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D&D Industry News

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

Hanford Engineers Spark STEM Interest

March 22, 2023

Volunteers from Hanford Site tank operations contractor Washington River Protection Solutions lead fourth-grade students in a STEM-related activity during Hanford Engineers Week.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Engineers from the Hanford Site proved that playing with play dough isn’t only heaps of fun, but it also provides a perfect blend of science, play and learning.

More than 100 Hanford engineers recently volunteered to lead interactive demonstrations about electrical circuits and other activities for elementary and middle school students in southeastern Washington state to increase interest in STEM careers. The science, technology, engineering and math activities included making parachutes and paper gliders, using conductive clay circuits and remotely handling “radioactive” pingpong balls.

“Activities in elementary and middle schools are all hands-on,” said Jeff Dahl, a Bechtel National Inc. engineering group supervisor at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant Project who is on the Hanford Engineers Week committee. “The goal is to proactively reach out to area schools to get kids interested in STEM careers.”

Read a related feature about National Engineers Week. EM Update interviewed four engineers supporting EM across the DOE complex to learn about their careers and contributions to the cleanup mission.

The group of Hanford contractors and other participating organizations included Bechtel, Central Plateau Cleanup Company, Hanford Mission Integration Solutions, Washington River Protection Solutions, Atkins, Hanford Laboratory Management Inc., and Energy Northwest.

The group holds about 200 hands-on interactive sessions each year with over 4,300 students in local elementary, middle and high schools. High school students participate in a friendly competition to solve an engineering-related challenge. In a typical year, about 100 teams participate, with each team of three to four students building a device based on that year’s challenge.

“We need future STEM professionals who will help deliver on our cleanup mission,” said Brian Vance, manager of EM’s Office of River Protection and Richland Operations Office. “You never know if a student’s participation in one of these sessions is what will spur their interest in engineering or science as a career.”

-Contributor: Patti Jones​
-Source: EM Newsletter

EM Laboratory Works To Develop Long-Term Groundwater Monitoring

March 22, 2023

em lab long term monitoring.jpg
Tom Danielson, right, a scientist in the Environmental Science and Dosimetry Division of the Environmental Management Directorate at Savannah River National Laboratory, leads a field discussion about the groundwater sensor network installed at Savannah River Site’s F Area as part of the Advanced Long-Term Environmental Monitoring System project. (Image by Brad Bohr)​

AIKEN, S.C. – A workshop to identify and prioritize key research and technology needs in developing long-term monitoring for groundwater contamination was held at Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) recently.

The event was attended by more than 75 personnel from EM, the DOE Office of Legacy Management (LM), Savannah River Site (SRS), three national laboratories, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), EM contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and industry.

Once a framework for long-term monitoring of groundwater is developed, it can be used to expedite closure of DOE’s complex groundwater plumes.

The workshop included a summary of the accomplishments of the ongoing SRNL-led Advanced Long-Term Environmental Monitoring System (ALTEMIS) project, which is funded by the EM Technology Development Office. Read a past EM Update story about ALTEMIS here

ALTEMIS is developing a new monitoring strategy that promises to provide significant cost reduction when compared to baseline methods. The project team installed an integrated sensor network that will improve monitoring of groundwater contamination stemming from a complex radiological groundwater plume at SRS’s F Area seepage basins.

Savannah River National Laboratory, in collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Savannah River Site (SRS), installed temperature probes at 97 locations within the F Area wetlands at SRS as part of the Advanced Long-Term Environmental Monitoring System project to support development and implementation of a long-term monitoring strategy for contaminated sites.

 The system will be monitored over the next two years and data will be evaluated using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and machine learning modeling, and other techniques.

Workshop participants from SRNL, SRS, EM and LM headquarters, EM's Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project, MIT, Geosyntec and Longenecker & Associates gave presentations covering a broad range of information about technical and regulatory processes associated with long-term monitoring of complex plumes, site transfer and site closure.

Breakout sessions were created to discuss monitoring tools and regulatory strategies in depth and how to apply ALTEMIS lessons learned to additional sites, particularly arid sites.

