Westinghouse News in the Columbia Community

This page will be updated with News for the Westinghouse Columbia Fuel Plant and Columbia Community.

CFFF Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

CFFF Emergency Response Team is Proud to Support our Neighbors in Times of Need

Our CFFF emergency response organization supports the site 24/7. Because our plant is in a relatively remote area, we have the capability to respond at any time to almost any emergency that could occur on-site. On occasion, we have the opportunity to help our neighbors.

Recently, our CFFF emergency response team reacted to a serious two-car accident on Bluff Road near Columbia’s entrance.

On Wednesday, July 11, 2023, at approximately 2 a.m. ET, a male driver rammed the back of a woman’s car traveling east on Bluff Road. His car skidded and burst into flames, while the woman’s car rolled three times, landing in the nearby brush, narrowly missing a power pole. Miraculously, both individuals survived.

Our site’s security team got to the accident location and spoke with the female driver, who had been injured, before our on-site nurse arrived and provided care until EMS transported her to the hospital. The CFFF fire brigade put out the fire in about 15 minutes, starting to spray water before the Columbia Fire Department could reach the accident site and continuing support when local responders were on the scene. Police arrested and charged the male driver involved with DUI.

This follows another incident earlier in the year when our site approved a request from Richland County to land a helicopter in our hay field to respond to a nearby, significant car accident. This action saved Richland County first responders at least 20 minutes in emergency response for the injured individual.

It is always a privilege to be able to help the community, and we thank our brigade, medical and security staff for their selfless act of service in these situations.

Our CFFF Receives Nuclear Materials Management and Safeguards System Award for Fourth Consecutive Year

We’re pleased to share that our Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) has received the Excellence in Nuclear Materials Management and Safeguards System (NMMSS) Reporting Award on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its exceptional quality and high standards in reporting material transactions and inventory to the NMMSS program during the 2021 calendar year.

This marks the fourth year in a row that the site has received this national industry recognition.

A special thank you goes to our Material Control & Accountability (MC&A) team at our CFFF – Jeffrey Coleman, Ellis Gamble, Michael Shipman and Eris Speights – for maintaining a best in industry error rate in reporting year after year.

The NMMSS is the U.S. government’s official program to track movements, uses and inventories of U.S. nuclear materials. Our CFFF MC&A team plays a critical role in our operations, accountability and safety by reporting this information.

The NMMSS provides mission-critical data analytics, products, and services to inform and advance U.S. government policies and nuclear material accountancy related to domestic and international safeguards, nonproliferation, national security and global commerce for peaceful uses of nuclear material. It also fulfills the U.S. nuclear material reporting commitments to the international community, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, among other agreements.

Congratulations to our CFFF MC&A team on this achievement and for their commitment to excellence!

Cameco and Brookfield Renewable Form Strategic Partnership to Acquire Westinghouse Electric Company

Reinforces Westinghouse Leadership in Global Clean Energy and Energy Security Transition

Cranberry Township, PA, October 11, 2022 – As announced earlier today, a consortium comprised of Cameco (NYSE: CCJ; TSX: CCO) and Brookfield Renewable (NYSE: BEP; TSX: BEP.UN, BEPC), together with its institutional partners, has signed an agreement to acquire Westinghouse Electric Company from Brookfield Business Partners (BBU).

This transaction brings Westinghouse’s best-in-class clean power technologies under Brookfield Renewable’s cutting-edge hydroelectric, wind, solar, energy storage and distributed generation portfolio, and alongside Cameco’s expertise in front-end uranium fuel capabilities. This will further strengthen Westinghouse’s presence in nuclear technology globally and provide a long-term path for the company’s strategic growth to the benefit of customers.

“This is the start of an exciting new chapter for the Westinghouse team and for nuclear power,” says Patrick Fragman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Westinghouse. “We are grateful to BBU for its stewardship and investments that have strengthened Westinghouse’s position in the nuclear power industry, and more broadly in the clean power world, for the long-term. Now we are proud to join Brookfield Renewable and Cameco, reaffirming the important role played by Westinghouse and nuclear power in enabling the world’s clean energy transition and energy security goals.”

