NRC License Application Submitted for Spent Nuclear Fuel Interim Storage Facility (April 2016)

With no prospects in sight for developing a permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel, the U.S. is turning to “interim storage.” Development of a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) took a significant step forward this week with a license application submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on April 28 by Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS), with support from AREVA, for a CISF in Andrews County, Texas.

The proposed facility is designed to store used nuclear fuel and other waste generated at nuclear energy facilities. “Establishing an economically viable solution for used fuel management in the United States is vital to sustaining and advancing nuclear energy,” said Greg Vesey, senior vice president of AREVA TN Americas. “The CISF is an important part of meeting this goal. Working with our partners, WCS and subcontractor NAC International, we are proud to reach this regulatory milestone in the project’s development.”

AREVA signed an agreement with WCS in early 2015 to assist with the license application and environmental report for the facility. WCS submitted its license application on time, following a year of pre-application meetings with the NRC.

In its application, the company proposed an initial 40-year license for the facility, which is designed to store 40,000 metric tons of used nuclear fuel. WCS expects the CISF to be operational by 2021.

New Mexico has also expressed interest in providing a site for a CISF. Earlier this month, Holtec International submitted a letter of intent to the NRC regarding its bid to open a $5 billion CISF in Lea County with a life span of 100 years. Holtec International expects to submit a license application to the NRC by the end of November.

Gail Reitenbach, PhD, editor (@GailReit, @POWERmagazine), 04/28/2016, as posted at http://www.powermag.com/nrc-license-application-submitted-for-spent-nuclear-fuel-interim-storage-facility/

Nuclear reactor sites: Dismantle or fence off? (April 2016

Three decades after the Chernobyl disaster, Germany is preparing to go nuclear-free. Industry plans to dismantle and dispose of radioactive waste. But some green campaigners say it’s safer to leave reactor sites as-is.

Thirty years ago, the Chernobyl disaster released radioactivity that spread across much of the northern hemisphere into the atmosphere. It also spurred social movements around the world to demand an end to nuclear power.

In Germany, that end is finally in sight ,as the country prepares to go nuclear-free by 2022. But the task of safely decommissioning and dismantling nuclear power stations promises to be expensive and controversial, and will take many years.

Debate rages over how to dispose of highly radioactive spent fuel rods from commercial nuclear power stations. But there is less awareness around how the dissolving industry and its regulators must also decide what to do with disused reactor sites.

Masses of equipment and a variety of buildings at the sites were exposed to nuclear fission reaction products for years, and have become slightly or moderately radioactive as a result. Therein lies the crux of the disposal problem.

Big money, long time

The consultancy ADL has estimated it will take about two decades to fully dismantle Germany’s 17 nuclear reactor sites, and cost at least 18 billion euros – not including the cost of subsequent radioactive waste disposal.

Why will it take so long and cost so much? DW posed this question to E.ON, Germany’s largest electricity utility and owner of 11 nuclear power stations – most of them already shut down.

An E.ON spokesperson said dismantling of reactor sites must take place in stages. First, spent uranium fuel rods must be transported off-site, to interim storage elsewhere. This can’t happen until four or five years after a reactor is shut down, because the fuel rods’ radioactivity first needs to decrease sufficiently for their safe handling to become possible.

Dismantling equipment is then expected to take 10 to 15 years. Final demolition of remaining buildings and site remediation will take another two to three years after all radioactive materials have been removed from the former reactor site.

Radioactive waste materials can be treated by a variety of means – compression, desiccation, enclosure in cement, or burning to ash – to reduce total volume prior to packing, shipping, and final disposal in an approved secure long-term storage site, E.ON said.

Put it in a deep, dry hole

Schacht Konrad, a disused iron-ore mine shaft near the German town of Salzgitter, is under consideration as the national site for the final disposal of low- to medium-grade radioactive materials.

The mine was chosen because it is particularly dry inside – reducing the risk of radioactive materials dissolving and entering into the groundwater. It’s meant to take in around 90 percent (by volume) of all the radioactive rubble from decontaminated nuclear sites in Germany – but only the mildly radioactive stuff.

