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D&D Industry News

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

Japan pulls plug on Monju, ending $8.5 billion nuclear self-sufficiency push

January 10, 2017

​apan on Wednesday formally pulled the plug on an $8.5 billion nuclear power project designed to realize a long-term aim for energy self-sufficiency after decades of development that yielded little electricity but plenty of controversy.

The move to shut the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor in Fukui prefecture west of Tokyo adds to a list of failed attempts around the world to make the technology commercially viable and potentially cut stockpiles of dangerous nuclear waste.

"We do not accept this," Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa told ministers involved in the decision.

People on vacation fish as the Japan Atomic Energy Agency's Monju nuclear power plant, a sodium-cooled fast reactor, is pictured in the background in Tsuruga, Fukui prefecture, July 2, 2011.
"This abrupt change in policy breeds deep feelings of distrust for the government," said Nishikawa who strongly backed the project because of the jobs and revenue it brought to a prefecture that relies heavily on nuclear installations. He said decommissioning work for Monju would not start without local government approval.

Four conventional commercial nuclear stations lie in close proximity to Monju, earning Fukui the nickname "nuclear alley."

Those like most other nuclear stations in Japan remain closed pending safety reviews or decisions on decommissioning after the Fukushima nuclear crisis of 2011 led to the eventual shutdown of all reactors in the country.

The Fukushima crisis sparked strong anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan, making it harder to pursue projects like the Monju facility which has faced accidents, cover-ups and regulatory breaches since construction began in 1985.

The plant was built to burn plutonium derived from the waste of reactors at Japan's conventional nuclear plants and create more fuel than it used, closing the so-called nuclear fuel cycle and giving a country that relies on overseas supplies for most of its energy needs a home-grown electricity source.

With Monju's shutdown, Japan's taxpayers are now left with an estimated bill of at least 375 billion yen ($3.2 billion) to decommission its reactor, on top of the 1 trillion yen ($8.5 billion) spent on the project.

Japan is still committed to trying to make the technology work and will build a new experimental research reactor at Monju, the government said.

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Michigan Public Service Commission to look into planned closure of Palisades nuclear plant

January 10, 2017

​The Michigan Public Service Commission wants answers from Consumers Energy about its plan to end its agreement with Entergy Nuclear Palisades, LLC to buy electricity from the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant.

The plan would end the power purchase agreement about four years early and result in the permanent closure of the nuclear plant in October, 2018. 

The Commission is initiating a proceeding to make sure customers' energy needs will still be reliably met.


A view of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant from the beach at Van Buren State Park.

"What happens if that plant closes?" said Judy Palnau, spokesperson for the Commission. "What has the utility done to meet demand? How are they going to replace that power?"

The Commission also wants to know the basis of the utility's claim that its plan won't raise costs for customers.

"The company has said it will benefit rate payers," Palnau said. "The Commission would like very detailed information on that."

Last week, the House adopted HR 410 urging the Commission to "reject the premature termination of the power purchase agreement between Entergy and Consumers Energy" for the Palisades plant.

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Shikoku Electric submits plan to scrap reactor at Ikata plant

January 10, 2017

​MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREF. – Shikoku Electric Power Co. asked the Ehime Prefectural Government on Monday to approve a decommissioning plan for the No. 1 reactor at its Ikata nuclear power station.

The company is required to gain consent under a nuclear safety agreement.

The power supplier also filed for approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

After gaining permission from the NRA, Shikoku Electric will carry out the work in four stages over some 40 years. The job is expected to cost about ¥40 billion.

Under the nuclear reactor control law, the life span of reactors is limited to 40 years in principle, but can be extended by up to 20 years if permitted by the NRA.

In March, Shikoku Electric decided to decommission the 566,000 kilowatt No. 1 reactor, which will be 40 years old next year. The company decided that attempting to extend the reactor’s life span would be too costly considering required investment in safety measures.​

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Nuclear waste could be buried at greater depth

January 10, 2017

​An agency affiliated with the Japanese government is to study the possibility of burying nuclear waste at a depth of about 5,000 meters. That's much deeper than proposed in the government's current plan.

Researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, or JAMSTEC, will carry out a basic survey for the new disposal option after next April.

The survey will be conducted at Minamitorishima, a remote island above the geologically stable Pacific Plate.

JAMSTEC says it will use a research vessel to collect data on the topography and geology of the area.

No technology exists to bury nuclear waste 5,000 meters below ground as there are many technical challenges.

The Japanese government has been planning to bury high-level radioactive waste from nuclear plants at a depth of more than 300 meters in final disposal facilities. Officials are currently looking for candidate sites.

