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D&D Industry News

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

Small space, big problem

July 25, 2016

​The Dounreay fast reactor complex in northern Scotland is being decommissioned but a problematic seized mechanism in the site's fast reactor reprocessing plant Active Filter Change Facility (AFCF) had reduced ventilation capacity since 2009. During a filter change operation workers found the mechanism on one of the filters had seized and they were unable to change it.

Decommissioning of the D1206 plant was being held up by the air filtration problem but access to the AFCF is difficult and the area is subject to heavy radiological contamination after decades of operations in the reprocessing plant.

Many of Dounreay's facilities were built and operated without decommissioning in mind, which has posed numerous problems to staff now dismantling the old, experimental complex.


The design of D1206 was drawn up in the 1950s to address the need to reprocess irradiated fast breeder reactor fuel onsite with the aim to alleviate the issues associated with transporting spent fuel across the UK. Construction began in 1957 and installation of the actual plant systems in 1958.

D1206 was originally built to reprocess Dounreay Fast Reactor fuel but was refurbished to carry out dissolution and reprocessing of MOX fuel for the Prototype Fast Reactor. The method used was dissolution in nitric acid followed by solvent extraction.

Active commissioning of the plant began in 1959. It was operational until 1997, at which point it was deemed to be in care and maintenance. Limited post-operational clean out began almost a decade later in 2006.


The main purpose of the D1206 active extract ventilation system is to stop the spread of contamination by providing a constant negative pressure across all the containments. When access ports are opened to deposit and retrieve items or equipment, the ventilation ensures that air will flow in to the containment, preventing contamination from leaving.

The system was the only one affected by reduced ventilation capacity as most buildings in the site's Fuel Cycle Area (FCA) have self- sufficient dedicated ventilation systems.

The AFCF filters the extract to ensure contamination is not discharged to the atmosphere. When the plant was operational, the other function of the vents was to extract the aerosol by-products of the chemical processes from the various vessels. The vessel extract used to be sparged, or flushed, when the plant was operational to stop active liquors from entering ducts.

The current primary function of the ventilation is to prevent contamination releases to general plant areas when containment is deliberately breached in a controlled manner to provide access for decommissioning work.

Depression gauges are used to ensure the ventilation system is working properly. Flow measuring instrumentation is not fitted on individual ventilation branches and the combined D1206 active extract is the only one with a flow meter. The total volumetric flow rate for the active extract is about two cubic metres per second at all times.

Read the full article at:


Innovative scaffolding helps Sellafield reach new heights

July 25, 2016

An innovative scaffolding solution has saved more than a third of a million pounds of UK taxpayer’s money in the clean-up of one of the most hazardous decommissioning projects at Sellafield.

The unique rolling scaffolding has been introduced for the first time to the Sellafield site to help speed up the decommissioning of the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP) and save £300,000 for the UK taxpayer.

Created in collaboration with Kaefer, the scaffolding uses a state-of-the-art rail track system which creates one easily-moveable structure that can shift side-to-side as sections of work are complete along the external pond wall.

Unlike traditional scaffolding, the system is cost-effective, lightweight and quick-to-assemble.

The use of the system has helped the project team make a considerable cost saving by cutting the amount of equipment needed and slashing the amount of man-hours spent constructing the scaffolding.

It also increases safety for those working on the project as it eliminates the need to climb the scaffolds.

Ryan Blinco, project team member said: “There’s a complex jigsaw of pieces that need to be in place to decommission FGMSP and the erection of the rolling scaffolding means we can take one step closer to seeing the picture on the box.

“It’s another example of the innovation we have here at Sellafield and the substantial progress we’re making in reducing the hazards on the site – our number one priority – while saving millions of pounds for our customer, the UK taxpayer.”

Built in the 1950s, FGMSP is one of the priority decommissioning projects on the Sellafield site that Sellafield Ltd, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and its regulators want decommissioned in the earliest possible timescale.

Before decommissioning, the structural integrity and containment of the 60-year-old building has to be improved to counter the degradation that has taken place over the last 30 years. The building was not designed with decommissioning in mind and considerable work is being carried out on the plant, equipment and services to allow the pond to be emptied.

Dorothy Gradden, Head of Delivery, Legacy Ponds, said: “This is a fantastic example of innovative thinking from the FGMSP workforce.

“We’re committed to accelerating decommissioning of the legacy ponds and silos here at Sellafield and we need to do this as cost effectively as possible, recognising the fact that we need to provide value for money for the taxpayer.

“Saving a third of a million pounds on this project will mean the money can be spent elsewhere on the high priority decommissioning projects across the NDA estate.”