German law specifies a threshold of very low radioactivity below which materials are deemed safe. Materials that fall below the threshold can legally be disposed of through the regular waste disposal system. But some anti-nuclear campaigners insist there’s no safe threshold, however low.

In contrast to low-level, mildly radioactive waste from former reactor sites, highly radioactive waste – including spent fuel rods – will be left in cooling ponds on closed-down reactor sites for some decades. Ultimately, they’ll be disposed of in one or more special high-security repositories. The location of those repositories is highly contentious, and has not yet been settled.

Leave them where they’re standing?

While the government and nuclear industry are keen to get on with dismantling and removing reactors soon after they’re shut down, Jörg Schmid and Henrik Paulitz of the German division of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) think perhaps they shouldn’t be dismantled at all.

“Dismantling nuclear reactors is expensive and poses health dangers,” according to an IPPNW report in German published in January of this year.

In the report, Schmid and Paulitz say that serious consideration should be given to the option of securely fencing off old nuclear reactor sites and allowing low-level radioactivity from contaminated buildings and equipment to recede over decades.

The IPPNW’s preferred solution would see heavily contaminated elements such as spent fuel rods be removed immediately, while the less-contaminated buildings and equipment would be left in situ indefinitely.

Reactor room in Gundremmingen nuclear plant
Decommissioning nuclear plants is an industry unto itself

This would avoid dispersing the radioactive material more widely, and minimize risk to human populations, the study’s authors argue.

E.ON told DW that fencing off sites was neither more nor less safe than dismantling them – but argued that dismantling is a better solution in terms of the labor market consequences.

“IPPNW’s option would mean that 300 to 400 people who work at a nuclear site would abruptly lose their jobs,” the spokesperson said.

But Paulitz countered: “The nuclear industry must answer the question: is the proposed dismantling of the reactor sites a necessary measure, or is it just a new multi-billion-euro industry?”

Radioactive steel in children’s bedrooms?

About 99 percent of the total mass of material at a former nuclear site is radioactive at such a low level that it is deemed safe – so the material is no longer covered by nuclear safety regulations and can be released into the environment, according to IPPNW’s Schmid, who is a medical doctor.

But Schmid said that what matters is total radiation exposure over time. If very large amounts of very weakly radioactive material are dispersed through the environment, for example by being reintroduced into material supply chains, that represents a significant amount of broadcast radiation exposure over time.

Dismantling nuclear power plants, Paulitz said, leads to a problem: “The great majority of the site’s materials won’t be classified as nuclear waste, and will instead be disposed of in ordinary household waste streams, or even recycled into normal supply chains.”

“From a health and safety perspective, we see this as irresponsible.” Paulitz said, as weakly radioactive steel taken from a dismantled nuclear site could end up built into a radiator in a child’s bedroom, for example.

April 26, 2016 – DW – as posted at http://www.dw.com/en/nuclear-reactor-sites-dismantle-or-fence-off/a-19111969

Idaho must be protected from nuclear waste (April 2016)

“Houston, we have a problem.” Although engineers and workers at the Idaho National Laboratory in Southeast Idaho have always tried to handle nuclear material safely, it doesn’t always work. Since 2005, accidents and inadvertent releases have happened with alarming regularity. In 2012, Department of Energy investigators told the Snake River Alliance that they had significant concerns and that INL was not handling plutonium safely.

Although the DOE has failed to meet countless deadlines to clean up what is already here, new proposals to import spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants have swept safety concerns under the rug. DOE’s reputation for missed deadlines once led former Gov. Cecil Andrus to compare the agency to the Boise used car dealership “Fairly Reliable Bob’s.”

The most current missed deadline is that the DOE has failed to treat 900,000 gallons of intensely radioactive liquid waste stored at INL. Recent failures at the plant have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns and the system may never work.

