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Decommissioning of Nuclear

Facilities

06 Feb 2013

Decommissioning Options
1. Immediate Dismantling (or Early Site Release/'Decon' in

the US):
This option allows for the facility to be removed from regulatory control
relatively soon after shutdown or termination of regulated activities.
Final dismantling or decontamination activities can begin within a few
months or years, depending on the facility.
All components and structures that are radioactive are cleaned or
dismantled, packaged, and shipped to a low-level waste disposal site or
they are stored temporarily on site.
Once this taskwhich takes five or more yearsis completed, portion of
the site or the whole site can be reused for other purposes after
exemption from regulatory control.
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11 May 2015

Decommissioning Options
2. Safe Enclosure ('Safstor') or deferred dismantling:
This option postpones the final removal of controls for a longer period,
usually in the order of 40 to 60 years.
The facility is placed into a safe storage configuration until the eventual
dismantling

and

decontamination

activities

occur

after

residual

radioactivity has decayed.


For example, if a plant is allowed to sit idle for 30 years, the
radioactivity from cobalt 60 will be reduced to 1/50th of its original
level; after 50 years, the radioactivity will be about 1/1,000th of its

original level.
Once radioactivity has decayed to lower levels, the unit is taken apart,
similar to DECON.
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Decommissioning Options
3. Entombment (or 'Entomb'):
This option entails placing the facility into a condition that will allow the
remaining on-site radioactive material to remain on-site without ever
removing it totally.
This option usually involves reducing the size of the area where the

radioactive material is located and then encasing the facility in a longlived structure such as concrete, that will last for a period of time to
ensure the remaining radioactivity is no longer of concern.
The encased plant would be appropriately maintained, and surveillance

would continue until the radioactivity decays to a level that permits


termination of the plants license, with little or no additional
decontamination.
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Criticality

06 Feb 2013

What is Criticality?

Fissile nuclide

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What is Criticality?
A nuclear criticality accident is the occurrence of a self-sustaining neutron
chain reaction that is either unplanned or behaves unexpectedly. Only a
few special nuclear materials such as enriched uranium or plutonium are
capable of supporting a self-sustaining neutron chain reaction, hereinafter
called nuclear criticality.

Non-reactor nuclear facilities with operations, processes, storage,


handling and on-site transport of significant quantities of fissionable
materials are required to maintain a nuclear criticality safety (NCS)
program for the prevention of nuclear criticality accidents, in accordance
with ISO 1709:1995, Nuclear energy Fissile materials Principles of
criticality safety in storing, handling and processing.
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What is Criticality?
When each fission leads to an average of more than one other fission,
the number of fissions and thus the ionizing radiations increase
exponentially: we then speak of a divergent chain reaction.
If such a phenomenon occurs accidentally in a nuclear facility (a plant or
a laboratory) or during the transport of fissile materials, it can expose

persons in the vicinity of the involved equipment to severe or even lethal


radiations.
Thus, we speak of a criticality accident, which moreover leads to the
production of fission products, including fission products in gaseous form.
These fission products may lead to a radioactive release into the
environment which is generally of limited extent.
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What is Criticality?
The nuclear criticality risks must be considered at every stage of the fuel cycle
involving uranium, plutonium, and/or certain minor actinides (like for instance
curium, americium, etc.).
It includes uranium enrichment and conversion plants, plants for plutonium- and/or
uranium-based fuels manufacture, spent fuel reprocessing plants, research
laboratories involving fissile materials, effluent-treatment and waste-packaging

facilities and storage and transport of fissile materials (fuels, radioactive wastes,
etc.).
It is not necessary to have a complex process or large quantities of fissile materials
to initiate a divergent fission chain reaction. About 0.5 kg of plutonium 239 or 48

