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D&D Industry News

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

DOE Awards Contract for the Operation of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Facilities

September 29, 2016

​Cincinnati -- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the award of a contract to Mid-America Conversion Services, LLC for the Operation of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Facilities at Paducah, Kentucky and Portsmouth, Ohio. The contract includes cost-plus award fee and firm-fixed-price contract line items. The total value of the contract is $318,811,847, with a five-year period of performance. Five proposals were received in response to the solicitation.

The work to be performed under the contract is for operation of the DUF6 conversion facilities and management of the cylinder yards located at the DOE Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (GDP) Site in Ohio, and at the DOE Paducah GDP Site in Kentucky, with some management functions performed at an office located in Lexington, Kentucky.

The services to be provided under the contract include, but are not limited to, providing Surveillance and Maintenance (S&M) for the DUF6 conversion facilities and associated equipment, operating the conversion facilities to convert the DUF6 from the inventory at Paducah and Portsmouth to uranium oxide at design throughput of the conversion facilities, reusing and/or transporting and disposing of the DUF6 conversion process end-products and wastes, selling the aqueous hydrofluoric acid (AqHF) product and providing S&M services for the cylinder storage yards.

The mission of the DOE Environmental Management program is the safe cleanup of the environmental legacy resulting from five decades of nuclear weapons development and Government-sponsored nuclear energy research.​

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A Radioactive Cold War Military Base Will Soon Emerge From Greenland’s Melting Ice

September 01, 2016

​As climate change warms the Earth, melting ice is uncovering troves of cultural treasures and dangers once thought to be lost forever—from mummified bodies and ancient coins to anthrax-infected reindeer carcasses. Now, scientists have identified what might just be the most surreal thing to emerge from the ice: the remnants of a covert U.S. Army base teeming with radioactive waste, abandoned decades ago in northwestern Greenland.

Climate change could uncover the toxic and radioactive waste left behind at Camp Century as early as 2090, reports a new study published yesterday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The 115 feet of snow and ice now covering the Cold War-era base is already melting faster than it can be replaced, a prospect the military likely hadn’t dreamed of at the time. The study’s authors warn that the soon-to-be-uncovered waste could become a political minefield and foreshadow future international conflicts as climate change reshapes Earth.

When the ice melts, an estimated 9,200 tons of physical materials and 53,000 gallons of diesel fuel could be exposed and carried toward the ocean by meltwater. Other waste at the site includes small amounts of radioactive coolant water from Camp Century’s nuclear power plant, and carcinogenic toxins used in paints and fluids called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are already found in high levels in the Arctic, after being released into oceans in urban waste and carried there by wind and ocean currents.

Camp Century was founded nearly 60 years ago as a model of new kind of Arctic base. Just 800 miles from the North Pole, the base was built in large trenches buried underneath ice and snow to protect the base and its personnel from temperatures that could reach -70 degrees F and wind gusts up to 125 miles per hour. Camp Century included its own nuclear power plant, scientific labs, a library and even a chapel and barbershop, according to an overview of the base written by historian Frank Leskovitz.

This “city under the ice” was no secret; Walter Cronkite visited it in 1961. But its true purpose—to house nuclear weapons—was. In reality, Camp Century was designed as a cover operation to house workers and equipment for what the military had designated  “Project Iceworm.” Even Danish authorities had no idea what was really going on in their territory.

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An ABC-7 First Alert is remains in effect across the Borderland. More N.M. nuclear waste repository will likely reopen

September 01, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. -The U.S. Department of Energy says it is 80 percent confident that the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository will partly reopen in December.


The Santa Fe New Mexican reports  that prediction comes after federal officials once promised the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, located east of Carlsbad, would be cleaned up and reopened by this March.

The New Mexico plant has been closed since February 2014, when an inappropriately packed container of waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory ruptured and contaminated part of the facility.

The closure derailed cleanup at federal sites around the nation and recovery is costing the Energy Department hundreds of millions of dollars.

A Government Accountability Office audit released this week said the agency knew it had only a 1 percent chance of meeting that March 2016 deadline.

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Panel Considers Fukushima Daiichi Ice Wall Ineffective

September 01, 2016

​Media reports are indicating that a panel of experts has deemed the ice wall underneath buildings 1-4 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear generating station to be a failure, owing to a critical 1 percent of the wall in which temperatures remains above freezing.

Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reports that the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) issued a report on Aug. 18 concerning the wall of frozen soil meant to stop groundwater from entering the radioactive area under the plant. The panel's response was to conclude that the wall "had shown little or no success” and that TEPCO was now forced to look for another solution to the groundwater flowing through the crippled facilty. “TEPCO, however, believes that the unfrozen sections can be fixed if coated with concrete,” said a report published by RT.