An implementation strategy for the Moab Project will be developed in the workshop write-up as an example approach for implementation at arid sites.

A report on the findings of the workshop is scheduled to be finalized March 1.

-Contributor: Chris O’Neil
-Source: EM Newsletter


First Shipment of Downblended Plutonium for Disposal Departs New SRS Location

March 22, 2023

The first shipment of downblended surplus plutonium from the K Area at Savannah River Site in South Carolina departs the site en route to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.​

AIKEN, S.C. – EM recently collaborated with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) at the Savannah River Site (SRS) to successfully complete the first shipment of downblended surplus plutonium for permanent disposal from a new location at the site: K Area.

The shipment from K Area to EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico marked a momentous milestone culminating from multiple years of effort to prepare for and remove plutonium from the state of South Carolina.

The downblended surplus plutonium meets requirements for shipping and disposal as contact-handled transuranic waste at WIPP.

In the past, all transuranic waste shipped to WIPP was characterized, stored and shipped from the SRS Solid Waste Management Facility (SWMF), located several miles away from K Area.

“Shipping directly from K Area, instead of through SWMF, saves time and resources and allows for more efficient removal of plutonium from the state,” said Lee Sims, K Area Facility manager for the site’s managing and operating contractor, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS). “It also helps further the NNSA nonproliferation mission.”

Savannah River Operations Office Manager Mike Budney said the K Area shipment is the result of a joint mission between EM and NNSA.

“It has involved integration of activities at K Area between NNSA and DOE-Savannah River to demonstrate readiness to initiate shipments, along with significant coordinated efforts with the Carlsbad Field Office to achieve certification and approval of the waste stream for the WIPP facility,” Budney said. “All of this was completed safely and within cost and schedule restraints.”

Plutonium is diluted, or downblended, in the site’s K Area Complex glovebox in a process that mixes plutonium oxide with a multicomponent adulterant to enable DOE to produce a proliferation-resistant form that can never again be readily used in nuclear weapons. The downblended material is packaged in drums and staged on a designated storage pad until it is characterized and ready to be shipped to WIPP.

While SRS is celebrating the milestone, SRNS President and CEO Stuart MacVean noted that a lot more work lies ahead.

“Work is ongoing in K Area to increase the rate of downblending and shipping, including the construction of three new glovebox lines, which are used to perform the downblending process, and new entry control facilities and housing for an influx of new employees that will be needed to meet the mission needs,” MacVean said.

-Contributor: Lindsey MonBarren
-Source: EM Newsletter

Duo Returns 24 Years Later to Conduct Mapping for EM Nevada Cleanup

February 22, 2023

Geophysicist Beth Williams pushes a ground penetrating radar while geophysicist Jeff Warren uses a metal detector near the Engine Maintenance, Assembly, and Disassembly Facility at the Nevada National Security Site.

LAS VEGAS – Twenty-four years ago, Beth Williams and Jeff Warren performed underground surveying work at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) to help with the eventual shutdown of a facility used in the development of the U.S. space program.

Now, the two senior geophysicists are back at the NNSS. This time, they are doing underground surveying work on behalf of the EM Nevada Program at the Engine Maintenance, Assembly, and Disassembly (EMAD) Facility.

"It feels like we've come full circle," said Williams.

Williams and Warren took time recently to discuss the labor being conducted at the EMAD site. Constructed in 1965 at a cost of more than $50 million, it was then the largest hot cell in the world. EMAD and Test Cell C (TCC) were part of the Nuclear Rocket Development Station at the NNSS, which supported the development and testing of nuclear rocket engines from 1957 until 1973. Demolition and closure of those two facilities are the ongoing focus of EM Nevada’s current industrial sites mission at the NNSS.

Williams and Warren began by traversing the area and performing a passive locator survey. Passive locators can detect subsurface objects such as energized electrical lines or buried cables and pipes. Next, Warren used an electromagnetic metal detector with a mounted GPS, tracking responses through many laps over the area.