kg of uranium like the ones used to manufacture the fuel for PWR or BWR power
plants may be enough, in a spherical geometrical configuration with the presence
of water. By way of comparison, a 17 x 17 PWR fuel assembly contains more than
400 kg of uranium in a specially-designed geometrical configuration.
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What is Criticality?
On the other hand, it is possible to handle relatively large quantities of fissile
materials as long as there is strict compliance with a set of parameters ensuring
that the criticality conditions will not be met.
The goal of nuclear criticality risks analysis is to define the necessary and sufficient
provisions (design and operational) to avoid the triggering of a divergent fission
chain reaction when fissile materials are present.
The nuclear criticality risks analysis consists of connecting (i) the possible
configurations of the fissile materials, in light of the actions that might be taken
during operations and the changes that might be caused by possible failures (error,
failures of a component, etc.) or by accidental situations (fire, earthquake, etc.),
and (ii) the margins between these configurations and potentially critical ones.
Nuclear Criticality Safety depends on the strict control of these actions.

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What is Criticality?
The immediate result of a nuclear criticality accident is the production of
an uncontrolled and unpredictable radiation source that can be harmful,
even lethal, to people who are nearby.
In the workplace, nuclear criticality accidents last from a fraction of a
second up to several minutes, but may persist for much longer times,

depending upon the specific conditions.


A nuclear criticality accident itself provides various mechanisms that tend
to terminate the accident, and workplace personnel can also take actions
to terminate persistent accidents.
One accident that occurred in an experimental facility persisted for over
six days before it was terminated by facility personnel.
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Neutron Balance
Neutrons emitted in the fission reaction (uranium 235, plutonium 239,
plutonium 241, etc.), after diffusion into the material, have three possible
fates:
to be absorbed by fissile nuclides and cause new fissions (can be qualified as
fissile capture);
to be absorbed by nuclides and "stay" in the nuclide, which then changes its

atomic number. In some cases, this reaction may lead to the production of a
fissile nuclide, as in the case of uranium 238, which - following several nuclear
reactions - is transformed into plutonium 239 (this is qualified as fertile
capture). In most cases, the reaction leads to the production of a non-fissile

nuclide: for example, boron 10 (20% of natural boron) which is transformed


into boron 11 (this is described as sterile capture);
to escape from the concerned system (neutron leakage), for example from the
tank containing the fissile solution.
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Neutron Balance

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Neutron Balance
This production of neutrons, if it is not offset by a sufficient loss (by fertile or sterile

captures and/or leakage) leads to an exponential increase in the number of


neutrons and to a criticality accident.
This balance is expressed by the neutrons effective multiplication factor (usually
denoted by keff), which indicates the factor by which the number of fissions is

multiplied from one generation of neutrons to the next one.

=
= +

where N is the number of "neutrons fathers" (generation n-1) having disappeared by

absorption or leakage and giving birth to N "neutrons sons"(generation n).

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Neutron Balance
If keff < 1 (Production < Absorption + Leakage), the configuration is sub-

critical; this is the wanted safe state for nuclear facilities (excluding
reactors).
If keff = 1 (Production = Absorption + Leakage), the configuration is
critical; this is the equilibrium state encountered in a nuclear reactor
(controlled reaction), which must not be reached in other nuclear facilities.
If keff > 1 (Production > Absorption + Leakage), the configuration is
supercritical; this state corresponds to a criticality accident.

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Neutron Balance
This neutron balance depends both on the characteristics of the fissile
medium (in particular the physico-chemical nature and its isotopic
composition which determine the fissile and fertile captures) and on the
geometry of the medium (which determines the proportion of neutrons
able to escape).
For example, for uranium, the limits depend on the content of isotope
235.
Thus, the minimum mass in a spherical shape that could lead to a
criticality accident (under conditions favorable to the reaction) is 0.87 kg
for highly-enriched uranium (93.5%

235U),

5.2 kg for an enrichment of

20%, and 48 kg for an enrichment of 4%.


