Operations are set to expand at the Savannah River Site’s H-Canyon facility, a development that will help maintain the jobs of 750 employees. The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management announced that the chemical separations plant would be involved in two new projects in a press release Monday.
A Department of Energy and environmental impact review recently cleared the way for H-Canyon to process a limited quantity of the spent or used nuclear fuel that is stored in the L-Basin facility at SRS. That will free up more space in L-Basin, which receives spent fuel from domestic and foreign research reactors.
L-Basin has reached its storage capacity for High Flux Isotope Reactor cores and projections show it could reach capacity for other used nuclear fuel as early as 2016.
H-Canyon will now be allowed to process up to 1,000 spent nuclear fuel bundles and up to 200 High Flux Isotope Reactor cores from L-Basin through 2018.
Freeing up storage space rather than making costly modifications to L-Basin will provide near-term savings of approximately $40 million to taxpayers, according to the Department of Energy.
In another developments, H-Canyon will receive and process residual material from the production of molybdenum-99 in Canada. The material contains highly-enriched uranium that came from the United States originally.
After being processed, the material “can be turned into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors,” said Bill Taylor, a Department of Energy spokesman.
Molybdenum-99 is the parent isotope of technetium-99m, the primary isotope used in diagnostic nuclear imaging.
The H-Canyon’s involvement in processing the leftover material from molybdenum-99 production is the result of a contract between the Department of Energy and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. The latter organization is funding the project.
During the Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea last year, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to expand efforts to return highly-enriched uranium materials stored at the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario to facilities in the United States.
Constructed in the early 1950s, H-Canyon is the only hardened nuclear chemical separations plant still in operation in this country.