Read the full article at:


US reactor closures raise urgency of new decommissioning rules

July 25, 2016

​A recent spate of early U.S. plant closures has increased the need for a swift implementation of new decommissioning regulations which match post-operation risk profiles, industry experts said.

Challenging power market conditions have prompted a surge in early plant closure announcements in recent months.

Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) said it will close its 484 MW Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant in Nebraska by the end of 2016 and Exelon has decided to retire its 1.1 GW Clinton and 1.9 GW Quad Cities facilities in Illinois, in 2017 and 2018. California's Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced June 21 it would shut down its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant by 2025.

Nuclear operators are optimizing spending in response to difficult market conditions and the industry has called for improvements to regulations for post-shutdown operations in order to reduce costs.

The current approach taken by operators and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is to work around a regulatory system developed for operations, requiring plant owners to submit exemption requests during the transition to decommissioning.

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), existing regulations do not adequately recognize lower risk profiles during the period when a power reactor permanently ceases operation, defuels, and decommissions.

The exemption process typically takes 12 to 18 months to complete, requiring spending of more than $1.5 million, with additional operator costs of $1 million per month, NEI has said.

Going forward, the impact on resources will increase as more reactors are taken offline. To improve the efficiency of the regulatory process, the NRC launched in December 2015 the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), a consultation on the current system of applying for license amendments and exemptions.

The NRC is currently reviewing the comments received on the ANPR and these will be used to develop the regulatory basis for the new decommissioning rules, David McIntyre, NRC spokesman, told Nuclear Energy Insider.

NRC has proposed a rulemaking timeline that would have a draft regulatory basis completed by November 2016, with the final regulatory basis available in June 2017. The proposed rule and draft regulatory guidance would be issued in April 2018 and the final rule in 2019.

“As of now, staff continue to pursue completion of rulemaking by 2019, as directed by the Commission. If the situation changes and the staff believe that target date could be missed, it will inform the Commission,” McIntyre said.

Read the full articlet at;


Hanford plutonium plant demolition deadline extended

July 25, 2016

​The Department of Energy has been given an extra year to tear down the Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant.

With demolition of the large central facility of the plant yet to begin, it is clear that DOE could not meet a legally binding deadline to have the plant torn down to slab on grade by the end of September.

The new Tri-Party Agreement deadline requires the plant to be demolished by Sept. 30, 2017.

Finishing the project will remove a significant hazard to the Hanford work force, the public and the environment, said Stacy Charboneau, manager of the DOE Richland Operations Office, in a message to employees Thursday.

The new deadline has been agreed to by DOE and its regulators, the Washington State Department of Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Demolition had been planned to begin in spring of this year to meet the former deadline.

Now it could start as soon as late August, according to DOE. The start is dependent on a readiness assessment planned for August by DOE and its contractor, CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. An independent team will assess whether the project is ready for the start of demolition.

The previous deadline to have the plant torn down to the ground was set in 2002. But preparing the plant for demolition proved more difficult than anticipated, because of the hazards it contains and its age.

The Plutonium Finishing Plant is the most hazardous building at the Hanford nuclear reservation, and the largest and most complex plutonium facility in the DOE complex, according to DOE.

Exterior PFP Hanford.jpg 

The plant operated from 1948-89 to turn plutonium that came into the plant in a liquid solution into buttons the size of hockey pucks or a powder to be shipped to the nation’s weapons production facilities. Nearly two-thirds of the nation’s plutonium was prepared in the building.

Work has been under way to clean out the plant for 20 years, with stabilization of plutonium left in the plant in a liquid solution at the end of the Cold War. About 20 tons of plutonium-bearing material were stabilized, packaged and shipped off site.

Work started in 2008 to remove long, skinny “pencil tanks” hanging in the plant’s Plutonium Reclamation Facility. The facility was added to the plant in 1963 to increase production of plutonium by recovering plutonium from scrap material that otherwise would have gone to waste.

But the remotely operated crane needed to maneuver the tanks was showing its age. Work repeatedly stopped to repair the crane, which was original to the facility and in a highly contaminated area. The last of the pencil tanks was finally removed in the spring of 2015.

Some of the most hazardous jobs to prepare for demolition were left until last, and work was deliberately slowed on them this year.

Read the full article at:


New Technology at Piketon

July 25, 2016

​An innovative data collection technology for environmental compliance sampling developed and used by the Savannah River Site (SRS) is now being deployed at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio to increase the efficiency of cleanup operations as Environmental Management (EM) continues to promote sharing lessons learned and new technologies across U.S. Department Of Energy sites.