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Criticality Preventive Actions


the nuclear criticality risks are mastered by preventive provisions
implemented to control the configurations in which the fissile materials
are placed.
These provisions are expressed in practice by operational constraints
which, for example, consist of limiting the quantities of handled materials,

the dimensions of the equipment containing fissile materials, and/or the


concentrations of fissile materials in liquid media or by employing special
materials known as neutron absorbers (or poisons).
Depending on the particular nature of facilities, criticality detection and
alarm systems may be installed to enable the prompt evacuation of
personnel.
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Criticality Preventive Actions


However, these systems are triggered only after the initiation of a chain
reaction and do not prevent the emission of the radiation associated with
the first moments of the accident (which may lead to lethal doses for
nearby operators).

On the other hand, the consequences for the environment of such an


accident are limited in range.
The releases of radioactive fission products comprise only a few rare gases
and very small amounts of iodine.
Furthermore, the radiations are attenuated by walls and other radiation
protection shields, and decrease when distance increases.

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Rapid Response
Implicit to the evaluated need for a nuclear criticality accident alarm
system is the requirement for the implementation of emergency
preparedness and response plans.
In consideration of such a need, ISO 11320:2011, Nuclear criticality
safety Emergency preparedness and response, was developed.

The new standard is designed to mitigate a nuclear criticality accidents


impact on human health and safety, quality of life, property and the
environment.
It was developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 85, Nuclear energy,

nuclear technologies, and radiological protection.


Various ISO standards exist and are developing to assist facility NCS
programs in the prevention of nuclear criticality accidents.
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Rapid Response
The emergency preparedness and response plan is required to minimize
the consequences due to a nuclear criticality accident.
ISO 11320 therefore specifies the responsibilities of organizational
management, technical staff and individuals to that end.
It further requires that an evaluation of credible criticality accident

locations and characteristics be considered for establishing accident alarm


locations, immediate evacuation zones and emergency evacuation paths.
This will help personnel to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure when
exiting to predetermined emergency assembly stations.

If a nuclear criticality accident occurs at a nuclear facility, it is essential to


respond quickly, and even more important to have prepared an
emergency response.
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Rapid Response
ISO 11320 provides criteria for establishing and implementing actions
that will effectively mitigate a potential accidents consequences for
human health and safety, quality of life, property and the environment.
Such emergency preparedness and response plans can also mitigate
unnecessary public angst about the hazard and its limited impacts on

operating personnel, facilities, the public and the environment in the rare
event of a nuclear criticality accident.

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Criticality Control in the PUREX Process


Factors that affect criticality safety:
Fissile nuclide (233U,

235U

and

239Pu)

Fraction of fertile nuclide diluting fissile nuclide (238U, 232Th or

240Pu)

Mass of fissile nuclide


Concentration of fissile nuclide
Geometry
Volume
Neutron moderators
Neutron reflectors
Neutron absorbers
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Criticality Control in the PUREX Process


The preferred method of criticality control are engineered controls,
such as limiting geometry to be criticality safe under any credible
conditions
This often leads to conservative assumptions for credible conditions and
adds to cost and complexity of the process
Limits equipment size and process throughput

Administrative controls have greater operational complexity


(procedures, standards, etc.), but offer greater design flexibility
and throughput
Typically, administrative controls require a double parameter failure for
a criticality to occur (no one-single control failure would cause a
criticality)
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11 May 2015

Criticality Control in the PUREX Process


ANSI/ANS-8.1 (American National Standards Institute) states in
paragraph 4.2.2
Double Contingency Principle. Process designs should incorporate
sufficient factors of safety to require at least two unlikely, independent,

and concurrent changes in process conditions before a criticality


accident is possible.

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11 May 2015

Criticality Control in the PUREX Process


Based on this double contingency principle, the normal case and each of the
contingencies considered one at a time must be determined to be
subcritical to establish the safety of the operation.
The method that is best used to establish this subcriticality depends on the
complexity of the parametric case.

