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NDA Team investigate U.S. Low Level Waste disposal methods
13 January 2006
A team of five staff from across the NDA visited the US in November 2005 to investigate decommissioning and Low Level Waste disposal methods. The NDA staff were:
- Steve Dixon, Commercial Contract Manager
- Jo Fisher, LLW Strategy Manager
- Amy Gill, LLWR Drigg Programme Controls Manager
- Lesley Sewell, LLWR Drigg Commercial Manager
- Dave Weatherburn, LLWR Drigg Site Programme Manager
- Bear Creek Waste Treatment Facility at Oakridge, Tennessee
- Commercial Radioactive Waste Disposal facility run by Envirocare in Utah
- Low level Waste disposal site in Hanford, Washington
- LLW disposal facility operated by Chem-Nuclear Systems in Barnwell, South Carolina
Low Level Waste Team US Visit November 2005 Report (pdf, 211kb) - See Also
The US is probably some 15-20 years ahead of the UK in some aspects of decommissioning and in handling high volumes of solid Low Level Waste.
The main purpose of the trip was to investigate how US contractors and the Department of Energy deal with the task of Low Level Waste treatment and disposal and to incorporate this key learning into the forthcoming Invitation to Tender documentation for the Low Level Waste Repository site at Drigg which is scheduled to be competed in summer 2006.
The sites visited experience different geological and climatic conditions and, although no single solution could be adopted to meet the UK LLW requirement, the information gained from all of the sites will help the NDA and the industry here to develop a tailor-made UK solution. One of the primary aims is to reduce the cost of Drigg Low Level Waste disposal.
The group has recommended that the key points arising from the visit should be set as targets to be realised for future Low Level Waste operations in the UK.
They found one of the most notable differences between the UK and US operations was the production line type operations. They found working practices in the US showed mature ways of working in high volume environments.
On top of this they found that, unlike in the UK, a real emphasis was placed on physical work and not on the enabling paperwork. Focussed effort is required to change practices here, although the local situation reflects a business and regulatory environment which is changing from construction and operational activities to decommissioning.
The US sites demonstrated proven low and high tech solutions deployed in a variety of climatic environments. The team found that commercial focus within the operators, without degradation of safety standards, drove fit-for-purpose solutions and they hope this can be applied to the UK market.
The visitors noted that many of the concepts identified in the NDA’s draft Strategy were commonplace working practices on the US sites. This included waste minimisation techniques, incineration and metal smelting. Notably the US companies identify and apply innovation at both a corporate and an individual level.
The US companies also provide significant community benefit through various socio economic activities within rules set out in clear frameworks and guidelines. This covered things such as good neighbour initiatives, community support programmes, and job creation, which the team felt demonstrated exemplary stakeholder relations.
The team were most impressed with the fit-for-purpose facilities they saw. They found no evidence of over engineering. For example, a vehicle maintenance workshop at ERDF Hanford was simply a temporary modular construction tent.
They also found evidence of robust contract structures and that the Department of Energy was careful in striking a balance between achieving high level outputs without placing undue burden on Tier 2 and 3 sub-contracting procedures. The emphasis was on incentivisation to encourage sustained performance across key areas of work with a clear focus on delivered “end points”.
The team now intends to present their findings to all those with a vested interest in Low Level Waste. This will include publicising it through within Invitation to Tender documentation. They intend to use their findings to challenge current practices both at a local and national level.
The team will play an instrumental role in the development of a robust and cohesive Low Level Waste strategy, including a “Driggcentric” strategy. This will allow for production line type operations to be introduced and to create a real work focus, reducing paperwork while maintaining safety levels. They will also seek to adapt the US models for introducing innovation to
- drive down costs
- develop and maintain exemplary stakeholder relations
- build fit-for-purpose facilities
- create robust contract structures
- incentivise consignees to reduce volume of waste
- initiating additional waste segregation/categorisation
- focus on tracking and forecasting