The Environmental Compliance Sampling Collection Tool was developed by SRS management and operations contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) to provide electronic data management of environmental compliance monitoring and sampling locations. The new technology scraps the traditional pencil-and-paper method for data collection that had been used since the start of SRS environmental monitoring activities.

“This is exactly the kind of technological innovation we need from our sites,” EM Assistant Secretary Monica Regalbuto said. “The more we can take our successes at one site and build on them at other sites across the complex, the more efficient and effective the cleanup program will be.”

The Environmental Compliance Sampling Collection Tool is a hand-held tablet that allows for real-time data collection and sharing from sampling sites.

Chris Bergren, director of the SRNS Environmental Compliance and Area Completion Projects Division, likened the technology to a smartphone.

“This new tool is essentially a smartphone for environmental samplers,” Bergren said. “We no longer have to take notes and go back to desks to transfer data into systems. Now, we are able to upload information from our sampling sites, making the data available instantly. What’s more, we can print labels for samples from the device while in the field, greatly diminishing the risk of human error in logging samples.”

In a memo to the Department, EM Portsmouth Site Lead Joel Bradburne said deployment of the technology at Portsmouth is already making a difference in the environmental compliance efforts there. He credited Savannah River Operations Office Infrastructure and Environmental Stewardship Deputy Assistant Manager Angelia Holmes for her support in ensuring the technology is shared with other sites.

Bergren said he believes the tool, which was displayed at the 2014 Waste Management Conference, could benefit sites across the DOE complex in addition to the Portsmouth Site.

“This technology translates into value to the customer and taxpayer. Continuous improvement is an important element in remaining cost conscious and quality driven, and that is exactly what this technology provides to organizations that work in environmental compliance and stewardship,” Bergren said.

Read the full article at:


PG&E preparing study on decommissioning of Diablo Canyon Power Plant

July 25, 2016

​With Diablo Canyon Power Plant set to shut down in nine years, Pacific Gas and Electric is now studying just how to go about decommissioning the plant.

"We are going to take our time and do this right and put together an effective and safe decommission plan," said Blair Jones, a spokesperson for PG&E.

Part of the plan is coming up with a way to fund the shutdown. A taxpayer trust fund is currently at about $3 billion, but shutting down the plant is expected to ring up a tab of nearly $4 billion.

"We have budget proposals that we believe will cover the cost, but if we come to a situation where we determined that there (are) more funds needed, then there (are) mechanisms with the state to allow us additional funding," said Jones.

One of the major issues with shutting down a nuclear plant is what to do with spent fuel. The plan is to store the waste on site temporarily.

"The federal government made a commitment to accept spent fuel once it was ready to be delivered. We expect the federal government to live up to that commitment,' said Jones.

Meanwhile, county officials are beginning discussions to address their own concerns with the shutdown.

"We certainly have a variety things that may or may not align with PG&E's interest, but that's why there's a state process," said San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill.

One of the main areas of concern is ensuring San Luis Obispo County won't take a major economic hit once the reactors shut down.

"You can never be prepared to lose that many jobs that pay that well. But we are going to do what we can to make sure the community stays vibrant economically," said Hill.

PG&E remains confident that closing down the plant can be done safely and effectively. 

"Decommissioning the power plant is a multi-year process. What's important to remember is that we are not going away. We are going to be in this community for many decades to come," said Jones.

PG&E will be holding its first public meeting to discuss the joint proposal and to answer questions about phasing out nuclear power over the next decade.

Read the full article at:


Decommissioning progress at UK Bradwell NPP

July 18, 2016

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said construction of an aluminium "weather envelope" has been built around the two reactor structures at the UK's closed Bradwell nuclear plant in Essex, in preparation for an 80-year period of care and maintenance. The former Magnox nuclear plant operated from 1962 to 2002. The new construction "is the biggest transformation" in the site's appearance since the plant was built in the 1950s, according to NDA.

The project was undertaken in conjunction with UK-based contract partner Vinci Construction. More than 28,000 individual fittings have been used to build the weather envelope, NDA said. "Preparing for an 80-year care and maintenance period often means building things as well as demolishing them. This is the biggest construction project we will undertake and completing it safely is a huge step towards our end goal of closing this phase of decommissioning," Bradwell closure director Scott Raish said. 

Twenty-six Magnox units were built in the UK between 1956 and 1971. Magnox reactors were the first generation of NPPs to operate in the UK. Magnox Limited is responsible for decommissioning the twin unit site. It was announced last year that China plans to deploy its own reactor design at Bradwell in a first for Chinese indigenous reactor technology in the West.

Read the full article at:



Getting into the business of robotics for nuclear decommissioning

July 18, 2016

​Robotics and technological innovation for nuclear decommissioning is a potentially growing market.