Construction of the $344 million frozen wall began in 2014 with Kajima Corporation as the major contractor. The wall is about a mile in length and approval was given to activate the underground pipes (that together freeze the soil into a wall) in late March of 2016. It was hoped that the wall would seal off groundwater that was entering the area under the plant that suffered massive damage after the tsunami event that knocked out back up power in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011.

The quantity of water entering the plant, about 50 tons per day, has been little changed owing to the point that the 1 percent of the frozen wall that is not effective coincides with the areas of heaviest water flow, the reports said. Apparently, the parts of the wall that are effective are of little consequence owing to the parts of the wall that remain in breach.

“The plan to block groundwater with a frozen wall of earth is failing. They need to come up with another solution, even if they keep going forward with the plant,” Asahi Shimbun quoted panel member Yoshinori Kitsutaka as saying. Kitsutaka was identified as a professor of engineering at Tokyo Metropolitan University.

The problem is that water flow has not been fully contained, said TEPCO General Manager Yuichi Okamura. “It's like a vicious cycle,” he said. “Like a cat and mouse game … we have come up against many unexpected problems,” he said.

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Last link to Oak Ridge's A-bomb past is demolished

September 01, 2016

​OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — The orange-colored bucket on the huge earth-moving excavator seemed to hesitate Tuesday morning as it got closer to what remained of the four-story K-27 building here.

Then the excavator's operator clamped the bucket's jaws around an exposed steel beam near the top of the structure and tugged, almost gently.

First, almost imperceptibly and then faster as gravity took over, the entire wall leaned forward and fell, with a crash, sending up a low cloud of dust to the sound of applause from the crowd of dignitaries, demolition workers, and other Oak Ridge staffers watching nearby.

With the wall's collapse, the most visible physical reminder of a fabled part of America's military and civilian nuclear program was gone.

The heavily contaminated metal from the equipment inside the plant was removed over the previous two years and shipped to a waste storage facility in Nevada, according to Bob Leonard, project manager for UCOR, the contractor overseeing the cleanup.

"We completed Vision 2016 ahead of schedule and under budget," said UCOR President Ken Rueter, referring to the Energy Department's goal of removing all five of the gas diffusion buildings, in what is now the East Tennessee Industrial Park, by the end of 2016.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., also praised the demolition.

"More than 720 acres of land and 332,000 square feet of building space has been made available for new economic development," he said.


Building the bomb

K-27 was one of five buildings where a toxic gas called uranium hexafluoride was slowly filtered to help produce bomb-grade U-235 for the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. Nearby, K-25 produced material for the bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" that destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. That blast, along with another in Nagasaki three days later, using a different bomb design, is credited with ending World War II in the Pacific.

The story of how that material was produced seems astonishing now — dozens of scientific and engineering breakthroughs were achieved in only four years and then a frantic construction project erected a secret city sheltering the most advanced industrial plants in the world that produced sufficient bomb-grade material in just a few months.

Even more remarkable, the entire process of building the atomic bomb, known as the Manhattan Project, was guided by an elite group of theoretical physicists allied with a handful of visionary military leaders — in particular, Gen. Leslie Groves — in tandem with some of the nation's most advanced industrial companies in a unique partnership never seen before or since.

U.S. scientists believed they were in a race against Adolf Hitler's own corps of nuclear researchers and they were not even certain they could build an atomic bomb until the late 1930s.

The basic idea seemed simple enough — if sufficient uranium of a certain isotope, U-235, was packed together closely enough, it gave off immense heat. If it could be purified even further and suddenly packed even tighter, it would start a devastating chain reaction — an atomic bomb.

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Public cost of Fukushima nuclear accident cleanup topped ¥4.2 trillion as of end of March

September 01, 2016

​The public cost of dealing with the aftermath of the March 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s stricken Fukushima No. 1 plant topped ¥4.2 trillion by the end of fiscal 2015, it was learned Sunday.

The cumulative total at the end of last March, including costs for radioactive decontamination, reactor decommissioning and compensation payments to affected people and organizations, translate into about ¥33,000 per capita.

The public financial burden is expected to increase, with Tepco seeking further government assistance.

Jiji Press scrutinized the government’s special-account budgets through fiscal 2015 for the reconstruction of areas affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It summed up the amounts of executed budgets related to the nuclear disaster and additional electricity rates consumers and businesses were charged by Tepco and seven other regional power utilities to help finance compensation payments, among other costs.

According to the study, a total of ¥2.34 trillion was disbursed for decontamination of affected areas, disposal of contaminated waste and an interim storage facility for tainted soil. The expense was shouldered by the government, mainly through affiliated Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp.

