Source: EM Update | Vol. 13, Issue 4; Contributor: John Gray | February 2, 2021
Major construction upgrades are progressing that will allow DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and contractor Isotek to begin processing a high-dose inventory of uranium (U)-233 stored at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) later this year.
That work supports the U-233 Disposition Project, OREM’s highest priority project at ORNL. The project is removing a significant risk by eliminating the inventory of the legacy nuclear material stored in the world’s oldest operating nuclear facility located in the heart of one of the nation’s most important scientific research sites.
Numerous facility modifications and infrastructure additions are needed at Building 2026 to initiate large-scale processing and downblending of the high-dose U-233 inventory in the facility’s hot cells, scheduled to begin this fall. Hot cells are radiation containment chambers.
Crews recently installed a 35-foot-tall silo essential to the project. The silo structure weighs 11,000 pounds and can hold 10,000 pounds of dry cement. Cement from the silo will be transferred to tanks containing the downblended U-233 to solidify the material and make it safe for transportation and disposal.
Workers also finished placing a backup diesel generator. If there is a loss of power, the generator will be able to continue powering the equipment necessary for processing. That equipment includes the system that pumps material into the hot cells to downblend U-233; the operation that transfers cement to the downblended material tanks; the hydraulic power unit that drives the mixing blades; and the equipment that moves the tanks of solidified waste.
Approximately 20,000 linear feet of conduit, used to connect the generator to the components it will power, will be installed around the facility. That work is approximately 20% complete.
Crews will also install new portals and manipulators for the hot cells and replace a 5-ton crane needed to transport canisters before processing can begin in the hot cells.
Workers are currently processing the low-dose inventory of U-233 in gloveboxes. Gloveboxes are enclosures that shield and segregate workers from hazards.
As part of the processing campaign, workers are extracting rare isotopes, which nuclear innovation company TerraPower is using to support next-generation cancer treatment research.
When hot cell processing begins, Isotek will be able to dramatically increase the transfers of rare isotopes to TerraPower because crews can process larger amounts of U-233.