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D&D Industry News

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

Clearance continues of Berkeley waste vaults

June 21, 2016

​The retrieval of mixed waste from the underground chambers at the decommissioned Berkeley nuclear power plant in the UK is progressing. Clearance of these vaults will enable the two Magnox units to enter a period of long-term passive storage.

The Berkeley site housed some 620 tonnes of metallic fuel element debris (FED) and 6665 containers - some of which are sludge cans - in three underground vaults. A single silo houses charge rods and the chutes used to discharge fuel from the site's two Magnox reactors.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said today it achieved its first major milestone in March when the chute silos were declared empty.

"Although we originally anticipated that all the material would be intermediate-level waste (ILW), a campaign of innovative retrieval techniques and segregation enabled some of it to be disposed of as low-level waste and very low-level waste, diverting over 50 tonnes away from the site's interim storage facility and saving millions of pounds," said Paul Oswald, Berkeley site head of projects.

This was followed by the active commissioning of the retrieval and process equipment at the vault containing FED. The design of the retrieval equipment began in 2010, while fabrication, installation and testing of the equipment has been carried out since 2013.

So far, ten shielded Ductile Cast Iron Containers (DCICs) have been filled and dried in the conditioning facility before being transferred to the on-site Interim Storage Facility (ISF).

The first container holding ILW was placed inside the ISF at Berkeley in May 2014. ILW comprises a range of material including debris from the fuel elements, resins, sludges and graphite.

Berkeley's two Magnox units were shut down in the late 1980s after over a quarter of a century of electricity generation. In 1992, Berkeley was the first Magnox site to complete defueling and later became the first to decommission its fuel storage ponds.

In 2010, after 21 years of decommissioning work, the units became the first to be sealed up and placed in 'safestor', a passive state in which the defuelled and extensively decommissioned units will be monitored and maintained until the site is completely cleared in about 65 years' time.

Clearance of the waste vaults is critical for Berkeley's entry into 'care and maintenance', the NDA said. This is when the units will be placed in long-term passive storage to allow time for residual radioactive materials to decay before final site clearance work begins in 2074.

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June 21, 2016

​VERNON — When Jack Boyle arrived at Vermont Yankee in December 2012 to assume the post of engineering director, he believed the Vernon nuclear plant would be operating for years to come.

Just nine months later, though, Entergy announced that the facility would cease producing power at the end of 2014. And now, 17 months after shutdown, Boyle has become Vermont Yankee’s top administrator — the man in charge of the site’s challenging decommissioning process.

The 40-year industry veteran acknowledges that post-shutdown operations have been “a real learning experience.” But in an interview with VTDigger, Boyle also said Vermont Yankee is well-positioned for the long road ahead, both in terms of the plant’s remaining workforce and its finances.

“We finished last year about $15 million under budget, and year to date this year we’re a couple of million under budget,” Boyle said. “So that’s still going well for us.”

He added that one of the higher-profile issues affecting Yankee this year — extensive groundwater intrusion in the plant’s turbine building — “has not been a setback” in spite of requiring extra work and money.

“I think the volume of water was unanticipated by us,” Boyle said. “But it hasn’t affected us in any way from a schedule standpoint, nor from meeting our budget.”

Boyle earned his degree in nuclear engineering in 1976, four years after Vermont Yankee began operations in Vernon. The Massachusetts native spent most of his career with Duke Power, now known as Duke Energy, and retired from that company in 2012; soon after, he began work at Vermont Yankee.

By his own estimation, Boyle has “done a lot of things” in the nuclear business. But he says the job title he assumed last month — Vermont Yankee’s decommissioning director — brings many new challenges.

“Most people in the nuclear industry are in jobs to operate nuclear power plants,” Boyle said. “There’s a small fraction that are in decommissioning activities. It’s been a real learning experience.”

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Rad levels down significantly at sewer plant

June 21, 2016

​Levels of radioactivity at a city of Oak Ridge sewage treatment plant have been reduced by 90 percent over the past two years, according to a Department of Energy contractor in charge of the cleanup.

