United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 92-11: Soil and Water Contamination at Fuel Cycle Facilities

                                UNITED STATES
                        NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
              OFFICE OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL SAFETY AND SAFEGUARDS
                          WASHINGTON, D.C.  20555 

                              February 5, 1992 


NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 92-11:  SOIL AND WATER CONTAMINATION AT FUEL 
                               CYCLE FACILITIES


Addressees 

All uranium fuel fabrication and conversion facilities. 

Purpose 

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this information 
notice to inform uranium fuel fabrication and conversion facilities of 
recent problems with solutions of uranium and other chemicals contaminating 
the soil and ground water.  It is expected that recipients will review the 
information for applicability to their facilities and consider actions, as 
appropriate, to avoid similar problems.  However, suggestions contained in 
this information notice are not new NRC requirements; therefore, no specific 
action or written response is required. 

Description of Circumstances 

In August 1990, uranium-contaminated soil and water were noted during 
excavation work near the solvent-extraction building at a fuel-conversion 
facility.  Further investigation determined that the floor and sump of the 
solvent-extraction building were damaged, and solutions containing uranium 
and chemical contaminants had leaked through the damaged floor and sump.  As 
a result of these findings, NRC issued an Order Modifying License, in which 
the licensee was required to:  (1) repair and ensure the integrity of the 
floor and sump; (2) characterize and quantify the contaminants under the 
building; (3) identify potential migration pathways; (4) examine present and 
past monitoring-well data for evidence of contaminants; (5) determine 
whether contaminants had been released beyond the restricted area; and (6) 
develop a plan to identify and characterize other locations where past or 
present operations could have resulted in contaminating the environment. 

In November 1991, uranium and chemical contaminants were reported below the 
main process building at a fuel-fabrication facility.  After a spill of 
approximately 200 gallons of nitric acid, the licensee noted damage to the 
floor and determined that uranium and other chemical contaminants were in 
the soil and surficial water aquifer.  Presently, the licensee has removed 
soil from an area of about 8 feet by 30 feet by 5 feet deep.  In addition, 
the licensee has installed a dewatering system at the interface between the 
permeable and impermeable soil layers.  Because of the geological formation, 
the contaminants are not expected to have penetrated the impermeable soil 


9201310062 
.

                                                            IN 92-11 
                                                            February 5, 1992
                                                            Page 2 of 2 


layer.  Because of this problem, the licensee has placed a portion of its 
operations on standby.  

In December 1991, at another fuel-fabrication facility, 5300 gallons of 
liquid waste containing uranium and an ammonia compound leaked from an 
underground plastic pipe when a coupling ruptured.  This occurred during the 
transfer of the waste from an onsite storage lagoon to the municipal sewer 
system.  The incident was detected when water was observed percolating up 
from the soil in the vicinity of the discharge line.  The licensee is taking 
soil and ground-water samples to characterize and quantify the contaminants.

Discussion 

The events described in this information notice emphasize the need for 
uranium fuel-fabrication and conversion facilities to examine their floors, 
sumps, and underground pipes, to prevent solutions containing uranium and 
other chemical contaminants from leaking into and contaminating the soil and 
water.  In addition, operating practices should be reviewed to ensure that 
the potential for leaks and spills is minimized. 

This information notice requires no specific action or written response.  If 
you have any questions about the information in this notice, please contact 
one of the technical contacts listed below, or the appropriate NRC regional 
office. 




                                   Richard E. Cunningham, Director
                                   Division of Industrial and 
                                     Medical Nuclear Safety 
                                   Office of Nuclear Material Safety 
                                     and Safeguards

Technical contacts:  Edwin D. Flack, NMSS
                     (301) 504-2405 

                     George Bidinger, NMSS
                     (301) 504-2683 

Attachments:
1.  List of Recently Issued NMSS Information Notices
2.  List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices

.
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, November 12, 2013