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Criticality Control in the PUREX Process


The simplest, least complex way of establishing subcriticality is to use single
parameter limits parameters from ANSI/ANS-8.1 tables or figures. (See
example in the Tables next for aqueous solutions and metal units, respectively.)
The values in these tables represent the limiting critical values for individual
parameters, with the other parameters assumed to be at their worst possible
values for single units (including interaction with other fissile materials that is
bounded by complete water reflection.) Also covered by data in the ANSI/ANS-

8.1 standard are simple double-limit parameters, expressed as a curve.


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Categorization of operations with fissionable


materials
Exempted quantity of fissionable materials
An exempted quantity of fissionable materials in the licensed site is defined
as an inventory of fissionable materials, as follows:
1. less than 100 g of 233U, or 235U, or 239Pu, or of any combination of these
three isotopes in fissionable material combined in any proportion; or
2. an unlimited quantity of natural or depleted uranium or natural
thorium, if no other fissionable material nor significant quantities of
graphite, heavy water, beryllium, or other moderators more effective
than light water are allowed in the licensed site; or
3. less than 200 kg in total of natural or depleted uranium or natural
thorium if some other fissionable materials are present in the licensed
site, but the total amount of fissile nuclides in those fissionable
materials is less than 100 g
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Categorization of operations with fissionable


materials
Small quantity of fissionable materials
A small quantity of fissionable materials in the licensed site is defined as
an inventory of fissionable materials, which:
1. exceeds the exempt limits listed in the previous slide; but
2. does not exceed the following limits:
500 g of 233U, or 700 g of 235U, or 450 g of 239Pu, or 450 g of any
combination of these three isotopes. These limits apply to
operations with plutonium, 233U, or uranium enriched in 233U or 235U.
These limits do not apply if significant quantities of graphite, heavy
water, beryllium, or other moderators more effective than light
water are present; or
80% of the appropriate smallest critical mass

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Categorization of operations with fissionable


materials
Large quantity of fissionable materials
A large quantity of fissionable materials in the licensed site is defined as

an inventory of fissionable materials that exceeds the limits listed in the


previous slide.

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Domain of nuclear criticality safety standards


for non-reactor nuclear facilities

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Criticality Control in the PUREX Process


Table C-1a: Single-parameter subcritical limits for uniform aqueous
solutions of fissile nuclides
Parameter

233U

235U

239Pu

Mass of fissile material, g

550

760

510

Solution cylindrical diameter, cm

11.5

13.9

15.7

Solution slab thickness, cm

3.0

4.6

5.8

Solution volume, L

3.5

5.8

7.7

Concentration of fissile nuclide, g/L

10.8

11.5

7.0

Areal density of fissile nuclide, g/cm2

0.35

0.4

0.25

Uranium enrichment wt%

500

235U

Dr. Muhammad Shafiq Siraj

1.0 %

11 May 2015

Single-Parameter Limits for Uniform Aqueous


Solutions of Fissile Nuclides
Table C-1b: Single-parameter subcritical limits for uniform
aqueous solutions of fissile nuclides

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Aqueous mixtures
The areal densities of Table above are independent of the chemical

compound and are valid for mixtures that have density gradients, provided
the areal densities are uniform.
The subcritical mass limits for

233U, 235U, 239Pu

in mixtures that might not

be uniform are 0.50, 0.70, and 0.45 kg, respectively, and are likewise
independent of compound.