The costs for decontamination and tainted waste disposal will eventually be financed by the proceeds from the sale of Tepco shares held by the government-backed organization. The government guaranteed the loans provided by banks for the acquisition of Tepco shares, and if the lending becomes irrecoverable due to weakness of the Tepco stock price, tax revenue will be used to repay the loans.

The government estimates the proceeds from Tepco share sale at ¥2.5 trillion, but to generate the estimated gain, the Tepco stock price needs to trade at around ¥1,050, up sharply from current market levels of some ¥360.

In addition, the Environment Ministry expects that the cumulative total of decontamination and related costs could surpass the estimated share proceeds by the March 2017 end of the current fiscal year.

A total of ¥1.1 trillion will be used from the energy special account to finance the costs related to the interim storage facility for contaminated soil. The account mostly consists of revenue of the tax for the promotion of power resources development, which is included in electricity bills.

Elsewhere, the government spent ¥1.38 trillion on projects including the decommissioning of reactors at the disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant, checks on food for radioactive contamination and building a research and development facility.

Tepco and six other power utilities charged their customers at least ¥327 billion in electricity rate hikes after Japan’s worst-ever nuclear accident. Moreover, consumers paid ¥219.3 billion or more for Tepco, chiefly to finance the maintenance of equipment to clean up radioactive water at the plant and the operation of call centers to deal with inquiries about compensation payments.

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Photos: At San Onofre, spent nuclear fuel is getting special tomb

September 01, 2016

​Waves crash on the rocks below San Onofre’s tsunami wall, but it’s the only sound.

The pipes that roared when they sucked in 1.8 billion gallons of ocean water a day – pipes as wide as a Cadillac Coupe de Ville is long – are silent. The catch pools that once teemed with fish are still and dark. A cage for errant sea lions rests in a far corner, empty.

“They’d chase the fish in here,” Jim Madigan said of the sea lions and the catch pools.

“We’d put them in the crates and take them to Laguna Beach to be checked out and returned to the ocean,” added Madigan, who has worked at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in one capacity or another for 35 years.

“There was more than one repeat visitor.”

Once, San Onofre was a marvel of modern engineering – splitting atoms to create heat, boiling water to spin turbines and creating electricity that fulfilled 18 percent of Southern California’s demand. Now, it’s a demolition project of mind-boggling proportions, overseen by a dozen government agencies.

It’s expected to cost $4.4 billion, take 20 years and leave millions of pounds of spent nuclear fuel on the scenic bluff beside the blue Pacific until 2049 or so, because the federal government has dithered for generations on finding a permanent repository.

In this vacuum, contractors from Holtec International – one of only a handful of companies licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do dry-cask radiation storage in the U.S. – are at work. Construction of the controversial “concrete monolith” to protect San Onofre’s stranded waste has begun, over the protests of critics who decry a “beachfront nuclear waste dump.”



The reinforced concrete pad that will support the monolith is finished.

Last week, Holtec workers used cranes and trucks to maneuver the first of 75 giant tubes into place atop it. When those tubes are bolted in, concrete will be poured up to their necks, and they’ll be topped off with a 24,000-pound steel-and-concrete lid. Earth will be piled around it so that it looks something like an underground bunker.

Southern California Edison, which operates the plant, would not share the Holtec contract or reveal its price tag, but San Onofre’s owners have recovered more than $300 million from the federal government for its failure to dispose of nuclear waste, which is why dry-cask storage must be built in the first place. San Onofre’s decommissioning plan sets aside $1.27 billion for future spent fuel management.

This is one of the first newly licensed Hi-Storm Umax dry-cask storage systems Holtec is building in the United States. Once it’s complete – expected to be late next year – workers will begin the deliberate and delicate dance of removing all spent fuel from cooling pools beside each reactor.

The iconic twin domes you see from the highway and the beach don’t reveal their enormity. They stand as tall as a 13-story building, and the adjacent pools holding their spent fuel are 25 feet wide, 60 feet long, about 40 to 50 feet deep and hold a half-million gallons of water.

When Southern California Edison begins removing the 2,668 fuel assemblies chilling there, bays to those enormous pools will open. Holtec storage canisters will be lowered in. Underwater, 37 spent fuel assemblies will be loaded into each canister and capped. The canister will be slipped into a “transfer cask,” lifted from the pool and drained.

Then it will be loaded onto a truck, driven a few hundred yards to the Umax and lowered into one of those 75 tubes. The waste-filled canister will remain inside. The transfer cask will be removed. The tube will be capped.

This will be repeated more than 70 times, until all the fuel in the more vulnerable pools is entombed in more stable dry-cask storage. That’s slated to be done by mid-2019.

Read the full article at:


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.”

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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.

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