In the meantime, this extremely dangerous waste is stored in buried tanks decades old. INL’s tanks have never leaked, as far as we know, but the pipes and valves connecting them have. The waste from those leaks may never be cleaned up and may always be in our soil and groundwater.

The McClatchy News Agency, parent company of the Idaho Statesman, recently reported that there have been nearly 400 nuclear-related deaths associated with the INL. Far more people have been sickened by their work there.

Twenty-five years ago, a Magic Valley fish farmer raised the alarm about plutonium shipments from Colorado to be buried on top of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. The public was outraged. Former Gov. Andrus stepped up and Gov. Phil Batt forged a nuclear waste agreement with the DOE banning future imports of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants until specific timetables for clean up were met.

Today, the Byron nuclear waste proposed to come to INL falls under this ban. It is being stored safely in Indiana and it is unfathomable why Idaho would sign a “waiver” to allow the feds to bring it here and put Idahoans at risk.

Our land and water will continue to be contaminated until our political leaders put the health and safety of Idahoans ahead of DOE’s broken promises. There is still plutonium buried above the Snake River Aquifer, perhaps till the end of time. Let’s not forget.

Idahoans shouldn’t become lab animals for nuclear malfunction. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is doing the right thing forcing the DOE to follow its own deadlines. Without a permanent national repository for nuclear waste, what comes to Idaho will stay here for decades, if not forever. Idahoans should stand together and tell the federal government to focus on INL’s existing nuclear experiment — cleaning up what is already here.

April 26, 2016 10:20 PM, By Wendy Wilson. Wendy Wilson is interim executive director of the Snake River Alliance, Idaho’s nuclear watchdog and advocate for clean energy, found at www.snakeriveralliance.org. Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article74125087.html#storylink=cpy

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories reports “incident” with spent fuel at Chalk River

(Chalk River, 2015 April 27) The following information bulletin is in accordance with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) ongoing commitment to voluntary public disclosure of events related to the Chalk River Laboratories (CRL).

During the evening shift of April 19, CNL’s Rod Crew was loading a fuel basket containing spent NRX fuel bundles into a CRL-site transportation cask. The basket, weighing approximately 1,300 pounds is manipulated remotely with a crane; all basket handing operations are conducted within the rod bay and shielded beneath the surface of the rod bay water.

During loading operations, the crane grapple released the load before the basket was fully inserted into the cask, whereupon the basket descended to the pool floor. The cause of the unexpected grapple release is currently under investigation.

At the time of the event, all work in the rod bays was stopped and equipment was placed into a safe state. CNL management was made aware of the event immediately and CNL proactively reported the event to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) on the morning of April 20.

CNL confirms that there is no threat to workers, the public, the environment or nuclear safety related to this event.

-30-

As posted by CNL at http://www.cnl.ca/en/home/news-and-publications/bulletins/2016/160427.aspx

Price tag put on Germany’s nuclear waste disposal (April 2016)

In October, Germany set up a high-level commission to decide how to finance the country’s nuclear phase-out. It has now recommended that power companies pay into a multi-billion euro fund managed by the government.

In October, Germany set up a high-level eleven-member commission, KFK, to review the financing of the nuclear phase-out. The government’s goal was to ensure comprehensive safety, decommissioning and waste disposal processes, and see to it that their costs would be borne by nuclear power companies, not by taxpayers.

“The tasks of interim storage of radioactive waste, manufacturing of waste containers, and construction and operation of final repositories, and transfer of waste from interim storage to final repositories should be transferred to the state,” the KFK said in a statement released Wednesday in Berlin.

The estimated costs are to be covered by power companies paying a total of 23.3 billion euro ($26.4 billion) into a state-owned fund, with partial payments to be made in tranches over the next few years. In exchange, the state will take on all the residual financial risks associated with radioactive waste management – so if disposing of radioactive waste ends up costing more than 23.3 billion euro, the government, not the companies, will be on the hook for those cost overruns.