“With this data, the team will be able to create color-enhanced contour maps that indicate a geographical representation of the underground region,” said EM Nevada Deputy Program Manager Bill Wilborn.

Meanwhile, Williams performed a ground penetrating radar (GPR) mapping of the area. GPR uses radar technology to track anomalies under the surface and the depth and location of underground shapes it encounters. The different methods are designed to create a system of checks and balances, cross-checking findings across multiple devices. The result will be a much deeper understanding of what lies beneath EMAD and surrounding land.

“This is important work,” said Construction Manager Chase Morgan. “This data will help us identify underground utilities, which will help us plan our future work activities.”​

-Source: EM Newsletter

Subcontractor Selected to Manage Operations at Key Hanford Site Facilities

February 22, 2023

The Integrated Disposal Facility on the Hanford Site is designed to receive containers of vitrified, or immobilized in glass, low-activity waste from Hanford’s underground storage tanks, and mixed low-level waste from other site operations.

RICHLAND, Wash. – EM Richland Operations Office (RL) contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company (CPCCo) has awarded a two-year, $36 million subcontract to provide landfill management, operations, inspection and maintenance services for the Integrated Disposal Facility (IDF) and Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility (ERDF) on the Hanford Site.

The chosen subcontractor is a joint venture between CTI and Associates and Veolia Nuclear Solutions - Federal Services, or “CVE.” The contract includes an option for two two-year extensions, worth an additional $88 million, to support operations through calendar year 2029.

“CPCCo’s subcontract supports our Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) Program to treat and dispose of tank waste, a sitewide mission and top DOE priority,” said Mark French, RL division director for Hanford’s Central Plateau Cleanup Project. “It also ensures the ERDF continues to support other cleanup progress across the 580-square-mile Hanford Site as it has done for more than 25 years.”

CVE supports operations at the IDF, which will receive containers of treated low-activity waste from underground storage tanks that has been vitrified, or immobilized in glass, at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant and mixed low-level waste from other site operations.

The IDF is expected to be operational this fall and is made up of two disposal cells and a lined basin system protecting the environment from the contents in the cells and rain or snow runoff. The disposal facility can also be expanded as needed.

CVE will also perform day-to-day operations at the 107-acre ERDF, the largest environmental landfill in the EM complex. CVE will also support waste-acceptance and compliance functions to ensure regulatory requirements are met during waste generation, packaging, transport and disposal activities.

In operation since 1996, the ERDF contains nearly 20 million tons of contaminated soil, debris and solid waste from cleanup activities in the site’s Central Plateau and Columbia River corridor and is composed of eight disposal cells, two supercells — the size of two disposal cells each — and a lined basin system, similar to the IDF. On average, the landfill receives 10,000 to 15,000 tons of waste each month.

“We look forward to working with CVE’s experienced team to begin disposal of vitrified-waste containers at the IDF and continue the safe, efficient and compliant management of the ERDF,” said Andy Drom, director of CPCCo’s Waste Projects & Operations group. “This subcontract award supports ongoing operations and reinforces CPCCo’s commitment to supporting small business.”

-Contributor: Dieter Bohrmann​
-Source: EM Newsletter

Oak Ridge Prevents Infrastructure Failures Due to Extreme Cold

February 22, 2023

UCOR employees Andy Rodgers, left, and Alex Johnson install heat tracing to protect systems at the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility during the cold snap in Oak Ridge. Temperatures did not reach above freezing for more than four consecutive days.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Much of the nation experienced an extreme cold snap over the recent holidays, and Tennessee was no exception with temperatures dipping to nearly zero degrees in Oak Ridge. Despite the bitter weather, preparations and recent upgrades helped prevent infrastructure failures during that time.

Many employees with EM cleanup contractor UCOR reported to work over the holidays to ensure issues were resolved at several essential facilities.

At the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF), advanced planning and preparation protected critical water management systems during the deep freeze over the nearly weeklong cold snap, including a 6.5-hour unplanned power outage.

