EM sites provided updates on their cleanup progress during individual sessions at Waste Management Symposia 2021.
Leaders from DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM), cleanup contractor UCOR, and the Oak Ridge community highlighted the approaches that led to Oak Ridge’s historic cleanup success last year and a new chapter of transformation on the horizon during a session at the Waste Management Symposia 2021.
OREM Manager Jay Mullis covered the cleanup progress that has occurred since last year’s symposia, with the most significant achievement being the completion of core cleanup at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP). It was DOE’s largest-ever completed deactivation and demolition project and the first removal of a former enrichment site in the world. Mullis also shared a preview of the major EM projects underway at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12).
UCOR President and CEO Ken Rueter highlighted the strategies that led the contractor to achieve the world-first accomplishment under budget and ahead of schedule. His presentation focused on the innovations and partnerships that made ETTP’s cleanup possible. Rueter noted that those innovations and partnerships are leading to new successes at ORNL and Y-12.
The Oak Ridge session also included two panels. The first featured representatives from OREM, UCOR, and the community who discussed EM’s unique approach at ETTP that converted a contaminated enrichment complex into a community asset that is attracting new businesses and providing opportunities for the region through economic development, tourism, and recreation.
The second panel featured federal and contractor managers who explored the complexities of moving a large workforce from an EM-owned site — ETTP — to ORNL and Y-12, where DOE has important ongoing research and national security mission. Panelists also detailed the transformation and modernization EM will enable at those sites in the years ahead.
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)
EM’s WIPP is poised for a huge leap forward in 2021 and beyond.
WIPP slowed, but did not stop, operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and is laying the groundwork to rebound in the years ahead, participants in a panel focused on WIPP updates said during the Waste Management Symposia 2021.
The panelists included EM Carlsbad Field Office Manager Reinhard Knerr and Nuclear Waste Partnership President and Project Manager Sean Dunagan.
“The safety of the people and the safety of the mine are our No. 1 focus,” Dunagan said.
The facility outside Carlsbad, New Mexico is the nation’s only deep geologic underground repository for defense-generated transuranic (TRU) waste.
WIPP is processing up to five TRU waste shipments per week during the pandemic; that number is expected to increase to 17 per week by 2025.
Two capital projects and more than a dozen infrastructure improvement projects, including a new fire protection system, will upgrade the 30-year-old facility to continue its critical national mission.
The Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System will advance repository airflow from 170,000 cubic feet per minute to 540,000 cubic feet per minute; the utility shaft will be the primary air intake and have hoisting capability as WIPP begins mining new panels to the west.
A panel at the Waste Management Symposia 2021 highlighted EM’s successes in legacy cleanup and waste management at EM’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) site in northern New Mexico.
The panel featured several subject-matter experts from N3B, the EM Los Alamos Field Office’s (EM-LA) cleanup contractor.
N3B President Glenn Morgan discussed key accomplishments since the start of N3B’s Los Alamos Legacy Cleanup Contract with EM-LA in 2018, including significant progress controlling the migration of the hexavalent chromium groundwater plume, commencing transuranic (TRU) shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) three years ahead of schedule, and starting comingled EM and National Nuclear Securing Administration (NNSA) TRU shipments from NNSA’s Radioassay and Nondestructive Testing facility at LANL. The latter effort will lead to increased efficiency in shipping waste offsite from LANL.
N3B Vice President Joe Legare addressed the site’s response to COVID-19, including a Resumption Operations Center and an Operational Excellence Initiative training for workers whose jobs were not suited to telework during the pandemic.
The panelists discussed Technical Area 21’s Building 257 — the last remaining building to be demolished at the technical area — and shared lessons learned applicable to EM sites across the complex.
Groundwater remediation discussions centered on a chromium interim measure, which uses a pump-and-treat system to control the hexavalent chromium plume’s migration, and data that will support EM-LA as it determines a final remedy for groundwater remediation.
Panelist also detailed how EM-LA and N3B approach TRU waste retrievals, processing, and disposition, including unique and challenging waste types at LANL.
N3B also focused on how the Technical Working Group — a monthly discussion with stakeholders on technical issues related to legacy cleanup — has maintained momentum during the pandemic, benefiting stakeholders and EM’s legacy cleanup mission at LANL.
Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office (PPPO)
EM Portsmouth Site Lead Jeff Bettinger opened his panel presentation at the Waste Management Symposia 2021 with news that transite-siding removal has begun to prepare for structural demolition of the X-326 uranium-enrichment process building.
Lessons learned from the preparations to remove the massive building at the Portsmouth Site in Ohio also are benefitting Portsmouth’s X-333 building deactivation as well as work at the Paducah, Kentucky site, Bettinger added.
PPPO is looking to bring down four of 10 sections at X-326 this year, with much of the resulting debris placed in the newly constructed Portsmouth On-Site Waste Disposal Facility (OSWDF). Advanced run-off treatment systems are in place for both the building and OSWDF, and additional air-monitoring stations are operational around the site.
Soil from groundwater plumes will serve as fill material for the lined disposal cells. After plume removal, the underlying land could be returned to the community. Finally, 200 more acres will be transferred to the local community this year. Added to the 80 acres transferred in 2018, this will represent 10% of the site’s footprint set aside for economic diversification.
“It’s an exciting time at Portsmouth,” Bettinger said. “We have a very intense and unified strategic focus.”
Meanwhile, the Paducah Site will tear down its last electrical switchyard from production years. A new substation now provides the site’s 12 hourly megawatts. This right-sizing from the previous 3,000 megawatt-per-hour infrastructure is one of many efforts to reduce surveillance and maintenance costs, said Site Lead Jennifer Woodard. Some of the material from these projects goes to support regional economic development efforts. Also underway at Paducah is the disposition offsite of 1.5 million pounds of refrigerant.
Speaking for PPPO’s Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion Project, Program Manager Zak Lafontaine described recent upgrades to improve plant safety and reliability. The improvements were made safely at both the Portsmouth and Paducah DUF6 facilities, Lafontaine said.
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