The 23.3 billion euro is composed of the current all-in 4.7 billion euro cost estimate of processing, enclosing and transferring high-level waste to final repositories, plus a 12.4 billion euro estimate for the costs of selecting, building and operating final repositories, plus a 35 percent “risk premium” – which is less than the risk premium of at least 50 percent that environmental groups had proposed, but more than the companies want to pay.

Compromise deal

The deal was characterized by the KFK’s three co-chairs as a compromise aimed at ensuring decommissioning costs wouldn’t lead to the insolvency of the four power companies that own nuclear reactors in Germany. Their balance sheets have been under heavy pressure in recent years due to price competition from solar and wind power suppliers in wholesale electricity markets.

The four large power-generation companies that own Germany’s 17 commercial nuclear reactors are E.ON, RWE, EnBW, and Vattenfall, a company owned by the Swedish state. Eight of the 17 reactors are still in operation, but the last of them is due to be shut down by the end of 2022. Nuclear power accounted for 14 percent of Germany’s total electricity production in 2015.

READ FULL STORY

As posted at http://www.dw.com/en/price-tag-put-on-germanys-nuclear-waste-disposal/a-19218042

EEB statement on 30th anniversary of Chernobyl

Statement by Jeremy Wates, EEB Secretary General, on the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster (26 April 1986):

“Last week world leaders met in New York to sign the Paris climate agreement, which includes the aim to try to keep global warming below 1.5 Degrees C. It is disappointing and deeply worrying that many countries still believe that nuclear power needs to play a significant role in the switch to a low carbon economy other than in the short term.

Thirty years after the Chernobyl disaster, major questions remain about the safety of nuclear power. Problems related to waste disposal remain unresolved. Indeed, a recent study by the European Commission revealed that Europe is facing a €253bn bill for nuclear waste management and plant decommissioning, with only €120bn having been set aside. Further, the safety upgrades needed following the the Fukushima disaster are making many ageing European reactors unprofitable and building new reactors is clearly uneconomical. Reactors also risk being targets for terrorist attacks as shown by the recent developments in Belgium.

Energy efficiency and sustainable renewable energy are the only options for the future that make sense in terms of tackling climate change, being cost efficient, ensuring energy security and keeping the public safe.”

Brussels, 25 April 2016, European Environmental Bureau, as posted at http://www.eeb.org/index.cfm/news-events/news/eeb-statement-on-30th-anniversary-of-chernobyl/

Hundreds take part in protest event expressing opposition to plans for nuclear waste repository (April 2016)

Prague, April 23 (CTK) – Hundreds of people protested in seven places in the Czech Republic Saturday against the possible construction of a permanent radioactive waste storage facility, in which the Czech Radioactive Waste Repository Authority (SURAO) wants to do geological exploration survey.

The protest had the form of marches, running and cycling relays, exhibitions as well as film screeenings.

Localities in north Bohemia and in south Bohemia and Moravia have been considered as possible sites of the future repository.
The repository is to be established by 2065. Thousands of tonnes of spent fuel from nuclear power plants are to be permanently deposited in it.

The Czech Republic has a nuclear power plant in Temelin, south Bohemia, and Dukovany, south Moravia.
Day Against the Repository was held simultaneously in all localities considered as its future site for a second time this year.

As posted April 25th, 2016 on the Prague Daily Monitor at http://www.praguemonitor.com/2016/04/25/hundreds-take-part-protest-event-expressing-opposition-plans-nuclear-waste-repository

Ontario Power Generation commits to DGR studies (April 2016)

ONTARIO—While Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has committed to completing further studies on its proposed deep geological repository (DGR) for low and intermediate level nuclear waste, the president of Northwatch says that while this is a good step, the group would have rather have seen OPG drop their proposal altogether.

“They (OPG) will now do what the minister has told them they have to do,” stated Brennain Lloyd, in an interview with the Recorder this past Sunday. “They had the option of doing this work, or not continuing. They could have dropped their application, which would have been our preferred option.”

“We will just have to see what comes of it,” said Ms. Lloyd. “We are very pleased the minister ordered OPG to do additional work. But basically, what is now in place is that they have another chance to redo their proposal.”