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Enrichment limits
The Table below contains

235U

enrichment limits for uranium compounds

mixed homogeneously with water with no limitations on mass or


concentration.
Table C-2:

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235U

Enrichment Limits for Uranium Mixed Homogeneously with Water

Dr. Muhammad Shafiq Siraj

11 May 2015

Metallic units
The enrichment limit for uranium and the mass limits given in the next
table apply to a single piece having no concave surfaces. They may be
extended to an assembly of pieces, provided that there is no interspersed
moderation.
The
or

233U

238U

and

235U

limits apply to mixtures of either isotope with

provided that

234U

is considered to be

233U

or

235U,

234U, 236U,

respectively, in

computing mass.
The

239Pu

limits apply to isotopic mixtures of plutonium, provided that the

concentration of
considered to be

240Pu
239Pu

exceeds that of

241Pu

and all isotopes are

in computing mass. Density limits may be adjusted

for isotopic composition.


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Metallic units

Table C-3: Single-Parameter Limits for Metal Units

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Metallic units
Table C-4: Single-Parameter Limits for Oxides Containing no more than 1.5% Water by Weight at Full Density

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Metallic units
Table C-5: Single-Parameter Limits for Oxides Containing no more than 1.5% Water by Weight at no
more than Half Density(a)

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Aqueous uranium solutions at low


enrichment

235U

Table C-6: Limits for Uniform Aqueous


Solutions of Low-Enriched Uranium

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Uniform aqueous solutions of Pu(NO3)4


containing 240Pu
Table C-7: Limits for Uniform Aqueous Solutions of Pu(NO3)4 Containing

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240Pu

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Allowable volume of solution in a vessel


packed with rings
Table C-8: Maximum Permissible Concentrations1 of Solutions2 of Fissile Materials in Vessels
of Unlimited Size Packed with Borosilicate-Glass Raschig Rings

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Subcritical limits for mixed-oxide heterogeneous systems


Table C-9: Subcritical Limits for Uniform Aqueous Mixtures of the Oxides of Pu and Nat. Uranium
(Note: All values are upper limits except atomic ratios which are lower limits.)

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Subcritical limits for mixed-oxide


heterogeneous systems
Table C-10: Subcritical Limits for Single Units of Homogeneously Mixed Oxides of Plutonium and Natural
Uranium at Low Moderation
(Note: The limits apply to combinations of plutonium isotopes provided

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>

241Pu)

11 May 2015

Subcritical limits for mixed-oxide


heterogeneous systems
Table C-11: Subcritical Concentration Limits for Plutonium in Homogeneous Mixtures of
Plutonium and Natural Uranium of Unlimited Massa
Note: These limits apply to combinations of plutonium isotopes provided

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240Pu

>

241Pu

11 May 2015

Criticality

Criticality Accidents in the World in Reprocessing Plants

06 Feb 2013

Criticality Accidents in Reprocessing Plants

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Criticality Accidents in Reprocessing Plants

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Criticality Accidents in Reprocessing Plants

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Chronology of process criticality accidents

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Chronology of process criticality accidents

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Criticality Accidents in Reprocessing Plants


Apart from reactors, with a few exceptions, all of the nuclear criticality
incidents have involved uranium or plutonium in the form of solutions.
Solutions can concentrate, leak, siphon, or be inadvertently transferred
from safe to non-safe geometry vessels or accumulate in non-safe
configurations.

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Criticality Accidents in Reprocessing Plants


Mayak (Russia) 1953
Procedural errors led to an unrecognized accumulation of 842 g of
plutonium (as Pu nitrate solutions) in one vessel, which became critical
and brought the vessel contents to boiling.
The operators transferred contents of another vessel to the first, ending
the reaction.

Mayak (Russia) 1957


The accident occurred in a glovebox assembly within which uranium
solution was precipitated into vessels.
An unexpectedly large amount of uranium precipitate accumulated in a
filter receiving vessel.
The operator at the glovebox observed the filter vessel bulge prior to
ejection of gas and some solution and precipitate from the vessel within
the glovebox.
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Criticality Accidents in Reprocessing Plants


