Tag Archives: nuclear waste transfers

From Germany to South Carolina: Nuclear Waste

castor cask

The U.S. Department of Energy said on June 4, 2014 it will study the environmental risk of importing spent nuclear fuel from Germany that contains highly enriched uranium, a move believed to be the first for the United States.  The department said it is considering a plan to ship the nuclear waste from Germany to the Savannah River Site, a federal facility in South Carolina.  The 310-acre site already holds millions of gallons of high-level nuclear waste in tanks. The waste came from reactors in South Carolina that produced plutonium for nuclear weapons from 1953 to 1989.

The Energy Department said it wants to remove 900 kilograms (1,984 pounds) of uranium the United States sold to Germany years ago and render it safe under U.S. nuclear non-proliferation treaties.  A technique for the three-year process of extracting the uranium, which is contained in graphite balls, is being developed at the site in South Carolina, according to the Energy Department.

[The radioactive waste to be imported to the United States from Germany consists of 152 30-tonne CASTOR casks containing 290,000 graphite balls from the  AVR gas-cooled prototype reactor, stored at the Juelich research center [Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ)], and 305 CASTOR casks containing 605,000 graphite balls from the THTR-300 reactor, stored at the Ahaus waste site. While the waste contains some US-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU), the amount is unclear as the material was irradiated and has been in storage for over 20 years since the reactors closed.]

Some critics question whether the department has fully developed a clear plan to dispose of the radioactive waste.”They’re proposing to extract the uranium and reuse it as fuel by a process that has never been done before,” said Tom Clements, president of SRS Watch, a nuclear watchdog group in South Carolina….

Sources told Reuters in May that German utilities were in talks with the government about setting up a “bad bank” for nuclear plants, in response to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to close them all by 2022 after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Excerpt from  Harriet McLeod, German nuclear waste may be headed to South Carolina site, Reuters, June 4, 2014

Texas Accepts Vermont Nuclear Waste

Vermont_Yankee_Nuclear_Power_Plant. Image from wikipedia

The chairman of the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission says the organization is going to honor a 20-year-old agreement that guarantees space for radioactive waste from Vermont in its Texas disposal facility, a deal that Gov. Peter Shumlin said is critical now that Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is shutting down.  During a Wednesday meeting (October 3, 2012) at the Vermont Statehouse, Commission Chairman Robert Wilson said the commission recognizes Vermont is a partner in the compact.  “This compact is going to be more important than ever,” Gov. Peter Shumlin told the commission. “My concern is we remember Vermont and Texas were there first.”

In 1993 Vermont and Texas formed the compact. Under the agreement, Texas would host a low-level radioactive waste facility and Vermont would have a place to send some of the waste from its nuclear power plant. Most of the materials after the plant is decommissioned would go to the Texas facility, except for the fuel rods and higher radioactive materials, said Public Service Department Commissioner Chris Recchia.  Vermont officials are looking for assurance there will be space in Texas for the low-level radioactive waste from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which is due to be shut down next year.

Texas commission will honor radioactive waste deal with Vt. ahead of nuke plant shutdown, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 3, 2013

Nuclear Wastes from Japan make their Way to China

Chinese customs officials have intercepted 1,127 tonnes of imported waste metals from Japan with excessive gamma rays in the coastal city of Ningbo in east China, local authorities said Tuesday (June 5, 2012).  The radiation levels of the waste metals, imported by a recycled metal company in Ningbo, was twice the national standard and hazardous to the human body and the environment, according to Ningbo customs.  The metals contained caesium-137, a radioactive isotope of caesium. Small amounts of caesium-137 were released into the environment during nuclear weapon tests and nuclear accidents, most notably the Chernobyl disaster.  Ningbo customs has ordered the cargo to be returned and has handed the case over to the anti-smuggling department for further investigations.  Ningbo customs has intercepted a total of 8,544 tonnes of waste imported metals with excessive radiation from Japan since the Japanese nuclear disaster of March 2011, said Wang Lingbao, a logistics control department official with the customs.

Chinese customs intercept radioactive waste metals from Japan,Xinhua, June 5, 2012