May 15, 2017
Province Seeking Feedback on Proposed Changes
Ontario is inviting the public to comment on proposed changes to the province’s nuclear emergency response plan.
The plan details Ontario’s response to nuclear and radiological events, and is regularly reviewed and tested through a strong partnership with federal, provincial and municipal stakeholders. Management and staff from the province’s nuclear facilities also play a key role in developing and updating the plan. Beginning today, the plan will be posted on both the Regulatory Registry and Environmental Registry for 60 days to allow all interested parties to review the plan and provide comments.
Proposed changes are based on new international recommended practices, Canadian Standards Association standards, and lessons learned from previous international incidents and provincially-run emergency exercises and modelling.
In addition, Ontario is establishing a new advisory group, made up of national and international experts in nuclear safety and emergency management, to review and consider all responses to the plan and provide recommendations on how best to reflect feedback in the updated version.
Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
A public consultation on proposed updates to the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan (PNERP) Master Plan was launched to day with a posting on the Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights electronic registry. The public has sixty days – until July 12 – to comment.
Highly Radioactive Liquid from Canada Raises Concerns about Worker Safety at the Savannah River Site
Hotspot on Unloading Equipment Reveals Failed Radiation Shielding
Savannah River Site (SRS), South Carolina— According to a U.S. federal agency document just released on Friday May 12, the first of 100-150 truckloads of highly radioactive liquid waste from Canada has been unloaded at the Savannah River Site, and the transfer container has not provided fully adequate radiological shielding to protect workers.
A document published by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB), a U.S. federal agency, has confirmed that the first truck shipment of “Target Residue Material (TRM),” or “liquid Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU),” arrived from Chalk River Nuclear Lab, Ontario, Canada at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) H-Canyon in SRS, the week ending April 21. (The document was not made publicly available until May 12, however).
The DNFSB document went on to report that “Each container of HEU is pulled from the shipping cask into a shielded “pig” that provides radiological shielding for H-Canyon personnel. After loading a pig, radiological protection (RP) identified an unexpected hotspot on the side of the pig indicating that the pig was not providing adequate radiological shielding.”
(As defined at the online glossary of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, “pig” is “a colloquial term describing a container (usually lead or depleted uranium) used to ship or store radioactive materials. The thick walls of this shielding device protect the person handling the container from radiation. Large containers used for spent fuel storage are commonly called casks.”)
The DNFSB document was posted online on May 12 at: https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/11571/Savannah%20River%20Week%20Ending%20April%2021%202017.pdf
The document is also reproduced below, at the end of this press release.
The unprecedented truck shipments of high-risk, highly radioactive liquid waste have stoked controversy and concern since the proposal was first revealed four years ago, leading to a federal lawsuit by an environmental coalition last August, ending with a federal judge’s ruling in favor of DOE in February. The coalition (which includes Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, SRS Watch, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Lone Tree Council, Sierra Club, and Environmentalists, Inc.), represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, and Washington, D.C. attorney Diane Curran, sought an environmental assessment or impact statement prior to shipments. However, U.S. District Court Judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, ruled DOE could proceed with the shipments even without the stronger environmental reviews. Up to 150 truck shipments are scheduled over the next four years, to transport 6,000 gallons of highly radioactive liquid waste from Chalk River, Ontario to SRS, South Carolina, passing through several states in between.
The most likely border crossing is at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York, and at Thousand Islands Bridge, New York. This has prompted U.S. Representative Brian Higgins (Democrat-Buffalo), and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (Democrat-New York), to express opposition. Higgins’ bill, demanding a Homeland Security review of the shipments, passed the U.S. House last year.
“The unfortunate result of the court’s failure to require an environmental safety review is that, to reduce the substantial hazard of these shipments, every step of this unprecedented and unnecessary project must be carried outflawlessly: loading, transport, unloading, storage and reprocessing. But the very first delivery has exposed a substandard, flawed piece of equipment that could well threaten worker safety. We demanded a genuine scientific assessment of the wisdom of moving this highly radioactive liquid at all, but DOE swore that its containment, transport, and handling systems, structures, and components would provide adequate safety. This incident gives the lie to the court’s unsupported ruling that all bases were covered,” said Terry Lodge, one of the attorneys who sought to halt the shipments in court.