Anne Smith, a spokeswoman for URS-CH2M Oak Ridge, said the contractor recently completed its 18th shipment of radioactive sludge — totaling 90,000 gallons — to a treatment facility in Washington state.

Sludge has been removed periodically from the Rarity Ridge Wastewater Treatment Plant to help reduce the levels of radioactive technetium-99, which infiltrated pipelines leading to the sewage plant during demolition activities at the former K-25 uranium-enrichment facility.

The technetium in the sewer system was discovered in early 2014, prompting a number of actions — although officials have said the radioactivity doesn’t pose a threat to workers at the sewage-treatment plant and hasn’t been elevated in discharges to the Clinch River.

Levels of technetium-99 in the sewage plant’s “sludge digester” have dropped from 904,000 picocuries per liter in April 2014 to 91,100 picocuries per liter in March 2016, Smith said.

A picocurie is one-trillionth of a curie, a standard measure of the intensity of radioactivity in a sample of radioactive material.

The UCOR spokeswoman said it would “speculative” to estimate how many more shipments of sludge will be needed to complete the cleanup effort and bring radioactivity levels back to normal at the city’s plant.

A return to “normal” levels will be a “collaborative decision” based on an evaluation of numerous factors related to the technetium levels, she said via email.

The sludge removed from the Oak Ridge sewage-treatment plant is shipped to a Perma-Fix waste-treatment facility in Richland, Wash. The residual material after thermal treatment is sent to a landfill in Utah for disposal.​

Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said there has been notable progress in the cleanup effort.

“I think the technetium has steadily gone down once that awareness came about,” he said. “They estimate that to be about a three-year cycle (to complete the cleanup).”

Watson said the project seems to be “moving along,” with the radioactive contamination continuing to decline.

He said he expects the city and DOE will sit down at some point and discuss the conclusion of the project.

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IAEA Conference Launches 'Ethical' Appeal on Decommissioning, Environmental Remediation

June 21, 2016

​Participants at an international IAEA conference in Spain have appealed for faster progress in addressing the legacy of the early development of nuclear energy, saying the decommissioning of old facilities and the remediation of affected sites should not be left to future generations.

“This issue has strong ethical dimensions,” Juan José Zaballa, president of the conference and of Spain’s National Company for Radioactive Waste (ENRESA), said in his conclusions to the International Conference on Advancing the Global Implementation of Decommissioning and Environmental Remediation Programmes on 27 May. Participants urged “against passing responsibilities to future generations where the means to address them currently exist,” he said.

More than 540 people representing 54 countries and four international organizations attended the 23-27 May event in Madrid, sharing and reviewing lessons learned from decommissioning and environmental remediation (D&ER) activities over the last decade, including at the site of the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan and affected nearby areas. The conference’s goals included raising awareness for the growing need to address the legacy of past nuclear activities, identifying priority areas and recommending strategies for furthering the safe and effective implementation of D&ER programmes.

Among Mr Zaballa’s conclusions was a recommendation that, “subject to the views of its Member States, the IAEA should consider formulating a Plan of Action aimed at addressing the identified issues,” including doing more to identify what levels of radioactive contamination could be regarded as sufficiently low not to pose a threat to the safety of people and the environment. The conference also recommended developing international guidance for recovery following a nuclear or radiological incident or emergency, including the establishment of radiation reference levels, decommissioning end states and strategies, and waste management and disposal strategies.


Tacky solution to Dounreay reactor core problem

June 13, 2016

​A team at Dounreay were faced with the challenge of retrieving small pieces of radioactive metal from inside the site's Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR).

They came up with placing a blob of the tacky substance on a 10m (32ft) rod which was inserted deep into the PFR.

The metal sticks to the soft adhesive and can then be collected for analysis.

Can openers

Dounreay, near Thurso in Caithness, is being closed down at a cost of about more than £1bn.

Teams involved in the decommissioning and clean up work have frequently been asked to find cost-effective ways of dealing with hazardous radioactive material.

Other household items have been put to use at the site, including kitchen can openers and soup tin-sized cans that have held radioactive material for more than 30 years.

