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DOE disposing of uranium-233 waste stored at ORNL via Oak Ridge Today

They haven’t agreed on a final budget number, but the Trump administration and the U.S. House and Senate have proposed spending between about $33 million and $52 million in the next fiscal year to continue disposing of uranium-233 waste materials that are stored at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in a building that is the oldest continuously operating nuclear facility in the U.S. Department of Energy complex.

The uranium-233, or U-233, waste is now stored in secure vaults in Building 3019, which was built in the 1940s at ORNL. Removing the waste could allow ORNL to relax its overall security posture, which will reduce costs, eliminate nuclear safety issues, and make the campus more conducive to collaborative science, according to a U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee report published in July.

Some of the waste is from a 1960s research and development test in New York, and it is being shipped to the Nevada National Security Site, a former nuclear weapons proving ground about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. In interviews this summer, DOE officials in Oak Ridge declined to discuss the amount of that waste that has been shipped to Nevada or to say how long the shipments might continue. But they are making progress, said Jay Mullis, acting manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management.

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hat waste is from the Consolidated Edison Uranium Solidification Program, or CEUSP. It contains radioisotopes of uranium from a 1960s research and development test of thorium and uranium reactor fuel at the Consolidated Edison Indian Point-1 reactor in New York. The test was sponsored by the Atomic Energy Commission, a predecessor to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The research and development test was completed in late 1968, and Nuclear Fuel Services of West Valley, New York, recovered the uranium, which was then considered to be a reusable nuclear material. The uranium was separated from certain other isotopes, fission products, and other constituents common to reactor fuel, according to a DOE analysis prepared in August 2014.

[…]

he material was then managed in ORNL’s Building 3019 for possible reuse.

But a “near-term use” still hadn’t been identified by the mid-1980s. So for safety and security reasons, DOE solidified all 8,000 liters of the liquid uranyl nitrate at high temperatures into 403 individual small, ceramic-like uranium oxide monoliths, the DOE analysis said. Each uranium oxide monolith was bonded to the inside of a steel canister measuring about 3.5 inches in diameter by about two feet long. Individual canisters contained just a few kilograms of uranium each, including some U-232.

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“Thus, DOE changed its management strategy for the CEUSP low-level waste material from one of storage for potential reuse to a search for an appropriate disposal location,” DOE said in its August 2014 analysis. “The Department shares the concerns of the DNFSB that continued storage of this waste in Building 3019 cannot be a long-term solution for the disposition of this waste. After the CEUSP low-level waste material and other material are removed from Building 3019, the building can be decontaminated and decommissioned.”

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