“The labels “Target Residue Material (TRM),” or “liquid Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU),” obscure the fact that this liquid waste is highly radioactive,” said Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, and an expert witness in the coalition’s lawsuit. “As I testified in court filings, a very small amount – just a few liquid ounces – of this highly radioactive stew of fission products such as Cesium-137, if spilled, could render an entire large city’s drinking water supply unsafe to drink,” Edwards said.
“Our proposed alternative to these high-risk truck shipments to South Carolina, and the unnecessary reprocessing at H-Canyon and de facto permanent storage of highly radioactive waste at SRS, is simply to down-blend and solidify the liquids in Canada, as had been done for years at Chalk River,” said Brennain Lloyd, project coordinator of Northwatch, an Ontario group that has warned about the risks of such transportation, and raised concerns about cross-border trade and traffic in radioactive wastes.
Down-blending is the process of mixing non-fissile Uranium-238 into concentrated fissile Uranium-235, thereby turning nuclear weapons-usable Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) into non-proliferative Low Enriched Uranium (LEU).
“DOE’s recent approval for Indonesia to do on-site down-blending and solidification of nearly identical liquid HEU, undermines DOE’s assertion that Chalk River must ship to SRS as a nonproliferation safeguard,” said Michael Keegan, coordinator of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, based in Monroe, Michigan. “We’re concerned DOE is simply trying to keep its dirty, dangerous, expensive, and unnecessary reprocessing facilities at H-Canyon on life support,” Keegan added.
“The shipments are not being done for nuclear nonproliferation reasons as DOE claims, but rather represent nuclear dumping by Canada, and profit-making by DOE, given the $60 million payment for the scheme, all of which should stop,” said Tom Clements, SRS Watch director.
Today, SRS Watch, based in Columbia, South Carolina, filed a “FOIA Request for any Documents or Reports Related to Receipt, Off Loading and Handling of Canadian Liquid High-Level Waste at H-Canyon, Especially as it Applies to Radiological Shielding Problems” (see https://tinyurl.com/m2ht8po).
Last month, the Iroquois Caucus and Anishinabek Nation issued a joint declaration, and wrote the Canadian Prime Minister, likewise urging down-blending and solidification of the highly radioactive liquid wastes on-site at Chalk River, as a safer alternative to trucking them through the First Nations’ Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and other territories. The Iroquois Caucus and Anishinabek Nation had first condemned the highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments across their territories in February.
The discovery of an unexpected radioactive “hot spot” in one of the SRS transfer pigs may be the result of a manufacturing defect or flaw.
It follows other equipment defects, malfunctions, and failures involved in highly radioactive waste storage, handling and transfer activities at Chalk River and SRS. Multiple incidents have happened in the last two years, all directly or indirectly connected with the same type of transport cask, the Nuclear Assurance Corporation-Legal Weight Truck (NAC-LWT) cask, being used in the highly radioactive liquid waste shipments.
In October 2015, the bottom of a “caddy” used to transfer solid irradiated nuclear fuel unexpectedly failed, dropping open and sending the highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel rods to the bottom of a high-level waste storage pool at Chalk River. The failure of the caddy was caused by poor welds, a manufacturing defect that was also evident on a number of other caddies designed to serve the same purpose. These caddies are manufactured by the same company (NAC) that makes the transport casks, and are part of the equipment that goes with the NAC-LWT cask.
In April 2016, a grapple crane at SRS, used to lift a “basket” of solid, highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel for emplacement in a NAC-LWT cask, suddenly failed, dropping the basket with its radioactive contents. Again, the grapple crane that failed was part of the equipment that accompanies the NAC-LWT cask.
“This latest incident of inadequate radiological protection at SRS must be added to multiple other safety-related incidents that have raised red flags, calling into question the competence of the American and Canadian nuclear agencies and contractor firms involved,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear. “These have included quality assurance violations with the waste shipping containers. The unprecedented liquid nature of these current highly radioactive waste shipments only adds to the risks during handling, transport, transfer, and storage,” Kamps added.