After giving effect to the transaction, Brookfield Renewable and other affiliates of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. will own a 51 percent interest in Westinghouse and Cameco will own 49 percent. Brookfield Renewable is pursuing this opportunity through the Brookfield Global Transition Fund I (“BGTF I”), which is the largest fund in the world focused on the clean energy transition.

The acquisition of Westinghouse is expected to close in the second half of 2023, subject to customary closing conditions and approvals.

Looking to 2062: Westinghouse Continues Fuel Production in South Carolina

Company receives 40-year license renewal from Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Sept. 12, 2022 – Westinghouse Electric Company received confirmation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that its Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) operating license is renewed for an additional 40 years. The license extends Westinghouse’s operations at the Richland County facility until 2062.

“We are very pleased with NRC’s renewal of our license for an additional 40 years,” says Patrick Fragman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Westinghouse. “The Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility plays a vital role in fueling the global operating nuclear fleet while also assuring United States energy independence. Looking to the future, we are proud to continue generating safe, clean and sustainable energy in South Carolina as a flagship facility in our global nuclear fuel portfolio.”

The Westinghouse facility in Hopkins, S.C., manufactures fuel rods used in commercial reactors to generate electricity. Ten percent of the nation’s electricity comes from the nuclear fuel manufactured by more than 850 employees at the site.

In recent years, Westinghouse has made substantial investments in the CFFF to improve operations, infrastructure, maintenance, environmental, and safety standards throughout the facility. Westinghouse remains committed to continue investing in facility enhancements as well as in its ongoing engagement with the local community.

Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) No Impact Event Notification Made to NRC

August 29, 2022 - On August 23, 2022, at approx. 2:30 p.m., a low voltage (110 Volts) electrical cable short caused a circuit breaker to trip, causing a loss of power to the Criticality Accident Alarm System (CAAS) Stations 18 & 19 at the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF). Stations 18 and 19 are two of the criticality monitoring detectors that are part of the overall CFFF criticality monitoring system. This system is designed to provide an audible and visual indication of high radiation levels that could result from a criticality event. Per system design requirements, upon the loss of power to these detectors, a signal was received at the manned guard station providing both visual indication and an audible alarm that Stations 18 and 19 were disabled.

Notifications and actions were performed in accordance with internal response procedures. It was determined that as a result of the loss of the two impacted stations, the area of lost coverage was limited to part of the outdoor UF6 cylinder storage pad. No personnel were in the affected area at the time, as such there was no movement of special nuclear material in progress.

Power was restored to the circuit at approximately 3:40 p.m., and CAAS detectors 18 and 19 were placed back in operation at approximately 4:00 p.m. Operations were cleared to resume. A reportability evaluation was performed and determined redundant equipment was available and operable to perform the safety function of the out-of-service detectors; therefore, the issue was not reportable.

On August 25, 2022, at 9:19 a.m., a follow-up investigation and extent of condition review by site engineering personnel identified that the ground fault caused the loss of some audible and visual alarm equipment for the CAAS in other external areas of the plant beyond the outdoor UF6 cylinder area. Per existing procedures, upon loss of audible alarms for the CAAS without backup alarm capability, all special nuclear material movement is required to be secured within one hour. These additional horns/visual alarms were out of service for ~90 minutes. This was not recognized on August 23.

A 24-hour NRC Event Notification was made in accordance with 10 CFR 70.50 (b)(2) due to the criticality horns being inoperable for approximately 30 minutes outside the window allowed by the license without stopping special nuclear material movement and with no redundant equipment available and operable.

The NRC Region II project inspector for CFFF received a courtesy notification on the event and indicated that a follow-up on the event will occur during a future routine inspection. This week, the event report is expected to be publicly available on the NRC and CFFF web page.

NRC Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility

JULY 29, 2022 – The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has published its final environmental impact statement (FEIS) associated with the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) license renewal application. As part of the agency’s process, the NRC also has filed the FEIS with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the License Renewal of the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility in Richland County can be found here.