The OPG’s new proposal, “will still be very generic and conceptional for two types of sites, and we’ll have to see the quality and detail of the work they come out with,” said Ms. Lloyd, noting the two types of sites includes granite sites in Northern Ontario and crystallization of rock versus sedimentary rock in southern Ontario.”

Ms. Lloyd feels that OPG, “got into a tight spot in the hearings. And when they propose the benefits of storing the waste in granite in Northern Ontario their experts basically revealed the weakness of storing nuclear waste in this type of material. Even their expert said storing nuclear waste in granite is harder to predict than in sedimentary rock.”

OPG Is still looking through a total of 18 possible sites for taking the waste, including Elliot Lake, Blind River, Hornepayne, Whitefish River, Manitouwadge and others, said Ms. Lloyd. “OPG has gone through the study process three times so far, and it still doesn’t address the gaps there are in the proposal. For instance, they say six drill holes in the Bruce Nuclear plan, but they provide no explanation of the different pressure gaps and how much gas was generated-this information is still unknown.”

“It is great the minister has said OPG has to do further studies on at least three components of the report, but this is out of eight gaps in the proposal; we think they should have been required to complete work on all major areas-gaps in the study,” said Ms. Llloyd.

“But yes, we are pleased that they at least have been required to do more work,” continued Ms. Lloyd, “but we are disappointed they are not required to do work on all eight gaps in the proposal. And after bringing forward studies-plans three different times we were hoping the ministry would have said just give it up. They’ve had three goes at it—if this were a baseball game they (OPG) would have struck out and would be sitting on the bench; which is where they should be.”

OPG announced plans last week to complete some further studies on its proposed deep geological repository for low and intermediate level nuclear waste.

After receiving a request in February from federal minister of the environment and climate change Catherine McKenna to conduct three further studies on the DGR, OPG confirmed last Friday that those studies will be completed by the end of 2016, the Owen Sound Times reported.

“OPG maintains that a DGR is the right answer for Ontario’s low and intermediate level waste and that the Bruce site is the right location. An independent federal JRP has recommended moving forward with the project,” it said in a news release from the company. “OPG is confident further studies will confirm this.”

Minister McKenna has requested the additional studies prior to making a decision on the environmental assessment for the site. The studies are: OPG will assess the environmental effectiveness of two “technically and economically feasible” locations in Ontario for a DGR: one in a sedimentary rock formation located in southern Ontario and a second in a granite rock formation located in central to Northern Ontario. Specific locations will not be identified; an updated analysis of the cumulative environmental effects of the project considering the results from preliminary assessments undertaken by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization for used fuel. OPG will further study the cumulative effects assuming a used fuel repository is sited within the DGR study area.

OPG will undertake a review of its mitigation commitments and all integrating actions. Any outdated, additional or redundant commitments previously brought forward to the Joint Review Panel will be identified.

OPG has claimed its plan to store nuclear waste underground near Kincardine is safe and reiterated that again in Friday’s news release. “The DGR would permanently and safely isolate and contain the waste 680 metres underground, ensuring protection of the water and the environment,” the release says.

If built, the DGR would extend underground into rock that’s 450 million years old and hold everything from mop heads, rags and clothing to used reactor components from the Bruce, Darlington and Pickering generation plants.

Construction, which could start as early as 2018, is expected to take seven years. OPG would then need to apply to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for a licence to operate it.

The Saugeen Ojibway Nation has authority to veto the plan. In Friday’s news release from OPG it said the company was “committed to ongoing work with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.”

“The OPG has also said they will have this work done by December 31, (2016) but we’ll see if this actually happens,” said Ms. Lloyd. “A lot remains to be seen, but the quality of work that has been carried out so far has been low.”