“Communities on both sides of the border and along the routes have raised repeated concerns and opposition to these unnecessary, unprecedented, intensely radioactive nuclear shipments, and are calling for a halt to these and other proposed nuclear waste transports between the U.S. and Canada,” stated Diane D’Arrigo of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), one of the groups that challenged the shipments in court.
News from Beyond Nuclear * Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes * Northwatch * Nuclear Information and Resource Service * Savannah River Site Watch
Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR) (514) 839 7214;
Kevin Kamps, (240) 462-3216, kevin;
Michael Keegan, Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, (734) 770-1441, mkeeganj;
Terry Lodge, environmental coalition attorney, tjlodge50;
Brennain Lloyd, Northwatch, northwatch, office 705 497 0373 cell 705 493 9650.
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION
(1) DNFSB memo, posted online May 12, 2017 at https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/11571/Savannah%20River%20Week%20Ending%20April%2021%202017.pdf:
DEFENSE NUCLEAR FACILITIES SAFETY BOARD
April 21, 2017
TO: S. A. Stokes, Technical Director
FROM: M. T. Sautman and Z. C. McCabe, Resident Inspectors
SUBJECT: Savannah River Site Resident Inspector Report for Week Ending April 21, 2017
Target Residue Material (TRM): H-Canyon personnel started processing the first shipment of liquid Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) this week. Each container of HEU is pulled from the shipping cask into a shielded “pig” that provides radiological shielding for H-Canyon personnel. After loading a pig, radiological protection (RP) identified an unexpected hotspot on the side of the pig indicating that the pig was not providing adequate radiological shielding. RP labeled the hotspot before H-Canyon personnel relocated the pig so the hotspot would be facing the wall. H-Canyon personnel did not identify any similar issues on the other pigs and are planning to use the one spare pig for future evolutions. All of the containers have been removed from the cask and H-Canyon personnel have begun transferring the HEU into H-Canyon for processing.
(2) Radioactive Roads: Highly Radioactive Liquid Transport from Chalk River, Ontario, to SRS, South Carolina, March 2017, by Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, March 2017 – with cask photos and analysis of radioactive contents of liquid HLW (see http://www.ccnr.org/TRM_Transport_CRL-SRS.pdf)
(3) See posts regarding these highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments from Chalk River to SRS, and related subject matter, at: http://www.beyondnuclear.org/waste-transportation/
“Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has begun dialogue with potential participants after unveiling its vision for the organisation’s future. The long-term strategy foresees infrastructure investments of more than CAD1.2 billion ($873 million) over ten years and includes the development of a new small modular reactor (SMR) at Chalk River by 2026.” Source: World Nuclear News (nuclear industry communication)
|CNL’s vision for Chalk River (Image: CNL)|
CNL’s Long Term Strategy, released in late April, addresses the future of Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario after the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor – one of the largest and most versatile high-flux research reactors in the world, and an important supplier of medical isotopes – closes down on 31 March 2018 after 60 years of operations.
CNL will combine federal and commercial priorities and needs into four application-driven research and technology development programs: energy, including work on life extension of existing reactors, fabrication of advanced nuclear fuel, the deployment of SMRs and decarbonisation of the transport sector; health, including radiobiology research and targeted alpha therapy; safety and security, including nuclear cyber security and nuclear forensics and response; and environment, including environmental stewardship and radioactive waste management.
Over the next ten years, the Chalk River site will be “strategically consolidated and modernised” to support the nuclear research needs of the Canadian government and the science and technology needs of the Canadian and global nuclear industry. Over CAD1.2 billion will be invested in infrastructure and facilities, enabling the construction of an Advanced Nuclear Materials Research Centre complex, with new shielded facilities advanced active laboratories for research involving active or irradiated materials. A new electrical switchyard, expanded natural gas service, potable water lines, and sanitary sewer system will improve the safety and reliability of the current systems; and modern, energy efficient facilities will be constructed to accommodate maintenance and operations activities, logistics and security, as well as a new business centre.
The strategy’s science and technology goals include the siting of a new SMR by 2026; development and demonstration of a suite of targeted alpha therapy compounds by 2022; the expansion of CNL’s hydrogen program, aiming to play a leading role in the demonstration of hydrogen-based bulk transport by 2020; the demonstration of a new advanced fuel fabrication concept by 2020; and the development, commercialisation and deployment of a nuclear industrial control cyber intrusion detection and mitigation system by 2022.