The FEIS includes the NRC’s independent assessment of environmental impacts related to continued operation of the CFFF. The renewal recommendation is based on a variety of factors including the license application, supplemental information provided by Westinghouse, consultation with federal, state, tribal and local agencies, as well as input from the public and others. We are proud of the positive impact that the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility has maintained for more than 50 years, and we remain committed to the safety of our employees and our local community. We are pleased with the NRC’s recommendation to renew the facility’s license for another 40 years and look forward to the agency’s final licensing decision for our plant later this year.

After receiving the FEIS, the EPA will publish a separate Notice of Availability (NOA) in the Federal Register (FR) on August 5. In accordance with Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations section 51.100(a)(1)(ii), the NRC is required to wait 30 days after EPA’s NOA is published before it can make a final licensing decision. We anticipate that the NRC will publish its Record of Decision on the CFFF licensing action in September.

Westinghouse reaches agreement with EPA on stored material at the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility

Westinghouse has finalized a Consent Agreement and Final Order (Agreement) with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address an issue raised in July 2019 related to the labeling, storage, and processing of perchloroethylene (PCE) at the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF). The issue was found following inspections by the company and the South Carolina Department of Environmental Control (SCDHEC).

The Agreement addresses the past issues regarding storage, handling and processing of PCE-containing materials which resulted in the payment of a civil penalty. The Agreement also approves an innovative method Westinghouse designed to complete onsite processing of legacy PCE materials. In November 2019, the SCDHEC and EPA conducted a site inspection and found no additional deficiencies in the hazardous waste program. In April 2020, Westinghouse fully eliminated the use of new PCE.

The prompt and comprehensive actions taken to date on the PCE issue demonstrates Westinghouse’s commitment to complete transparency, a willingness to stop operations when there are regulatory compliance-related questions or concerns, and a desire to go beyond what is required by the regulations.

In recent years, Westinghouse has invested over $80 million into CFFF to improve operations, maintenance, and safety standards throughout the facility. We remain committed to protecting the health and safety of our employees, our community, and the environment. Westinghouse continues to work closely with the EPA, SCDHEC, and other agencies that regulate site operations.

CFFF Conducts another Site Emergency Training Exercise

Throughout the year, the CFFF site conducts various training exercises using multiple scenarios to plan and prepare for how we react and respond to any type of emergency situation that can occur. These training exercises are conducted with the various emergency response teams at CFFF (Emergency Response Team, Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Security Forces, and other Subject Matter Expert teams) depending on the training scenario. The training exercises often include joint participation with local, city, state, and regulatory agencies.

On Tuesday, June 7, 2022, the CFFF plant conducted a training exercise with the Richland County Bomb Squad.

The purpose of this training was to:

  • Ensure that CFFF procedures match the actions performed by Richland County’s Bomb Squad or other off-site responders coming to our site in the event of an incident.
  • Help build stronger relationships between CFFF’s response units and our local emergency responders.
  • Allow local emergency responders to train in a different environment.
  • Allow local emergency responders a chance to become more familiar with our site.
  • Allow local emergency responders to better understand the capabilities of the CFFF response teams.

Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) No Impact Event Notification Made to NRC

On May 23, 2022, at approximately 4:22 a.m., a Westinghouse employee performed a routine transfer of contents from one tank to another without testing the tank for possible uranium concentration. When the transfer occurred, the operators did not recognize that the tank contents had changed due to a tank wash process, following the last recorded tank sample result previously tested on May 18, 2022.

Subsequent sample results showed the uranium concentration was well below the required administrative Items Relied on for Safety (IROFS) limit at the time of the transfer. An active engineered control was also available to stop the transfer had the uranium content been above the administrative limit.

On May 23, 2022, at approximately 9:25 a.m., a Uranium Recovery and Recycling Services (URRS) team manager evaluated the transfer. They contacted a Westinghouse Criticality Engineer to report that the transfer had occurred without the test results required by procedure. Per our Corrective Action Program procedures, we reviewed the tank test results, performed calculations to determine risk, and discussed actions taken by the operators.