“Prior to the storm we minimized our landfill wastewater inventory, winterized pumping systems, drained all hoses and verified our heat tracing,” said UCOR Waste Disposition Manager Clint Mori. “With over 106 consecutive hours below freezing, EMWMF had no exceedances and did not experience any damage or operational impacts.”

Crucial infrastructure at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) must maintain operations continually to support research and cleanup missions. The Liquid and Gaseous Waste Operations (LGWO) system is comprised of 60 facilities and 27 miles of piping that process waste generated from cleanup operations, research and development labs, radiochemical pilot plants and nuclear reactors.

“These facilities are essential to maintaining ORNL operations, so our team had a relentless focus on planning for how to keep those process ventilation and process waste systems online,” said UCOR Nuclear Operations Manager Woody Strom. “When high winds knocked down power poles and we also lost power, we focused on instrument line issues and keeping water and gases moving through the system so they would not freeze.”

EM and UCOR are in the midst of an $18 million project to replace more than a mile of above-ground piping and valves, making the system more efficient and reliable and helping avoid the possibility of disrupting ongoing ORNL operations. That new piping is also better suited to reduce impacts from situations like the recent cold weather grip.

EM’s continued investment in upgrades at both LGWO and EMWMF helped minimize the impact from the recent extreme weather event. That, paired with employees incorporating lessons learned from previous severe weather, helped ensure EM’s infrastructure didn’t take the holidays off.

-Contributor: Chris Caldwell​
-Source: EM News

Waste Treatment Plant Prepares to Receive Sodium Hydroxide

February 22, 2023

waste treatment plant.jpeg
Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant Commissioning Technicians Jonathan Gutierrez, left, and Miranda Korenkiewicz perform a test run for receiving a chemical at the plant’s Effluent Management Facility on the Hanford Site.​

RICHLAND, Wash. – Crews recently performed a second run using water to test for receiving sodium hydroxide at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) Effluent Management Facility (EMF) on the Hanford Site.

The sodium hydroxide will be the first chemical fed to the plant’s melter to simulate tank waste feed and will treat byproducts generated during direct-feed low-activity waste (DFLAW) operations. The chemical will also be used in the EMF treatment process and the Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility emissions treatment system.

“These test runs use water to help our team and the vendor simulate the receipt process and identify and resolve any questions in the equipment or procedures,” said Rick Holmes, general manager for Waste Treatment Completion Company, a subcontractor to Bechtel National Inc., which is designing, building and commissioning the WTP for EM’s Office of River Protection. “This in turn will allow the team to troubleshoot and perfect the process before bringing the actual material onsite.”

During DFLAW operations, treated waste from Hanford’s underground tanks will be fed directly to melters inside the LAW Facility. The waste will be mixed with glass-forming materials and heated in the melters, then poured into specially designed stainless steel containers for disposal at the Integrated Disposal Facility on the site. Secondary liquid, called effluent, will be generated and sent to the EMF, where excess water will be evaporated and the remaining waste returned to the LAW Facility for treatment.

-Contributor: Tyler Oates
-Source: EM Newsletter

Leak in Idaho Site Treatment Facility Cell Results in Startup Delay

February 22, 2023

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Ten days after beginning a heat-up process to prepare for radiological operations at the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU), operators noticed a small leak of non-radioactive, non-hazardous solids in a cell, resulting in the facility’s shutdown late last month.

No radioactive waste has been introduced into the facility at the DOE Idaho National Laboratory Site.

idaho falls leak.jpeg
 The non-radioactive, non-hazardous sand-like material shown in the lower left corner leaked into a cell of the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit. The source of the leak has been identified and crews will make repairs and return the plant to operational condition.

The cell is where treated waste is staged until deposited into stainless steel canisters and sealed prior to being transferred into concrete vaults for storage.

The IWTU is currently shut down. Engineering and operations personnel have located the source of the leak in the cell. Evaluation of the cause of the leak is underway and will be followed by repairs. Once repairs are completed, the IWTU will prepare for the start of radiological operations.