And a silver ironing board cover and a duvet have protected a robotic camera built to explore pipes inside the Dounreay Fast Reactor.​

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K-27 demolition moves ahead furiously; preparations underway for other Cold War facilities

June 13, 2016
​The post-Cold War cleanup is proceeding at a furious pace at an Oak Ridge site once home to the nation’s largest uranium-enrichment complex.​

With K-27, the last of five gaseous diffusion plants, coming down quicker than expected and likely to be demolished before the year-end target date, the U.S. Department of Energy has started making preparations to tear down a bunch of other old buildings that once supported the nuclear program.

URS-CH2M Oak Ridge, DOE’s cleanup manager, has taken advantage of favorable weather conditions to accelerate the demolition of K-27, which ceased operations in 1964. The four-story, 383,000-square foot building is highly contaminated and equally deteriorated.

A couple of billion dollars has already been spent on cleanup of the former uranium processing complex, with the biggest price tag associated with tearing down K-25 — the original uranium-enrichment plant that was a mile long in the shape of a U. It took much longer to tear down K-25 than it did to construct it during the World War II Manhattan Project, when it was the world’s largest building under one roof.
Deactivating and demolishing K-27, its sister facility, is expected to cost about $292 million, and bringing it to the ground will be a major accomplishment, perhaps by late summer.

But a number of surrounding buildings, known collectively as the Poplar Creek Facilities, will pose their own challenges.

Some of these smaller buildings date back to the 1940s, performing missions that supported the processing of gaseous uranium hexafluoride to separate the fissionable U-235 isotope needed for weapons and reactors.
All told, there are 10 “significant” buildings that need to be torn down, along with “tie lines” that once connected the various operations.

Ben Williams, a spokesman at DOE’s Office of Environmental Management in Oak Ridge, said the estimated cost of demolishing the Poplar Creek Facilities is about $74 million.

Most of the demolition debris will be sent to an Oak Ridge landfill that is specially designated for hazardous and radioactive materials generated by DOE’s cleanup projects.

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Belgian nuclear waste sites will cost at least € 3 billion

June 13, 2016

The nuclear waste sites in Dessel and Mol have already incurred costs of more than 1 billion euro.

The rest of the work will generate an additional cost of about 2 billion euro, a total of 3 billion euro.

The figures were obtained by MP Kristof Calvo (Groen) from the Federal Minister of Energy, Marie-Christine Marghem.

"This is just one example of the costs imposed on us by the nuclear industry," says Calvo. "The industrial adventure that made us dream in the 50s and 60s about a glorious nuclear future is generating very expensive nuclear waste sites 50 years later.”

According to Calvo, it is the Belgian taxpayer who will foot the bill to a large extent. The electricity producers have spent about 144 million euros to clean one of the sites, while consumers, via their electricity bills, paid 550 million during 2003 - 2013, or 55 million per year.

For the period 2014-2018, their contribution will increase by up to 25% to some 69 million, according to the Flemish Green MP.
The reprocessing site Eurochemic was the result of cooperation between 13 OECD countries. Between 1966 and 1974, it managed to remove usable fissile materials from used nuclear fuel. But after eight years, France and Germany withdrew from the project and the production was stopped.
The site and facilities then returned into the hands of the Belgian state. In 1986, it decided to dismantle the site. The work, led by Belgoprocess, began in 1990.
At about the same time, work also started at the nuclear waste site belonging to the Nuclear Energy Research Centre (CEN). This operation, 27 years later, is still not complete, according to Calvo, despite 180,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste produced and billions of euros spent.

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600 tons of melted radioactive Fukushima fuel still not found, clean-up chief reveals

June 13, 2016

​The Fukushima clean-up team remains in the dark about the exact locations of 600 tons of melted radioactive fuel from three devastated nuclear reactors, the chief of decommissioning told the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program in an exclusive interview.

The company hopes to locate and start removing the missing fuel from 2021, the Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) chief of decommissioning at Fukushima, Naohiro Masuda, revealed.

