NRC renews operating licence for Westinghouse fuel fabrication facility

16 September 2022

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a renewed operating licence for Westinghouse Electric Co’s Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility in Hopkins, South Carolina. The renewed licence authorises the facility to continue operations until 12 September 2062.

The Columbia facility produces nuclear fuel for use in commercial nuclear power reactors. The licence was issued by the Atomic Energy Commission in 1969 and was last renewed by the NRC in 2007.

Renewal follows completion of the NRC staff’s safety and environmental reviews of the application. The final environmental impact statement was published on 29 July, cataloguing “small” impacts on most resources, and “small to moderate” impacts on groundwater and waste generation during decommissioning. The final safety evaluation report was published is available through the NRC’s webpage on the Westinghouse facility.

The NRC safety review concluded that the company’s programmes are adequate to ensure safe operation of the facility for the 40-year period. The staff did not identify safety risks or new processes or technologies that might introduce new safety concerns. The staff also considered the company’s safety performance and efforts to mitigate onsite contamination, with oversight by South Carolina, before renewing the licence.

In 2017, NRC had issued a confirmatory order to Westinghouse after the discovery in May 2016 of accumulated uranium-bearing material at the Facility. NRC said it would not issue a civil penalty or cite the company for violations because of the commitments Westinghouse had made under the order. These included a number of corrective actions, such as a survey of the safety culture among employees, improvements and modifications to minimise the likelihood of a similar accumulation, and development of additional methods to provide early indications of abnormal accumulations.

Image: Westinghouse Electric Co’s Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility in Hopkins, South Carolina (courtesy of Westinghouse)

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