Mayak (Russia) 1958
Following the criticality accident at the same facility in 1957, an apparatus
had been constructed to test criticality phenomena in fissile solutions.
A 400-liter tank on a platform was used for measurements involving
solutions; after each experiment, the tank was drained into individual 6liter containers of favorable geometry.
On this occasion, the tank contained uranyl nitrate solution (90% U-235)
and was being drained for another experiment.
After filling several 6-liter containers, operators decided to circumvent the
standard procedure to save time.
Three operators unbolted the tank and lifted it to pour directly into
containers.
The presence of the operators provided sufficient neutron reflection to
cause a criticality excursion, producing a flash of light and ejecting
solution as high as the ceiling, 5 meters above the tank.
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Criticality Accidents in Reprocessing Plants


Oak Ridge (USA) 1958
A leak in a tank containing uranyl nitrate solution (93% U-235) was
discovered on 15 June; the leak was not properly logged.
The following day other tanks were being drained into a 55-gallon drum;
uranium solution from the leaking tank also entered the drum.
The operator nearest the drum noticed yellow-brown fumes rising from
the drum's contents; he retreated before seeing a blue flash as the
criticality excursion occurred.
Excursion power output rose for at least 3 minutes, then ended after 20
minutes.

Idaho (USA) 1959


Air sparging cylinders containing highly enriched uranyl nitrate solution
initiated a siphon that transferred 200 L of solution to a 5000 gallon tank
containing about 600 liters of water.
The resulting criticality lasted about 20 minutes.
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Criticality Accidents in Reprocessing Plants


Idaho (USA) 1961
Operators were attempting to clear a plugged line with air, which entered
the evaporator, forcing the solution upward.
40 L of 200 g/L uranyl nitrate solution was forced up from a 5 in diameter
section of an evaporator into a 24 in diameter disengagement cylinder,
well above normal solution level.

Hanford (USA) 1962


Plutonium solution was spilled onto the floor of a solvent extraction hood.

Improper operation of valves allowed a mixture of plutonium solutions in


a tank that became supercritical.
The excursion continued at low power levels for 37.5 hours, during which
a remotely controlled robot was used to check conditions and operate
valves.

Criticality was probably terminated by precipitation of plutonium in the


tank to a non-critical state.
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Criticality Accidents in Reprocessing Plants


Mayak (Russia) 1968
Solutions of plutonium were being transferred from a large tank into a
stainless steel vessel using a glass bottle.
While a worker was pouring a second load from the glass bottle into the
vessel, a criticality excursion occurred.

Idaho (USA) 1978


A leaking valve allowed water to dilute the scrub solution used in the first
cycle extraction process.
This leak was undetected because of a failed alarm system.
Because of the dilution, highly enriched uranium was stripped from the
organic solvent (normally would remain in solvent).
Over the course of a month, the concentration of uranium increased in
the large diameter bottom of the scrub column, resulting in a criticality.
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Criticality Accidents in Reprocessing Plants


Tokai-mura (Japan) 1999
Three operators were engaged in processes combining uranium oxide
with nitric acid to produce a uranium-containing solution for shipment.
The uranium involved was 18.8% U-235.
The procedure which was used deviated from that licensed to the facility.

In particular the uranium solution was being placed in a precipitation tank


for dispensing into shipment containers, not the more narrow vessel
(geometrically favorable to minimizing criticality risks) prescribed by
license.
While two workers were adding a seventh batch of uranium solution to
the tank, a criticality excursion occurred.

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Major industrial accidents in Reprocessing


Plants
Red Oil
Created by decomposition of TBP by nitric acid, under elevated
temperature.
Influenced by presences of heavy metal (U or Pu), which causes
higher organic solubility in aqueous solution and increases the
density of the organic solution.
Decomposition of TBP is a function of nitric acid concentration and
temperature.
Primary concern is in evaporators that concentrate heavy metals in the
product
Red oil reactions can be very energetic, and have resulted in large
explosions at reprocessing facilities
Typical safety measures include diluent washes or steam stripping of
aqueous product streams to remove trace amounts of TBP before
evaporation or denitration.
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Controls to avoid Red Oil accidents