The fuel extraction technology is yet to be elaborated upon, he added.​

Following the tsunami-caused 2011 meltdown at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant uranium fuel of three power generating reactors gained critical temperature and burnt through the respective reactor pressure vessels, concentrating somewhere on the lower levels of the station currently filled with water.

The melted nuclear fuel from Reactor 1 poured out completely, estimated 30 to 50 percent of fuel from Reactor 2 and 3 remained in the active zone, Masuda said.

The official estimates that  approximately “200 tons of [nuclear fuel] debris lies within each unit," which makes in total about 600 tons of melted fuel mixed up with metal construction elements, concrete and whatever else was down there.

Five years after the Fukushima tragedy, the exact location of the highly radioactive “runaway” fuel remains mystery for TEPCO. The absolutely uncontrollable fission of the melted nuclear fuel assemblies continue somewhere under the remains of the station.

“It's important to find it as soon as possible,” acknowledged Masuda, admitting that Japan does not yet possess the technology to extract the melted uranium fuel.

“Once we can find out the condition of the melted fuel and identify its location, I believe we can develop the necessary tools to retrieve it,” Masuda said.

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Low-level nuclear waste to be buried 70 meters underground: NRA

June 13, 2016

​A portion of low-level nuclear waste generated by nuclear reactors is to be buried at a depth of 70 meters underground until it is nearly no longer radioactive some 100,000 years from now, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said on May 25.

NRA officials announced the strategy as forming the organization's key policy with respect to its regulatory standards.

The low-level nuclear waste materials to be buried are those with a high degree of contamination, including reactor parts that are located close to fuel rods.

According to the policy, reactor operators will be expected to oversee the waste for a total of 300 to 400 years after it is buried -- at which time they will be expected to conduct regular inspections on potential leaks of radioactive materials into groundwater.

In order to ensure that human beings do not come anywhere near the radioactive waste materials, the government also plans to implement policies restricting nearby excavations, as well as advising that the nuclear waste be buried for at least the next 100,000 years in a place that does not have the potential for large-scale damage -- including volcanoes and active faults.

The NRA will begin soliciting opinions on May 26 for a period of around one month as it aims to formulate concrete regulatory standards.

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DOE Releases Draft Request for Proposal for Los Alamos Legacy Cleanup Contract

June 13, 2016

​Cincinnati - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today issued a Draft Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Los Alamos Legacy Cleanup Contract (LLCC) acquisition. A contract that primarily includes cost-plus-award-fee contract line items for the purpose of continuing the legacy cleanup mission is anticipated. The Draft RFP provides for full and open competition, and the Draft RFP includes requirements for meaningful work to be performed by small business concerns. The total estimated value of the contract is approximately $1.7B over the prospective ten-year period of performance, including option periods. The current Environmental Management (EM) contract at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is held by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, and if all options are exercised, the current contract expires on September 30, 2017.

The purpose of the Draft RFP is to solicit input from interested parties to assist DOE in developing a Final RFP for this procurement. DOE invites all interested parties to thoroughly examine the Draft RFP and the accompanying procurement website in their entirety and to submit comments to DOE.

Additionally, a pre-solicitation, site tour, and one-on-one meetings with interested parties will be announced for early June. Registration information will be available via the procurement website.

The objectives of the LLCC acquisition include the following: protect, characterize, and monitor the regional aquifer; clean up contaminated media and contaminated legacy waste sites at LANL and surrounding private- and Government-owned lands (formerly LANL), including groundwater and surface water, to levels appropriate for the intended land use; decontamination and decommissioning and demolish inactive, process-contaminated, and non-contaminated facilities that impede the timely execution of environmental restoration activities; retrieve, characterize, and prepare legacy mixed-low level radioactive waste and transuranic waste for shipment off-site (the LANL EM Program manages the disposition of legacy waste generated between 1970 and 1998 and NNSA is responsible for newly generated waste (waste generated after FY1998)); and transfer sites to the landlord organization (NNSA) for long-term surveillance and monitoring as needed, in order to provide necessary safeguards and protection of workers, the public, and the environment, or to subsequently transfer to the County of Los Alamos.

Additional information is available via the procurement website at: https://www.emcbc.doe.gov/SEB/LLCC/

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