Incineration of dry low level radioactive waste from nuclear stations is a well established process achieving high volume reduction factors to minimise disposal costs and to stabilise residues for disposal. Incineration has also been applied successfully in many European Union member countries to wastes arising from use of radionuclides in medicine, non-nuclear research and industry. However, some nations have preferred to accumulate wastes over many years in decay stores to reduce the radioactive burden at point of processing. After decay and sorting the waste, they then require a safe, industrial scale and affordable processing solution for the large volumes accumulated. This paper reports the regulatory, logistical and technical issues encountered in a programme delivered for Eckert & Ziegler Nuclitec to incinerate safely 100te of waste collected originally from German research, hospital and industrial centres, applying for the first time a “burn and return” process model for European waste in the US.
The EnergySolutions incinerators at Bear Creek, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA routinely incinerate waste arising from the non-nuclear user community. To address the requirement from Germany, EnergySolutions had to run a dedicated campaign to reduce cross-contamination with non-German radionuclides to the practical minimum. The waste itself had to be sampled in a carefully controlled programme to ensure the exacting standards of Bear Creek’s license and US emissions laws were maintained. Innovation was required in packaging of the waste to minimise transportation costs, including sea freight. The incineration was inspected on behalf of the German regulator (the BfS) to ensure suitability for return to Germany and disposal. This first “burn and return” programme has safely completed the incineration phase in February and the arising ash will be returned to Germany presently.
The paper reports the main findings and lessons learned on this first of its kind project.