CNL aims to demonstrate the commercial viability of SMR technology by 2026 “with a view to positioning Canada to take a leadership role in this emerging nuclear technology with CNL recognised globally as a leader in SMR prototype testing and science and technology (S&T) support”.
According to the strategy document, CNL’s long-term vision is to be a recognised hub for SMRs, where multiple vendor-supported prototypes are built and tested. “As part of this long-term vision, CNL’s goal in the next ten years is to host a prototype SMR,” it says.
Costs could be of the order of CDN600 million, with expected contributions from commercial entities, and executed through extensive partnering with technology vendors and end users, although the budget estimate will be refined over time through a non-binding call for expressions of interest. With an SMR sited at CNL, funding would be expected to increase as demand for CNL’s S&T support from SMR vendors grows.
CNL president and CEO Mark Lesinski said the strategy was developed with input from global leaders in nuclear science, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, CNL’s current customers and others in the nuclear supply chain, local communities and stakeholders, and from CNL staff.
“The Long Term Strategy identifies those areas where CNL is uniquely equipped, and applies these strengths against what the world needs in nuclear, building on our legacy as a global leader in nuclear science,” he said. “The strategy is a forward-looking document, and includes many projects that are subject to rigorous licencing and regulatory processes.”
CNL’s Industry Day, held on 9 May, provided interested companies and potential contractors with a first opportunity to hear more about CNL’s plans.
“Significant change is occurring at CNL and this is just the beginning,” Ted Preisig, CNL’s vice president of capital projects, said. “Today we present our ideas on how the Chalk River skyline will change with the renewal of the laboratories’ infrastructure and gain feedback on how others can help us make this vision a reality … We are starting discussions today that will shape the site for years to come.”
Researched and written by World Nuclear News
Hanford | A mound of dirt and some pressure-treated timbers is a “surprising” way to conceal radioactive waste, according to Rod Ewing, a nuclear security researcher at Stanford University.
But that’s how some irradiated equipment is stored at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the sprawling compound near Richland that created weapons-grade plutonium during World War II and now stores the most nuclear waste of any facility in the country.
“How can waste be left in a tunnel? Whose idea was that?” Ewing said by phone Thursday. “I’ve been to Hanford many, many times for conferences and things like that, and I don’t recall anyone saying that there was waste in tunnels underground. I can’t imagine why that would be the case.”
Tuesday’s collapse of an earthen tunnel at Hanford highlights long-standing concerns about the ways in which nuclear waste is stored. At Hanford, liquid waste is known to leak from holding tanks. And because of building and design issues, plans have stalled for a $17 billion factory that would embed the radioactive stew in chunks of glass to be buried.
The tunnel collapse also increases pressure on the nation’s leaders to create a permanent repository for radioactive waste, a project that could revive a decades-old political fight.
A dumping ground carved inside Nevada’s Yucca Mountain has been on the drawing board for three decades, but the project was mothballed in 2011 amid criticism from Nevada lawmakers. However, the Trump administration has hinted at plans to reboot the project, and Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader and perhaps the fiercest critic of the project, retired last year.
“Unfortunately, it’s more of a political issue than a technical or safety issue,” said Donald Wall, director of the Nuclear Radiation Center at Washington State University.
‘A lot of corners are being cut’
The U.S. Department of Energy this week said there was no sign of a radiation release from the hole in the tunnel at Hanford, which contained rail cars filled with old, irradiated equipment. The hole, estimated at 400 square feet, was being filled with about 50 truckloads of soil on Wednesday.
But some aren’t convinced that’s a viable long-term solution.
“That waste has to be taken out of there at some point,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, an anti-nuclear group based in Maryland. “What do you do now, dig it out?”
Kamps, who has no scientific training, believes “a lot of corners are being cut” at Hanford and other facilities.
Asked about the implications of the Hanford incident, Ewing, the Stanford professor, recalled another scare at an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico.
