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Reprocessing

Reprocessing - the chemical separation of uranium and plutonium from irradiated reactor fuel - is arguably the most dangerous and dirty phase of the nuclear fuel chain. Reprocessing generates huge waste streams with no management solution and isolates plutonium, the fissile component of a nuclear weapon. Countries such as England and France, where reprocessing has been carried out for decades, face a legacy of contamination and an enormous plutonium surplus vulnerable to theft or attack.

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Friday
Feb032017

Federal judge greenlights unprecedented, high-risk, highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments from Ontario to South Carolina, for reprocessing

Political cartoon by Adam Zyglis, the Buffalo News[Please note: this scheme is at its core a pro-reprocessing effort by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). DOE's last reprocessing capability is at the H-Canyon at the nuclear weapons complex at Savannah River Site, in South Carolina. SRS will be paid $60 million, by Canadian authorities, for this "service."]

Media coverage:

WIBV TV, Buffalo, NY;

Le Téléjournal Ontario (in French);

Citizen-Times of Asheville, NC;

Aiken Standard;

Sierra Club's Green Life;

Augusta Chronicle;

Buffalo News;

WLOS, ABC News Channel 13 in Western North Carolina;

Press release by environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, re: judge's adverse ruling, allowing unprecedented, high-risk, highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments from Chalk River Nuclear Lab, Ontario, Canada to Savannah River Site, South Carolina, U.S.A. (See the judge's 18-page Memorandum Opinion, and 1-page Order of Dismissal, both dated Feb. 2, 2017.) Terry Lodge of Toledo, Ohio and Diane Curran of Washington, D.C. serve as the environmental coalition's legal counsel.

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY): Higgins Announces Approval of Bill Authorizing Risk Assessment of Proposed Nuclear Waste Transport across the Peace Bridge (Feb. 1, 2017).

Monday
Jan092017

Washington Congressional Delegation Urges President-Elect Trump to Prioritize Hanford Cleanup, Worker Health, Tri-Cities’ Safety

“This work is essential to protecting the health and safety of the Tri-Cities community, the Columbia River, Washington state and our nation.”

As posted on the website of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Democratic News section. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is the Ranking Member (Minority/Democrat) on the Committee.

The mess that is Hanford -- the worst radioactively contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere -- is due to military reprocessing, to extract plutonium for use in the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

Wednesday
Dec142016

SRS Watch: Internal DOE Documents Reveal Details of Highly Unusual Canadian Spent Fuel Dropping Incident at Savannah River Site

[Please note that the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Savannah River Site (SRS) and Canada's Chalk River Nuclear Labs are also proposing truck shipment of highly radioactive liquid waste from a medical isotope production reactor in the province of Ontario, to South Carolina, U.S.A. In fact, the highly radioactive liquid waste is bound for reprocessing at the H-Canyon at SRS, just as was the solid irradiated nuclear fuel bundle dropped at SRS's L-area spent fuel facility -- until it was dropped, that is. This begs the question: is DOE ready to safely ship, and SRS ready to safely handle, highly radioactive liquid waste? The likely motivation for the highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments in the first place is to keep H-Canyon reprocessing capability on life support, thanks to the $60 million SRS would be paid, compliments of the Canadian government (unwitting Canadian taxpayers, that is!)]

Savannah River Site (SRS) Watch released the following press release:

Savannah River Site Watch

For Immediate Release

December 14, 2016 

Internal DOE Documents Reveal Details of Highly Unusual Canadian Spent Fuel Dropping Incident at Savannah River Site; Squabbling Amongst SRS Officials over Follow-Up Meetings

SRS Official States Delay in Shipment of Liquid High-Level Waste from Canada has DOE Headquarters “In a Lather”

FOIA Documents & Photos Received by SRS Watch on December 13, 2016 are Linked Here

Columbia, South Carolina – Details about the unexpected dropping of a highly radioactive spent fuel bundle in the L-Reactor storage pool have come to light in documents released under a Freedom of Information Act request by Savannah River Site Watch (SRS Watch).   The incident, which occurred on July 12, 2016, involved a drop of Canadian NRX research reactor spent fuel as it was being moved in the storage pool in the old L-Reactor, where spent nuclear fuel from research and medical isotope reactors is stored. The incident resulted in a “timeout” in spent fuel handling operations. During evaluation of the incident, DOE expressed concern about the situation impacting the shipping schedule of more NRX spent fuel from the Chalk River Labs in Ontario.   An “L-Area Technical Review Board” was convened the review the incident, which appears to have been caused by lifting cables twisting and falling free from lifting slots in the fuel assembly, causing the fuel to release and fall back into a storage basket.  Though the event was unanticipated and could have damaged the fuel, DOE has reported no such damage and no release of radioactive materials. The height of the drop is unclear but appears to be between 8-10 inches and 2 feet.

