Tag Archives: spent nuclear fuel

Diving into a Nuclear Pool

nuclear pool

United Kingdom: Specialist divers have completed their mission to deal with radioactive waste from Sizewell A Site’s nuclear fuel storage ponds, nearly two months ahead. The divers, who are shielded from radiation by the water in the ponds, successfully cut up and ‘size reduced’ all of the 35 waste storage containers left in Sizewell A’s ponds. They also cut up around 100 tonnes of other redundant equipment before removing all the radioactive sludge from the pond floor.

Conventionally, pond clean-out is done using remotely operated equipment to lift the whole radioactive skips  (waste containers) and other pond furniture clear of the water, exposing them to the air, where they are carefully cut and decontaminated. This process is slow with potential radiation dose risks for workers,” Magnox Sites said.  “Using this innovative underwater decommissioning technique, radiation levels for workers were around 20 times less than with conventional techniques of decommissioning the waste items in air,” it added. The diving technique also has a lower environmental impact, is quicker and more efficient and therefore cheaper.  The next phase of work is to take the waste out of the ponds where it will be treated and safely packaged. The ponds are set to be completely emptied and drained by the end of 2019.

The team of 12 nuclear divers was supplied by Underwater Construction UK Ltd. They tackled their first UK ‘nuclear dive’ at the Dungeness A Site in 2016 and arrived on site at Sizewell A in October 2017.

Sizewell A’s two 210 MWe Magnox gas-cooled reactors operated from 1966 until 2006. Defuelling began in 2009, with fuel removed from the reactors placed in the site’s used fuel storage ponds before being packaged in transport containers for shipment to the Sellafield complex for reprocessing. The final flask of fuel was shipped to Sellafield in August 2014. Sizewell A was declared completely fuel free in February 2015.

Excerpts from Divers Complete Radwast work at Sizewell A, World Nuclear News, Aug. 3,  2018

Rising Transformation: low to high level nuclear waste disposal facilities

U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson of Delaware on June 21,2017 sided with the federal government in blocking a $367 million merger between EnergySolutions and the radioactive site’s parent company. Waste Control Specialists calls the deal essential for its long-term viability.The details of Robinson’s opinion were sealed.

The U.S. Department of Justice sued in November 2017 to block the merger of rival companies, arguing it would essentially create a monopoly on radioactive waste disposal.  “Substantial evidence showed that head-to-head competition between EnergySolutions and Waste Control Specialists led to better disposal services at lower prices,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Andrew Finch of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division said in a statement. “Today’s decision protects competition in an industry that is incredibly difficult to enter.”…

Waste Control Specialists, which currently stores low-level radioactive waste in Andrews County*** has a pending application with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to store tens of thousands of metric tons of spent nuclear fuel currently filling up reactor sites across the country. The company has pitched the massive expansion as a solution to a problem that has bedeviled policymakers for decades….

“The WCS site is not a safe place to store deadly high-level radioactive waste,” Karen Hadden, executive director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition, said in a statement. “Texans and those along transport routes shouldn’t have to suffer the health, safety, security, financial and environmental risks that transport and storage of the nation’s most dangerous radioactive waste would bring.”

Critics allege that millions in donations by Harold Simmons, owner of Waste Control Specialists, to Texas Governor Rick Perry and other politicians influenced political support for the controversial project…..Critics also cite WCS’ safety record. One 22-ton shipment of low-level radioactive material from a diffusion plant in Illinois failed to arrive at the WCS Andrews facility in late July 2001. Lost for almost a month, the material turned up dumped on a cattle ranch north of Dallas.

Excerpts from  JIM MALEWITZ ,Amid Texas nuclear waste site’s financial woes, judge blocks merger,  The Texas Tribune, June 21, 2017 + Wikipedia

***The plant is located 5 miles east of Eunice, New Mexico, and 35 miles west of Andrews. The surrounding area on both sides of the state border, “nuclear alley”, also includes:

the National Enrichment Facility (owned and operated by the Urenco Group) in Eunice
the deep geological repository Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP; managed by the United States Department of Energy), and
the proposed first commercial uranium de-conversion facility in the United States, a project of International Isotopes, Inc.

The Nuclear Waste Administration Bill of 2013: United States

department of energy nuclear sites map

Today four senior U.S. senators introduced a bipartisan, comprehensive plan for safeguarding and permanently disposing of tens of thousands of tons of dangerous radioactive nuclear waste currently accumulating at sites dispersed across the country.  Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. – the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development – and Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, collaborated on the proposal, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013 (S. 1240).  “Stalemate can’t solve our nation’s nuclear waste issues. This bill takes immediate steps to more safely store the most dangerous radioactive waste, and lays out a clear plan for a permanent solution,” Wyden said… “This bipartisan bill—years in the making—will finally begin to address the dangerous, expensive absence of a comprehensive nuclear waste policy,” Feinstein said. “In addition to creating an independent Nuclear Waste Administration to manage nuclear waste, the bill authorizes the construction of interim storage facilities and permanent waste repositories, sited through a consent-based process and funded by fees currently collected from nuclear power ratepayers. The inability of the federal government to collect waste stored across the country at functioning power plants, decommissioned reactors and federal facilities is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It’s time to finally put a policy in place to address this problem.”…Currently there is no central repository for spent nuclear fuel, leaving fuel rods to be stored on-site at dozens of commercial nuclear facilities around the country, including areas that are at risk of earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters. Millions of gallons of high-level radioactive waste from the nation’s nuclear weapons programs are also being stored at Department of Energy sites around the country. The 2011 Fukushima disaster, combined with recent announcements of new radioactive waste leaks at the Hanford Site in Washington State add to the urgency of securing spent fuel and finding permanent repository for the nation’s nuclear waste.

The bill updates an April draft, after the Energy committee received more than 2,500 public comments on the measure. It includes establishment of a new nuclear waste administration and creates a consent-based process for siting nuclear waste facilities. It also enables the federal government to address its commitment to managing commercial nuclear waste, limiting the costly liability the government bears for its failure to dispose of commercial spent fuel. The integrated storage and repository system established by this legislation will expand opportunities for nuclear power to supply low-carbon energy, and will provide long-term protection of public health and safety for both commercial and defense high-level waste.  The Energy and Natural Resources Committee is planning a hearing on the bill in Jul, 2013.. The date and witnesses will be announced when they are confirmed.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan, Comprehensive Nuclear Waste Legislation, http://www.energy.senate.gov,  June 27, 2013

The Bill

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