Officially called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the dump in the Carlsbad desert is the nation’s only permanent repository for defense waste. In 2014, it was the site of an explosion that sent mounds of white, radioactive foam into the air and stalled the disposal of thousands of tons of waste in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the explosion “involved a drum of plutonium and americium waste that had been packaged at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The problem was traced to material – actual kitty litter – used to blot up liquids in sealed drums. Lab officials had decided to substitute an organic material for a mineral one. But the new material caused a complex chemical reaction that blew the lid off a drum.”
The Times reported that the explosion caused extensive damage to the dump and could cost taxpayers up to $2 billion. A federal investigation found more than two dozen safety lapses at the site.
Ewing served on a committee that oversaw plans for the New Mexico dump before it was constructed nearly two decades ago.
“Our committee essentially said the project looks pretty good” with only a few caveats, he said. “Having said that, you can imagine my disappointment when there was a release of radioactivity during the operational phase.”
Ewing outlined a number of concerns about the dump in a paper last year. He said the safety lapses don’t bode well for future attempts at nuclear waste storage.
“If under the best circumstances we have these kinds of accidents, what does that say about our long-term safety analysis?” he asked. “Maybe we don’t have the right institutions and the right experts in place.”
Read full story
Fri., May 12, 2017, midnight, By Chad Sokol, the Spokesman Review, as posted at http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/may/12/tunnel-collapse-prompts-some-to-ask-where-is-the-l/
KBS News | The nuclear waste being stored at San Onofre may eventually move to New Mexico. Southern California Edison’s Community Engagement Panel meets Thursday night in Laguna Hills to focus on the latest developments in interim storage for nuclear waste.
Joy Russell is with Holtec International, the company preparing to store San Onofre’s spent nuclear fuel rods in vertical steel canisters embedded in concrete. The site is next to the now-shuttered power plant, approximately 100 feet from the ocean.
Russell said the storage system, called HI-STORM UMAX, is already licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She said Holtec has applied to the NRC for site-specific permits to use the same system at an interim storage location of about 1,000 acres in New Mexico.
“Holtec’s intent is that the HI-STORM UMAX is designed and will be licensed to accommodate all canisters containing spent nuclear fuel of any type in use in the United States,” Russell said.
Congress is considering interim storage for nuclear waste, since no long-term storage has been indentified. A site under development at Yucca Mountain in Nevada was defunded in 2011.
“This site in New Mexico is temporary,” Russell said, “and then when Yucca Mountain is open, then it’s removed to Yucca Mountain or whatever other place the United States government has for a final disposition.”
Russell said the interim storage site has strong state and local support. She said the governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, has written to the U.S. Energy Secretary to endorse the plan.
Russell said Holtec is partnering on the interim storage project with Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance in New Mexico. Edlow International, a company that has been transporting nuclear components for 50 years, would transport the waste, though Russell said a transportation route has not been negotiated.
Nuclear sites all over the country are waiting for Congress to approve interim storage. It could take years. There will likely not be enough space in the site in New Mexico to accept all the nuclear waste waiting for alternative storage.
Russell said Holtec has not yet contracted with Southern California Edison to take San Onofre’s nuclear waste to New Mexico if Congress approves interim storage as an option, and if all the necessary environmental reviews and permits are granted.
Holtec’s chief nuclear officer, Pierre Oneid, will be at Thursday’s Community Engagement Panel meeting at 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Laguna Hills Community Center, 25555 Alicia Parkway, Laguna Hills, CA 92653.
Thursday, May 11, 2017, By Alison St John, KBS News, as posted at http://www.kpbs.org/news/2017/may/11/holtec-applies-permit-interim-storage-nuclear-wast/
Blackburn News | A spokesman for Bruce Power says the company is fully in favour of the deep geologic repository to store low and medium level nuclear waste at the site on Lake Huron.
That’s despite a statement from Bruce Power’s former CEO suggesting all low level nuclear waste be recycled and reused, rather than stashed in a DGR in Kincardine.
The four-year-old video also shows Former Bruce Power CEO Duncan Hawthorne telling an open house that he thinks the search for a willing community for a second nuclear waste storage site in the area is causing a lot of concern and confusion.
Read full story
BY JANICE MACKAYMAY 10, 2017, Blackburn News, as posted at http://blackburnnews.com/midwestern-ontario/midwestern-ontario-news/2017/05/10/bruce-power-defends-support-nuclear-waste-storage-plans/