Role of robotics in decommissioning UK nuclear sites

This is good news for UK businesses wanting to increase their market.

We really want businesses, particularly innovative Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs), from different sectors to embrace technological opportunities that can help us tackle the challenges that we face across our estate. We are always seeking ideas that can help us decommission our sites in better ways.

Across our estate we have a number of great examples of where robotics are used to improve productivity and also deal with hazards that require remote handling. These examples include cutting edge technology as well as re-use or adaption of solutions used in other sectors and industries. There is no single answer, which is great for industry.

If businesses want to grasp these opportunities in this area, they may want to understand more about nuclear decommissioning issues and find out what other organisations are already doing or planning. To make a new business idea work, it’s important to understand how a proposal improves on current ways of doing things, or how it can be combined with other technology that may already exist or be under development.

Business opportunities in nuclear decommissioning

To help organisations network with other companies working in this industry, NDA and its estate run an annual Supply Chain Event. Over 1,500 attendees spend a day networking and sharing ideas.

The 2016 event will be held on Thursday 3 November.

Over the past few years, we’ve hosted an Innovation Zone at the event that has showcased some of the emerging technologies for use across our estate. Attendees find the event really helpful for developing their business ideas and approach to entering the decommissioning market.

Read the full article at:


WIPP's new waste acceptance criteria accepted

July 18, 2016

​CARLSBAD — The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant issued revised Waste Acceptance Criteria to nuclear waste generators around the country.

Those changes were made in response to findings resulting from an investigation into the February 2014 radiological release.

The incident was the result of a chemical reaction in a drum containing processed nuclear waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory. It was later found that organic kitty litter caused the reaction.

John Heaton, chairman of the Carlsbad Mayor's Nuclear Task Force, said that though he agrees the system used to ensure the integrity and safety of shipped waste needs change, he is unsure that the new criteria will have an impact.

"The Mayor’s Task Force has serious reservations as to how exactly oversight of the treatment process of waste will actually occur and be audited," Heaton said in an email.

He also expressed concerns about the Central Characterization Program (responsible for ensuring waste is safely treated) being a subcontractor to NWP.

"Many questions are obvious as to how an independent subcontractor can be totally independent and outside the influence of the contractor when they are being paid by the contractor," Heaton said in the email.

He said the Mayor's Task Force is working on separating the two contracts from one another.

Tim Runyon, spokesman for WIPP Recovery Operations, said they were aware of the city's concerns but could not comment further.

No one at Los Alamos National Laboratory was available for comment.

Read the full article at:


Finland to bury nuclear waste for 100,000 years in world's costliest tomb

July 18, 2016

​Tiny Olkiluoto island, off Finland's west coast, will become home to the world's costliest and longest-lasting burial ground, a network of tunnels called Onkalo — Finnish for "The Hollow".

Countries have been wrestling with what to do with nuclear power's dangerous by-products since the first plants were built in the 1950s.

Most nations keep the waste above ground in temporary storage facilities, but Onkalo is the first attempt to bury it for good.


Starting in 2020, Finland plans to stow around 5,000 tonnes of nuclear waste in the tunnels, more than 420 metres below the Earth's surface.

Already home to one of Finland's two nuclear power plants, Olkiluoto is now the site of a tunnelling project set to cost up to 3.5 billion euros ($5.3 billion) to build and operate until the 2120s, when the vaults will be sealed for good.

The project began in 2004 with the establishment of a research facility to study the suitability of the bedrock.

At the end of last year, the Government issued a construction license for the encapsulation plant, effectively giving its final approval for the burial project to go ahead.

At present, Onkalo consists of a twisting five-kilometre tunnel with three shafts for staff and ventilation. Eventually the nuclear warren will stretch 42 kilometres.

The temperature is cool and the bedrock is extremely dry — crucial if the spent nuclear rods are to be protected from the corrosive effects of water.

The waste is expected to have lost most of its radioactivity after a few hundred years, but engineers are planning for 100,000, just to be on the safe side.

Spent nuclear rods will be placed in iron casts, then sealed into thick copper canisters and lowered into the tunnels.

Each capsule will be surrounded with a buffer made of bentonite, a type of clay that will protect them from any shuddering in the surrounding rock and help stop water from seeping in.

Clay blocks and more bentonite will fill the tunnels before they are sealed up.

The method was developed in Sweden where a similar project is under way, and Posiva insists it is safe.

But opponents of nuclear power, such as Greenpeace, have raised concern about potential radioactive leaks.

"Nuclear waste has already been created and therefore something has to be done about it," said the environmental group's Finnish spokesman Juha Aromaa.

"But certain unsolved risk factors need to be investigated further."

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