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Quantifying Tc-99 Contamination in a Fuel Fabrication Plant

[+] Author Affiliations
Carol Darbyshire

Westinghouse Springfields Fuels Ltd., Preston, UK

Pete Burgess

Nuvia Ltd., Didcot, UK

Paper No. ICEM2011-59024, pp. 203-206; 4 pages
doi:10.1115/ICEM2011-59024
From:
  • ASME 2011 14th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management
  • ASME 2011 14th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, Parts A and B
  • Reims, France, September 25–29, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division and Environmental Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5498-3
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME

abstract

The Springfields facility manufactures nuclear fuel products for the UK’s nuclear power stations and for international customers. Fuel manufacture is scheduled to continue into the future. In addition to fuel manufacture, Springfields is also undertaking decommissioning activities. Today it is run and operated by Springfields Fuels Limited, under the management of Westinghouse Electric UK Limited. The site has been operating since 1946 manufacturing nuclear fuel. As part of the decommissioning activities, there was a need was to quantify contamination in a large redundant building. This building had been used to process uranium derived from uranium ore concentrate but had also processed a limited quantity of recycled uranium. The major non-uranic contaminant was Tc-99. The aim was to be able to identify any areas where the bulk activity exceeded 0.4 Bq/g Tc-99 as this would preclude the demolition rubble being sent to the local disposal facility. The problems associated with this project were the presence of significant uranium contamination, the realisation that both the Tc-99 and the uranium had diffused into the brickwork to a significant depth and the relatively low beta energy of Tc-99. The uranium was accompanied by Pa-234m, an energetic beta emitter. The concentration/depth profile was determined for several areas on the plant for Tc-99 and for uranium. The radiochemical analysis was performed locally but the performance of the local laboratory was checked during the initial investigation by splitting samples three ways and having confirmation analyses performed by 2 other laboratories. The results showed surprisingly consistent concentration gradients for Tc-99 and for uranium across the samples. Using that information, the instrument response was calculated for Tc-99 using the observed diffusion gradient and averaged through the full 225 mm of brick wall, as agreed by the regulator. The Tc-99 and uranium contributions to the detector signal were separated using a simple absorber, which essentially eliminated the Tc-99 count rate and reduced the uranium contribution only marginally. The outcome of the project was that it was possible to demonstrate that the complete building met the criterion for acceptance at the local waste facility.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME

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