How to avoid red oil in reprocessing facilities?
Temperature control
Maintain solutions at less than 130 C at all times
Pressure control
Adequate ventilation to avoid buildup of explosive gases
Mass control

Minimize or eliminate organics (TBP) from aqueous streams


Decanters, diluent washes, etc.
Concentration control
< 10 M HNO3

With solutions of uranyl nitrate, boiling temperature and density must


be monitored
Multiple methods need to be employed so that no single parameter failure
can lead to red oil formation
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Other Major Accidents in Reprocessing


Facilities
Mayak (Russia) 1957
Liquid high-level waste was stored in underground tanks.
The high level waste, coming from the B plant, contained sodium nitrate
and acetate salts, from the acetate precipitation process.
Cooling system in one of the tanks failed, and the temperature in the tank
rose to 350 C.
The tank contents evaporated to dryness, causing a massive explosion
(estimated to be equivalent to 75 tons of TNT).
Over 20 MCi of radioactivity were released to the environment.

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Other Major Accidents in Reprocessing


Facilities
Tokai-mura (Japan) 1997
A fire occurred in the bitumen waste facility of the demonstration
reprocessing plant at Tokai-mura (bitumen is used to solidify
intermediate-level activity liquid radioactive waste).
The fire apparently occurred after errors were made in monitoring a
chemical reaction.
The fire was not completely extinguished and about ten hours later, after
chemicals had accumulated, an explosion occurred which ruptured the
confinement of the facility.

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Other Major Accidents in Reprocessing


Facilities
Hanford (USA) 1997
Hydroxylamine* nitrate and nitric acid were stored in a tank and allowed
to evaporate to dryness.
The resulting explosion destroyed the tank and blew a hole in the roof of
the building.
*Hydroxylamine is a reagent used to reduce Pu valance from (IV) to (III).

THORP (Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant, Sellafield, UK) 2005


A pipe failure resulted in about 83,000 L of highly radioactive dissolver
solution leaking into the stainless-steel lined feed clarification of the
THORP facility.
This solution contained uranium and plutonium.

The leak went undetected for months before being discovered.


No injuries or exposure to radiation.
The plant is still shutdown in 2008.
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Recent modifications to the PUREX Process


Industrial reprocessing firms have a high degree of confidence in the PUREX
process, however, the PUREX process has been the subject of criticism for
the past 30 years related to the separation of a pure plutonium stream.
Recall that the PUREX process co-extracts both uranium and plutonium,
then partitions them into separate streams.
Modifications to the PUREX process have recently been proposed and
developed that leave a small fraction of the uranium with the plutonium,
producing a mixed product for production of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel
These modified processes have been called COEXTM, NUEX or UREX+3 and
are all based on modified PUREX chemistry.
Calling these processes co-extraction to differentiate them from PUREX is
misleading because the PUREX process also co-extracts U and Pu.
532

Dr. Muhammad Shafiq Siraj

11 May 2015

Recent modifications to the PUREX Process


Each specific process has its own proprietary methods of stripping
plutonium from the solvent, with a fraction of uranium.
In the PUREX process, the nitric acid concentration in the second scrub is
kept higher than ~0.5 M to keep the uranium in the organic solvent, while
the plutonium is reduced to the trivalent state and partitions to the aqueous
phase.
In the modified process, the acid concentration in the second scrub stream
is maintained at a controlled value (typically lower than 0.5 M) to allow a
small amount (~1%) of the uranium to partition to the aqueous stream

along with the plutonium (III).


After the Pu and small fraction of U are removed in the second scrub
stream, U is stripped from the solvent by using dilute (0.01 M) nitric acid.
533

Dr. Muhammad Shafiq Siraj

11 May 2015

Recent modifications to the PUREX Process

Simplified flowsheet for U and U/Pu products


534

Dr. Muhammad Shafiq Siraj

11 May 2015