The IWTU was constructed from 2007 to 2011 to treat 900,000 gallons of sodium-bearing liquid waste from three underground, stainless-steel storage tanks at the nearby Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center. The waste was generated during decontamination activities following historic spent nuclear fuel reprocessing runs.

Source: EM Newsletter

EM Waste Generator Sites Ramp Up Shipments to WIPP

January 26, 2023

Despite weather delays, EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has seen a double-digit jump in transuranic waste shipments to the facility as crews increase waste handling efficiencies and waste emplacement capacity.​

CARLSBAD, N.M. – A recent double-digit increase of transuranic waste shipments for permanent disposal at EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) led to a successful seven-week stretch that has officials at the facility feeling confident.

Between Nov. 20 and Jan. 1, the nation's only repository for the disposal of transuranic waste received 70 shipments from DOE waste generator sites.

“The return to normal emplacement activities has allowed us to increase waste handling efficiencies,” said Sean Dunagan, president of Nuclear Waste Partnership, the WIPP maintenance-and-operations contractor. “Crews recently achieved over a 50 percent increase in our underground waste emplacement capacity. This has led to an increased WIPP capacity in accepting shipments and will lead to cleaning up generator sites quicker.”

In November, crews emplaced the first container of defense-related waste in WIPP’s new Panel 8, cut from an ancient salt bed 2,150 feet beneath the surface. Panel 8 consists of seven emplacement rooms, each measuring 33 feet wide, 16 feet high and 300 feet long, the length of a football field minus the end zones.

In the first three weeks of Panel 8 use, shipment numbers were kept in the single digits as crews refined new procedures in the underground.

During the week of Dec. 4, 19 shipments arrived at WIPP’s front gate, including four delayed by weather. Weather delays also resulted in five shipments to the facility the following week before shipments rebounded to double digits of 18 and 11. During the week of Jan. 1, WIPP received nine shipments.

WIPP has received 70 shipments since Panel 8 emplacements began, including 55 from the DOE Idaho National Laboratory Site, 14 from the EM Los Alamos Field Office and one from Savannah River Site.

WIPP shipment totals have increased since the coronavirus pandemic, when shipments dipped to an average of five per week.

“It is our goal to continue steady, safe and compliant operations so we can return consistently to those levels in the very near future,” Dunagan said.

-Contributor: Roy Neese
-Source: EM News https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDOEOEM/bulletins/3422c33

Paducah Breaks Ground on New Site Emergency Operations Center

January 26, 2023

Construction crews fly in structural steel for the Paducah Site's Emergency Operations Center.​

PADUCAH, Ky. – As EM’s Paducah Site completed its first emergency exercise since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, construction crews broke ground on the new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to improve coordination and response to emergencies across the site.

The 3,500-square-foot facility will replace the existing EOC, which was established in the site’s C-300 Control Building around 1990. The C-300 Control Building was built during the 1950s. The new modern facility will be used to monitor environmental conditions and house emergency management personnel.

“Safety is a priority at DOE’s cleanup sites. As we continue deactivation and demolition of older plant and support structures, a modern emergency response facility designed for today’s needs is critical to supporting our emergency response team,” Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office Program Manager Joel Bradburne said.

The EOC supports the entire 3,556-acre site, including the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and the Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Plant. Deactivation and remediation contractor Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership (FRNP) is responsible for operating the EOC and providing emergency response, including fire, security, medical and other important functions to support emergency response for the site.

“While our employees take proactive steps to avoid site emergencies, our emergency management team must collaborate with all onsite organizations to plan effective responses to potential hazards,” said FRNP Program Manager Myrna Redfield. “This requires our team to excel in contingency planning and participate in immersive training scenarios that allow our response organizations to be prepared in the event of a real emergency.”

The new EOC will include upgrades to technologies and software that enhance communication capabilities and help improve response time to emergent events. These tools are crucial in protecting site personnel, the community and the environment.

The new EOC is scheduled for completion in April 2023.

-Contributors: Dylan Nichols, Jessica Vasseur
-Source: EM News https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDOEOEM/bulletins/340db96#link_4

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