“As damage to the spent fuel could have had negative impact to workers and operation of the L-Area spent fuel facility, it is imperative that DOE adjust its procedures to make sure such a potentially harmful incident never happens again,” said Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch.  “DOE must now fully inform that public as to what steps it’s taking to improve spent fuel handling procedures in the aftermath of the incident involving dropping of the Canadian spent fuel.”

An “Occurrence Report” dated July 13 called event the “Inadvertent NRX Fuel released from Fuel Tool.” That report summarizes the event:

On July 12, 2016, during the unloading and bundling of National Research Experimental (NRX)-5 fuel from the NRX basket in the unloading station, an NRX fuel assembly was being removed from basket position 4. After the fuel assembly was raised 24 inches for fuel identification per procedure, the assembly became disengaged from the NRX tool and fell back into its original basket position. Fuel handling was stopped and a timeout was called. Limiting Conditions for Operations 3.1.4 was entered to allow Spent Fuel Project (SFP) Engineering and Nuclear and Criticality Safety Engineering to determine status of compliance with the nuclear safety data sheet. SFP Engineering is inspecting the NRX tool in use to help determine the cause of the disengagement.

After the timeout – “Limiting Condition for Operation” (LCO) was called, the “Spent Fuel Project (SFP) Engineering” and “Nuclear and Criticality Safety Engineering” groups were called in to analyze the situation and determine the cause for the fuel to be dropped.  Their final report was not released in the FOIA documents sent to SRS Watch.

The FOIA documents reveal a testy email exchange between DOE officials ensued after the incident as there was argument over who was authorized to attend incident-review meetings and if the incident would impact NRX spent fuel shipments from Canada.  The internal squabble arose as the L-Basin is operated by DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) and the spent fuel “take-back” program in under the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), causing officials to clash over their respective jurisdictions.

Of note, in a July 15 email from the NNSA official, concern was expressed about attention being drawn to the issue of shipment from Canada of NRC and NRU reactor spent fuel and that of liquid high-level nuclear waste, which DOE calls “Target Residue Material” in order to downplay the fact that it is a deadly brew of highly radioactive isotopes:

“My HQ is always very interested in the NRU/NRX and TRM shipment schedule and perceived hiccups.  The TRM delays are what’s really got them in a lather, unfortunately that means the NRU/NRX program is getting a little additional attention.  Once the TRM gets going, I’m hopeful NRU/NRX will fall a bit off the radar (fingers crossed).”

###

Notes:

FOIA documents and photos on NRX spent fuel incident, received vial mail on December 13, 2016, are linked here:

http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/foia_nrx_spent_fuel_incident_dec_1_2016.pdf  

Contact: Tom Clements Director,

Savannah River Site Watch Columbia, South Carolina

tel. 803-834-3084

cell 803-240-7268

srswatch@gmail.com

http://www.srswatch.org/

https://www.facebook.com/SavannahRiverSiteWatch

Thursday
Aug252016

DOE's SRS returning H-Canyon reprocessing facilities to full operability

As reported by World Nuclear News, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Savannah River Site (SRS) is returning its H-Canyon reprocessing facilities to full operability.

This comes as DOE, along with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Department of Transportation, and other agencies, have signed off on up to 150 truckloads of highly radioactive liquid waste, traveling from Chalk River nuclear labs in Ontario, to SRS, beginning as early as September 2016.

For more information about the risks of this highly radioactive waste liquid transport and reprocessing scheme, see Beyond Nuclear's Waste Transportation website section.

Monday
Feb092015

Environmental coalition speaks out against unprecedented, risky, liquid high-level radioactive waste shipments!

Peace Bridge between Fort Niagara, ON and Buffalo, NY is one of numerous border crossings where unprecedented liquid HLRW shipments could travel.A coalition of environmental groups has submitted comments to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regarding proposed truck shipments of liquid high-level radioactive waste, to travel from Chalk River, Ontario to Savannah River Site, South Carolina.

The comments were filed regarding CNSC's Technical Assessment Report: “NAC-LWT Package Design for Transport of Highly Enriched Uranyl Nitrate Liquid.”

NAC-LWT is short for Nuclear Assurance Corporation-Legal Weight Truck.

Comments were submitted by Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsiblity; Beyond Nuclear; Northwatch; and many others.

The shipment of liquid high-level radioactive waste is unprecedented, extremely risky, and unnecessary in the first place.

SRS would be paid $60 million by Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. (AECL) to receive the liquid HLRW shipments from Chalk River. SRS hopes to keep its reprocessing capabilities on life support through such contracts. The liquid HLRW from Canada would be reprocessed at SRS.