The test results determined there were no safety impacts due to the event. The tests performed on the tank contents showed the tank contents and levels met IROFS requirements at the time of the transfer. The event impacted no equipment, the plant is in a safe condition, and no safety limits were exceeded.

More importantly, there was no release or impact on the environment, the local community or to the CFFF employees. The issue was self-identified by CFFF employees and reported to the NRC as required by regulation and will result in an NRC inspection.

The tank transfer process is currently on hold, pending procedure reviews and implementation of additional safety controls.

A 24-hour event notification was made to the NRC per 10 CFR Part 70 Appendix A (b)(2), "Loss or degradation of items relied on for safety that results in failure to meet the performance requirements of 10 CFR 70.61." This week, the event report is expected to be made publicly available on the NRC web page.

Integrated QEHS Policy

We have developed a management system approach for our operations. Key to this approach is our Integrated QEHS Policy which describes the processes by which we will conduct our operations and includes the overall responsibilities for all employees.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

The draft report Is now available. This is the next step in the license review process and will be followed by a 45-day public comment period. The final EIS and license decision is expected in early 2022.

Delivery You Can Trust: Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility 2021 Highlights

While 2021 was a year defined by unpredictability and uncertainty, our Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) continued to deliver best-in-class fuel assemblies, technology and components. As one of the largest facilities of its kind in the world, our customers can be sure that CFFF will manufacture, engineer, text and ship high-quality products that enable the highest capacity factors.

Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility 2021 Highlights 

Elimination of Sealand® Storage Containers with Accountable Uranium

In May 2019, several intermodal or shipping containers were determined to be in poor condition. In total, forty-nine containers with uranium-bearing materials were identified for elimination and accelerated processing. Cleanup and elimination of these containers were done per the site Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license and our Consent Agreement (CA) with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

We entered into the CA with DHEC to comprehensively assess all potential environmental impacts and risks from current and historical operations. During the elimination project, we frequently communicated with DHEC and provided reports detailing our progress. Within 13 months and ahead of schedule, the site completed the shipping containers' emptying and disposal. Once the shipping containers were removed, soil sampling was performed, and remediation was conducted where necessary.

This work was an example of incredible teamwork among all CFFF's workgroups, which marked an essential step in risk mitigation and the site's path towards environmental excellence.

CFFF Sealands

Decommissioning of the Plating Room

In February 2019, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Westinghouse Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) entered into a Consent Agreement (CA) to comprehensively assess the source, nature, and extent of environmental impacts from current and historical operations.

Since 2019, Westinghouse has completed several projects to eliminate potential sources of environmental impact, e.g., use of perchloroethylene (PERC), storage of materials in sealand containers, removal of old and obsolete equipment on the facility roof, as well as the elimination of the nickel-plating room.

The plating room was a small space in the mechanical area operable unit part of the process where metal straps were nickel-plated. The use of the plating room required the use of various chemicals that also needed to be stored on site.

In July 2018, prior to the CA, we began outsourcing production operations for strap nickel plating to a third party that specializes in electroplating for medical, automotive, aerospace, RF & microwave, and military industries. By outsourcing the nickel-plating room operation, the environmental risk from mechanical area operations was significantly reduced.

The elimination of the plating process has improved safety, environmental, and production results.

Safety issues eliminated:

Environmental issues eliminated:

Production improvements:

The production operations in the plating room were shut down and fully decommissioned. This is just one of the many projects we are undertaking at the plant in our continued efforts to upgrade our processes as we move toward lean manufacturing. The completion of this project also reinforces our commitment to improving employee safety and becoming more environmentally sound and better stewards of our community.

Technetium (Tc-99) Report Summary

As part of its nuclear fuel production process, the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) uses Uranium (U) feedstock provided by customers in the form of Uranium-Hexafluoride (UF6) or Uranyl-Nitrate (UN). Within the feedstock, the component, Technetium (Tc-99), exists in residual quantities and is a nuclear fission product of uranium. While it occurs naturally in tiny amounts within the Earth's crust, it is primarily human-made and produced during nuclear reactor operations where uranium is irradiated with neutrons.

