DOE: Expand Yucca Mountain or plan new site

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BRATTLEBORO – The secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy told the president and Congress on Tuesday that the time is now to act on either expanding a proposed nuclear waste facility in Nevada or developing a second site.”The Secretary of Energy recommends that Congress act promptly to remove the statutory limit … and defer a decision regarding the need for a second repository,” stated Samuel Bodman.

The facility was authorized by Congress for the storage of 70,000 metric tons of waste, he wrote.


DOE set to fine Hanford contractor Bechtel $385,000

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The Department of Energy plans to fine Bechtel National $385,000 over repeated quality problems at Hanford’s vitrification plant.

The contractor designing and constructing the plant has had numerous opportunities to correct problems in the ordering and manufacturing of piping to be used in black cells, Martha Thompson, acting director of the DOE Office of Health, Safety and Security’s Office of Enforcement, wrote in a letter to Bechtel on Wednesday.

The largest portion of the fine, $220,000, will be for failing to improve quality. The remainder of the fine will cover problems related to the piping, such as what DOE found to be inadequate work procedures and design problems

DOE receives little community support at meeting

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The U.S. Department of Energy didn’t get a lot of community support Tuesday at a public hearing to discuss its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Program.

The program, referred to as GNEP, would, at its most basic level, allow for research and development of the recycling of spent nuclear fuel rods. At its most active level, the program could include advanced nuclear recycling using advanced recycling reactors.

The meeting was conducted in Piketon, where a GNEP program could be implemented in the future. The DOE already owns land and has facilities that would be good for recycling, and is one of many DOE sites being considered.

DOE would expand nuclear dump in Nevada

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WASHINGTON (AP) – The Energy Department will tell Congress in the coming weeks it should begin looking for a second permanent site to bury nuclear waste, or approve a large expansion of the proposed waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Edward Sproat, head of the department’s civilian nuclear waste program, said Thursday the 77,000-ton limit Congress put on the capacity of the proposed Yucca waste dump will fall far short of what will be needed and has to be expanded, or another dump built elsewhere in the country.

The future of the Yucca Mountain project is anything but certain.

DOE says K-25 structure can’t be saved

OAK RIDGE – It looks like K-25, one of the jewels of the World War II Manhattan Project, will be demolished – in its entirety.

A Department of Energy official said today federal officials have concluded that saving the building’s North Tower, as proposed by preservationists, would be “next to impossible” and would “cost many millions of dollars more than we anticipated.”

Steve McCracken, DOE’s environmental manager in Oak Ridge, said federal officials are asking preservation groups to come up with other alternatives that would “meaningfully” recognize the uranium-enrichment mission at the Oak Ridge site and its World War II and Cold War accomplishments without salvaging the structure itself.

In 2003, DOE signed a memorandum of understanding with preservation groups in which the federal agency promised to save a portion of the structure and turn it over to a non-government entity, which would be charged with converting it into an interpretative center and museum of Oak Ridge history.

McCracken said no decision would be final until DOE meets with the signatories of the MOU and attempts to iron out a new agreement that doesn’t include saving a piece of the deteriorated building. No date is set for such a meeting, but he said DOE would like to give a final plan on K-25 to its cleanup contractor – Bechtel Jacobs Co. – by the spring of 2009.

Preservation groups spearheaded by Bill Wilcox, a Manhattan Project veteran and the city’s historian, earlier this year proposed a compromise alternative that involved saving only a portion of K-25’s North Tower. Wilcox said the projected cost of that plan would be about $29 million, not much greater than DOE’s estimate for demolition.

However, McCracken said today the costs appear to be prohibitive and the dangers to workers too great to salvage the old building.

More details at they develop online and in Wednesday’s News Sentinel

DOE Wants To Build Railroad To Yucca Mountain

DOE Wants To Build Railroad To Yucca Mountain

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A new railroad could run right through Southern Neva

da toward Yucca Mountain.

The Department of Energy announced Friday its intentions to build a rail line from Caliente to the Nuclear Waste Repository at Yucca Mountain.

The decision opens the plan to legal challenges from the state and other opponents of the plan. and ranchers will also be able to use the railroad.

DOE to build system to treat ground water plume at Hanford

DOE to build system to treat ground water plume at Hanford

By Annette Cary, Herald staff writer

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HANFORD — The Department of Energy is preparing to build Hanford’s largest water treatment system to clean up one of Hanford’s most problematic underground plumes of contaminated water.

It has signed a record of decision with it regulators, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology, committing to the cleanup work, DOE announced Thursday.

“Pulling this contaminated water out of the ground and treating it is critical to preventing contamination in Hanford’s central plateau from traveling toward the Columbia River,” Dave Brockman, manager of DOE’s Hanford Richland Operations Office, said in a statement.

Underneath most of the 200 West Area in central Hanford lies a 5-square-mile plume of ground water contaminated with carbon tetrachloride. Contamination from the chemical used as a solvent in plutonium processing facilities has been measured in concentrations as high as 1,000 times the amount allowed in drinking water.

In addition portions of the ground water beneath the 200 West Area also are contaminated with trichloroethylene, chromium, nitrate and radioactive technetium 99, iodine 129 and tritium.

DOE is planning to build Hanford’s largest pump and treat station at a cost of $174 million to attack the contaminants and clean the water.

The system will require drilling more than 50 wells to pump contaminated water out of the ground or return cleaned water to the ground. The new system, with multiple treatment units, will have a throughput of more than 1,600 gallons per minute. The cleaned water then can be returned to the ground.

Work on designing the new system has started, and initial estimates call for bringing the system online in two to three years.

It will replace a smaller treatment system installed in the 1990s as a stop-gap measure to prevent carbon tetrachloride from spreading. The smaller system has treated about 1 million gallons of ground water, removing about 12 tons of carbon tetrachloride.

The new system is expected to remove 95 percent of the contaminants in the plume beneath the 200 West Area within 25 years. The remaining contaminants are expected to naturally reduce over the next 100 years.

“This does represent a commitment to a long-term problem at Hanford,” said Dave Einan, EPA environmental engineer. “We’re glad to see it.”

Most of the contamination in the 200 West Area ground water is from liquid waste from processing plants, such as T Plant and the Plutonium Finishing Plant, which produced plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program. The waste was poured into the soil in disposal cribs from 1945 to the early 1970s, and the more mobile contaminants reached the ground water.

An estimated 800 to 1,000 tons of carbon tetrachloride were included in the discharges, making the contaminated ground water beneath the 200 West Area, officially called the 200-ZP-1 operable unit, one of DOE’s most problematic plumes.

The plume is large and the concentration is high. But in addition, carbon tetrachloride adds complexity to the cleanup because it is heavier than water, Einan said. While some contaminants stay within the upper inches of an underground aquifer, carbon tetrachloride tends to sink, according to DOE.

“So not only is it 5 miles wide, it is also a deep contaminant,” said Geoff Tyree, DOE spokesman. “It is more difficult to go deeper into the ground water for this contaminant.”