Manitoulin Expositor, By Expositor Staff, Apr 22, 2016, as posted at http://www.manitoulin.ca/2016/04/22/ontario-power-generation-commits-dgr-studies/

Turns out that transport that crashed yesterday was carrying uranium (April 2016)

Nuclear safety authority says there was no impact to the public or environment

A transport involved in a collision on Highway 17 on Sunday was carrying uranium concentrate, says the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

The collision, just west of Massey, reduced traffic to one lane for part of Sunday morning.

The CNSC says the truck was transporting the uranium from Cameco’s Blind River refinery to its Port Hope conversion facility.

“There was no damage to the transport packages and therefore no impact to members of the public or the environment,” said CNSC.

Cameco’s website says its Blind River facility is the largest commercial uranium refinery in the world, producing uranium trioxide powder which is then transported to the company’s conversion facility in Port Hope for further processing.

18 April 2016, as posted at

https://www.sootoday.com/local-news/turns-out-that-transport-that-crashed-yesterday-was-carrying-uranium-282277

Permanent storage solution a must, nuclear officials argue (April 2016)

KINCARDINE – Don’t touch the canisters.

As you navigate through row after gleaming row of huge white containers — 1,200 of them, so far — the guide’s instruction is unequivocal: Look, don’t touch.

These containers harbour the most hazardous byproducts of nuclear power production in Canada, more than three decades worth of spent nuclear fuel.

Each one safeguards 384 spent fuel bundles inside 50-centimetre-thick, reinforced concrete walls sandwiched between two liners of thick, rolled steel. Welding them shut takes upwards of 16 hours. They weigh 73 tonnes each.

The guide repeatedly describes them as “robust,” designed to last.

But not forever.

Forever is a long time.

Officials from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) argue that a permanent storage solution, a vault at least 500 metres underground, eventually must replace facilities never intended to last many thousands of years.

And that’s why NWMO offered a rare tour of the dry used-fuel storage buildings at Ontario’s giant Bruce Power nuclear plant, a facility along the shore of Lake Huron in Southwestern Ontario where few among the 4,000 staffers are even allowed to venture.

In the post-9/11 world of super-strict security measures, only federal background checks and pre-authorized approval will allow you deeper into the facility than the public information centre.

The rules inside are clear and inviolable. Hard hats always on, always facing forward.

No candy, gum or lip balm, through which radiation would be ingested if an “incident” were to happen.

Don’t photograph any of the array of security measures.

And don’t touch the canisters.

The fuel bundles that spent their useful life powering entire cities, then needed to cool down for a decade at the bottom of deep water pools, still radiate enough warmth to make heavy coats unnecessary here even on a sub-zero, Bruce County day.

Spokesperson Mike Krizanc explains the outside of the tanks is only slightly warmer than ambient air. Touching one probably — probably — would not be an issue.

But when security includes regular inspections by specialized staff and monitoring by provincial, federal and international nuclear safety specialists, you don’t want to mess with protocols.

This is an other-worldly place.

It is spotless, fanatically so.

Not a mop is out of place. Shoes literally squeak on the shiny, grey-painted floors.

You’re tempted to whisper in the cavernous rooms, where the only other sound is a barely perceptible hum from fluorescent lights.

And all around you, these giant space-age canisters with their deadly innards.

One guide likens a canister to “a big cocoon,” but the metaphor is instantly jarring — a cocoon breaks forth with new life. This must never be allowed to break open, not for a thousand lifetimes.

And there, in a nutshell, is the dilemma for NWMO officials.

Nuclear power must be safe and be seen to be safe.

But nuclear waste, even encapsulated like this, isn’t forever-safe. And they know it and you know it, and what’s left is to make the best of that uncomfortable reality while humankind figures out how to seal near-eternity in a box.

And, illogical as it is, after a three-hour tour, you exhale a breath you didn’t realize you were holding as the radiation detection scanner declares you “clean” and you turn in your hard hat and visitor’s pass.

By Debora Van Brenk, The London Free Press, Friday, April 15, 2016 10:18:26 EDT PM, as posted at http://www.lfpress.com/2016/04/15/permanent-storage-solution-a-must-nuclear-officials-argue