Nagasaki University Professor Tatsujiro Suzuki is a former member of Japan's Atomic Energy Commission. He says it is too soon to discuss a technology that has yet to be developed, but he thinks basic research by the agency could help to create more options.​​

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Yankee cleanup put on fast track

January 10, 2017

​VERNON — NorthStar Group Services Inc. says it can demolish and clean up the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant much cheaper than Entergy Nuclear — and about 50 years sooner.

NorthStar and Entergy filed volumes of documents late last week with the Vermont Public Service Board, seeking the board’s approval of the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee, as well as NorthStar’s plans for demolition and cleanup.

Entergy Nuclear and NorthStar had announced the sale in November, with Entergy saying it was not in the decommissioning business but NorthStar and its three partners were. NorthStar asked for a decision on its plans from Vermont regulators by 2018, saying it would start decommissioning in 2019 and conclude in 2026.

By comparison, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had given Entergy until 2075 to clean up Vermont Yankee, and Entergy was saying it planned to be done by 2060.

NorthStar, which has extensive experience decommissioning industrial sites, says it can demolish the Vernon reactor for about $430 million cheaper than Entergy Nuclear’s estimate of $1.24 billion.

In its filings, NorthStar says it can demolish, clean up and run the storage facility for the high-level radioactive waste for a total of about $811 million.

“In short, a company like Entergy is the right owners for an operating nuclear plant, but NorthStar is the right owner for a decommissioning plant,” according to the testimony of Scott State, the CEO of NorthStar.

The breakdown of costs are: $511.1 million for demolition and clean up, $287.8 million for the handling and storage of the high-level radioactive fuel waste, and $12.6 million for returning the Vernon property to the 1968 promise of “green field” status.

The filings also estimate that $17 million will be left over from the decommissioning trust fund, which was close to $680 million when Vermont Yankee ceased operation in December 2014. 

Any money left over, according to the 2002 sale of Vermont Yankee to Entergy, will be split between Entergy and Vermont Yankee’s original owners, which were a group of New England utilities.

Christopher Recchia, the outgoing commissioner of the Department of Public Service, said his department had already started work reviewing the voluminous documents.

Recchia said the department was still reviewing the NorthStar and Entergy filings and had made no conclusions on the proposed sale and whether it made sense for Vermont. “We just got it last week,” he said.

Recchia, who has been commissioner for the last four years, said that it was possible NorthStar could decommission and clean up Yankee for much cheaper than Entergy’s estimates.

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WIPP gets state environment department’s approval to reopen

January 10, 2017

​The New Mexico Environment Department on Thursday said it has given a federal nuclear waste repository the green light to reopen after a nearly three-year closure provoked by a radiation accident, clearing the way for the federal government to make the final determination.

NMED said it advised the U.S. Department of Energy last week that the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant passed its latest environmental inspection and DOE is “notified that NMED is approving the resumption of normal operating status at WIPP.”

Two accidents occurred in the deep underground repository outside Carlsbad in February 2014: first a fire on a salt haul truck and then a hot reaction inside a drum of nuclear waste. The unrelated incidents resulted in numerous findings of mismanagement by investigators, and WIPP has been working to recover ever since.

WIPP operates under a hazardous waste permit issued by NMED and had to address corrective actions outlined in at least three administrative orders following the incidents.

NMED conducted its final inspection pertaining to those orders earlier this month.

The state’s inspection was one of the hurdles WIPP needed to clear before the radiologically contaminated site can reopen and start putting drums of waste underground again.

Site managers are also addressing the findings of a DOE “operational readiness review.” The emplacement of waste underground at WIPP is expected to restart in the coming weeks.

WIPP, carved from ancient salt beds 2,150 feet below the surface, is the nation’s only underground repository for certain types of legacy Cold War waste.

Rean the full article at:


Robotic technologies at nuclear facilities

December 07, 2016

Robotic technologies are used in a wide range of sectors, from automotive assembly lines to space exploration. Not only do robots allow the automation of processes, they also provide safety benefits, by allowing machines to perform tasks that would otherwise be highly dangerous or complex for humans to conduct using conventional means. For instance, robots can perform tasks in environments with extreme temperatures, pressures, or radiation fields, and inspect equipment in areas that are difficult to access. As a result, robotic technologies have become an indispensable resource across a wide spectrum of fields.

In Canada, the nuclear industry has decades of experience putting robotic technologies to work. Between February 2 and 4, 2016, the CNSC is co-sponsoring and participating in an international workshop. The purpose of this workshop is to inform, discuss, and assess past, present, and anticipated future uses of robotic technologies in safety applications and activities at nuclear facilities throughout the world. The workshop is designed to facilitate technical exchange of lessons learned from historic nuclear applications and experiences (e.g., Three Mile Island, Sellafield, and Fukushima Daiichi) and ongoing research.

