This story was updated at 5 p.m. Aug. 30.
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.
Once all of those materials are shipped, the remaining U-233 at ORNL will be treated in “hot cell” facilities across the street from Building 3019, at Building 2026. The DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management owns both buildings.
Mullis said there is other U-233 waste stored in Building 3019, including from glovebox research at ORNL, from reactor plates, and from conglomerate materials. [Read more…]