological contamination within SRS nuclear facilities.

Known as a high-tech “radiological investigator,” Senior Health Physicist Michael Ratliff operates a laboratory at SRS where those analyses are completed.

Air filter analysis determines the source of radioactive particulates and helps measure possible airborne particulates within an operating facility. The process provides valuable data that can be used to monitor the health and safety of SRS employees working within nuclear facilities.

Ratliff said the circular filters sent to the laboratory for analysis are two inches in diameter on cards that are about three inches wide. Each card is packaged and delivered to the laboratory for analysis.

Recently, Ratliff sought the expertise of Andy Warren, who works at a laboratory within the SRNS environmental bioassay organization. That laboratory is used to analyze samples submitted by workers to assess possible occupational exposure to radiological substances and to ensure implemented hazard controls prevent occupational exposure.

Warren asked Ratliff how the cards are used in the high-volume equipment that processes the estimated 80,000 samples a year.

“I brought him one of the little fixtures used in the automated units,” Ratliff said. “To my surprise, the next day he provided a 3D printed part that fit perfectly on my counting instrument and holds the sample card exactly centered in a reproducible geometry.”

Ratliff noted that Warren’s solution improves the quality of data and reduces the time needed to prepare the analyses, all while enhancing radiological safety at SRS.

“When Michael contacted me and said, ‘I could use your help,’ we were already set up to create unique, one-off products using a computer-aided design program. It took about two hours to draft the part and send the design to the printer. The next morning, I came in, took it off the printer, and gave to Michael,” Warren said.

What use to take months at a design and fabrication shop can now be printed overnight at the site.

According to Warren, costs associated with 3D printing are low — approximately $7,000 for a printer and $2,000 for computer-aided design software.

“The fixtures made for Ratliff cost about $5 dollars each,” Warren said.

-Contributor: DT Townsend

Source: EM Update | Vol. 12, Issue 25 | Sept. 8, 2020​

Oak Ridge Constructing Test Facility for Sludge Processing

September 09, 2020

 Last week, crews moved a massive 50,000-tank into position to support efforts at the Sludge Processing Mock Test Facility under construction at Oak Ridge.​

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Construction is underway on the $10 million Sludge Processing Mock Test Facility, which will play a vital role in maturing technologies needed to begin processing Oak Ridge’s 500,000-gallon inventory of transuranic sludge waste.

Transuranic waste contains elements heavier than uranium, hence the name “trans,” or “beyond” uranium. Oak Ridge’s inventory of that waste was generated and stored onsite from years of defense-related research, conducted primarily at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) has been working since 2003 to process, repackage, and ship Oak Ridge’s inventory of contact-handled and remote-handled transuranic debris waste for permanent disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico. With that processing scheduled for completion in 2022, OREM is now working to address the site’s inventory of transuranic sludge waste.

Crews have already placed footers and poured the foundation for the mock test facility. They took another major step forward last week when they transported a 50,000-gallon tank to the worksite that will be used during testing.

 Site preparation for the Sludge Processing Mock Test Facility began in January 2020. Crews recently poured the concrete slab for the structure, which is slated for completion in October 2021.

OREM will test six critical technology elements to gather the data necessary to complete the final design and construction of the Sludge Processing Facility later this decade. Two of those technologies will be tested at the mock test facility, which is now under construction.

Engineers at the mock test facility will focus on testing pump technologies and instrumentation measurement technologies. Advanced pump technologies are needed to pull the sludge wastes out of their storage tanks for processing. The instrumentation measurement technologies will inform operators what material is moving through the pumps, including its contents and density, to assist with processing needs.

“There is a lot of preparation and groundwork required before we can begin addressing our inventory of transuranic sludge waste, but we are moving closer to that goal with the construction of this crucial testing facility,” ORNL Portfolio Federal Project Manager Nathan Felosi said.

Site preparation began for the Sludge Processing Mock Test Facility in January 2020, and construction is slated for completion in October 2021. OREM anticipates approximately two years of testing to gather the data needed to determine the best designs and approaches for the Sludge Processing Facility’s final design.

-Contributor: Ben Williams

Source: EM Update | Vol. 12, Issue 25 | Sept. 8, 2020​

West Valley Prepares for Major Facility Demolition

September 09, 2020


Using a mobile crane, workers install a long-reach arm on a new fork truck for use in waste operations for the future demolition of the Main Plant Process Building at EM's West Valley Demonstration Project.

WEST VALLEY, N.Y. – The West Valley Demonstration Project (WVDP) has obtained a fork truck capable of lifting more than 90,000 pounds for waste removal in the future demolition of the Main Plant Process Building (MPPB) — an EM 2020 priority.

“Safe and successful operations begin with safety, extensive planning, and the right equipment,” said Stephen Bousquet, EM WVDP deputy facility project director for the MPPB demolition. “This paves the way for the future demolition of the Main Plant Process Building.”

The fork truck was delivered to the site on three separate tractor-trailers. Workers used a mobile crane to assemble it.

“This fork truck is a versatile machine capable of lifting and stacking heavy box containers and loading railcars or tractor-trailers, and has a long reach for safe distancing” said Scott Chase, facility disposition operations manager for EM WVDP cleanup contractor CH2M HILL BWXT West Valley. “This fork truck will provide flexibility for safe, efficient, and successful waste operations during demolition activities.”

The five-story, 350,000-square-foot MPPB was constructed in the 1960s as a commercial reprocessing facility to recover reusable plutonium and uranium from spent nuclear reactor fuel. It operated from 1966 to 1972.

-Contributor: Joseph Pillittere

Source: EM Update | Vol. 12, Issue 25 | Sept. 8, 2020​

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