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DOE seeks ruling on liquid nuclear material shipments

December 07, 2016

​In the legal battle over cross-border liquid nuclear material shipments between Canada and South Carolina’s Savannah River Site, the U.S. Department of Energy asked the court Friday for a decision in its favor before the case ever makes it to trial.

The Energy Department filed a motion with the U.S. District Court in Columbia, calling the arguments in the suit "meritless."

The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of nuclear watchdog and environmentalist organizations in August, led by Beyond Nuclear. The coalition alleges that planned shipments of liquid highly enriched uranium were not properly assessed by DOE.

In legal documents and on coalition member websites, the group says transporting the material from Canada, called target residue material, or TRM, is much more dangerous in liquid form than in the solid form. The Energy Department disagrees with those claims.

Target residue material is U.S. origin nuclear material, sent to research reactors at Chalk River in Ontario, Canada, for the production of medical isotopes.

Energy Department officials said returning the material to the U.S. is important for nonproliferation, as the material is weapons-usable.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act, the DOE must conduct an environmental impact assessment when deciding whether to move or handle nuclear materials.

After those assessments, records of decision are released outlining potential hazards and planned processes to deal with the material.

Records of decision covering the Canadian-held TRM were issued after assessments in 1995, 1996 and 2000. Those assessments, however, examined hazards for the material when shipped in solid form.

The lawsuit alleges that the DOE needed to complete a separate assessment for the liquid form.

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Radioactive Recycling: Turning Nuclear Waste Into Glass

December 07, 2016

​Researchers from Rutgers University have discovered a new method to store nuclear waste: contain it in glass and ceramics. Ashutosh Goel, an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has found a way to immobilize radioactive iodine in ceramics at room temperature.

 "Glass is a perfect material for immobilizing the radioactive wastes with excellent chemical durability," said Goel. The immobilization of iodine-129 is one of Goel's main concerns. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, iodine-129 has a half-life of 15.7 million years and can disperse rapidly in air and water. Should it be released into the environment, iodine will linger for millions of years, targeting the thyroid gland and increasing the chances of getting cancer.

The U.S. Department of Energy, which oversees one of the largest nuclear cleanups in the world following 45 years of producing nuclear weapons, is one of Goel's major funders. The Hanford site alone in southeastern Washington manufactured more than 20 million pieces of uranium metal fuel for nine nuclear reactors near the Columbia River.

"What we're talking about here is highly complex, multicomponent radioactive waste which contains almost everything in the periodic table," Goel said. "What we're focusing on is underground and has to be immobilized."

Hanford plants processed 110,000 tons of fuel from the reactors. About 56 million gallons of radioactive waste went to 177 large underground tanks. This amount is enough to fill more than one million bathtubs. The Department of Energy estimated that around 67 tanks might have leaked. The liquids have been pumped out of the 67 tanks until only dried solids were left. The Hanford cleanup mission started in 1989 and then constructed a waste treatment plant for the liquid radioactive waste a decade later. Only 75 percent of the project is finished.

At the Hanford site, Goel plans to create glass with radioactive waste by 2022 or 2023. "The implications of our research will be much more visible by that time," he explained. Goel had been named principal investigator for six glass-related research projects totaling $6.34 million in federal and private funding.

The research may eventually help lead to ways to safely dispose of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel that is stored now at commercial nuclear power plants.

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Waste storage: America’s nuclear hot potato

December 07, 2016

A 2014 leak at a nuclear waste repository in New Mexico has raised far-reaching questions about long-term storage in the US. On top of the political and economic fallout from the incident, it has reignited the debate about finding a permanent storage site for commercial nuclear waste, a problem that looks no closer to a solution than it did 30 years ago.

Yucca Mountain tunnel.jpg 

In February 2014, an incident occurred at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico when a 55-gallon drum containing radioactive waste popped its lid, contaminating 3,000ft of underground tunnels at the facility before rising through the exhaust shaft to escape in small quantities into the surrounding desert. The culprit, it was later discovered, was cat litter. The litter was used by the Los Alamos National Laboratory to seal a drum before sending it on to WIPP for storage. The organic absorbent – with which concerns had previously been raised – reacted violently with the nitrates in the waste and caused the leak.    

While the US Department of Energy (DOE) was quick to downplay the immediate risks the leak posed to plant workers and nearby communities, the long-term ramifications of the incident – both in terms of direct consequences and wider implications – have added salt to the open wound that is America’s ongoing nuclear waste storage issue.

The plant, which has been used as a long-term storage site for transuranic radioactive waste from US nuclear weapons research and production since 1999, is not scheduled to resume full operations until 2021. The political and economic fallout from the incident could last much longer, with significant knock-on effects for the nation’s fleet of commercial nuclear plants.

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