Tc-99 was introduced into the commercial nuclear fuel cycle in 1956 when high-enriched uranium from U.S. Government military reactors was re-processed (e.g., down-blended) into low enriched uranium fuel. Reprocessed uranium was used in the commercial nuclear fuel cycle until 1977; however, due to residual impacts, Tc-99 remains in the nuclear fuel cycle to this day.

Over the years, we have seen an indication of the potential presence of Tc-99 (elevated gross beta) in some groundwater wells near plant operations (more than .6 miles from the nearest site boundary). In 2018, CFFF began direct measurement of Tc-99 in all groundwater wells to fully characterize the impact.

The Tc-99 Source Investigation under CFFF's Consent Agreement (CA) with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) evaluated processes at the plant to determine if current operations are contributing to Tc-99 groundwater contamination. Further study concluded that the impact is not migrating offsite. In addition to existing processes, the investigation examined historical site environmental data, the Conceptual Site Model, and East Lagoon Characterization Data, which supported the conclusion that current site operations do not have the potential to introduce significant quantities of Tc-99 into the environment.

Final Interim Remedial Investigation Data Summary Report Approved by SCDHEC

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) has reviewed and approved the final interim remedial investigation (RI) data summary report related to our Consent Agreement (CA). DHEC and CFFF entered a Consent Agreement to comprehensively evaluate potential environmental impacts from current and historical operations, including an additional assessment of the known effects. The agreement abides by EPA Comprehensive Environmental Response and Liability process (CERCLA)

The remedial investigation is an iterative data-driven process and an essential first phase in the CA designed to determine the source, nature, and extent of all COPCs. We submitted Phase I of this report on July 15th, which included investigative actions performed from June 2019 through January 2020. The investigation evaluated the extent of previously identified groundwater impacts; areas of the plant operations that had not been previously assessed; potential surface water and sediment impacts; potential sources of Tc-99 soil impacts, the depths of surface water bodies and private water supply wells.

The executive summary provides several conclusions, including:

Our next stage is submitting the second phase (Phase II) of the RI work plan to SCDHEC, which will contain additional investigative measures stipulated in the CA.

The completion of Phase I puts Westinghouse one step closer to building a stronger culture by aligning our company goals and values with our operations to achieve world-class quality while operating in a safe, transparent, environmentally sound, and socially responsible manner.

Notice of Intent – Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility Environmental Impact Statement

Last month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) informed Westinghouse that it would be preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as part of its review of the license renewal request for the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF).

The EIS will examine the environmental impacts of continued plant operations, including possible mitigation alternatives, under a renewed 40-year license.

The NRC is expected to publish a notice of intent (NOI) on July 31st regarding the preparation of the EIS, opening a 30-day public comment period on the scope of the EIS.

The NRC staff will review the environmental data supplied as part of the licensing process and gather additional information as needed to support the development of a draft EIS. Then the NRC will publish the draft EIS for public comment. The NRC reviews every public comment it receives. The NRC will then respond to the comments and makes appropriate changes before publishing the final EIS.

Westinghouse views the EIS as an essential part of the public license renewal process and an opportunity to share CFFF's cultural transformation and deepen transparency and trust among our stakeholders. Throughout the process, we will provide status updates and meeting schedules to ensure you are fully apprised of any developments.

Event Notification Made to NRC Due to Personal Medical Emergency

On July 25, 2020, at approximately 11:00 a.m., a Westinghouse employee performing routine work in the pelleting area at the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) passed out due to a personal medical emergency. Site emergency first responders responded per plant procedures and training until Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel arrived. The employee was transported to an offsite medical facility accompanied by a plant health physics technician due to the potential for radioactive contamination based on the work location of the employee.

The Westinghouse team followed the established safety protocols. Through the coordination by the on-site team, Health Physicist, and medical first responders, they quickly assessed the situation and provided outstanding care. The information provided at the hospital indicates the emergency response by the Westinghouse team is a testament to our dedication to upholding safety culture standards throughout the site and community.

While at the medical facility, a full survey of the injured party was performed, and low levels of radioactive contamination were found on their hands. Decontamination was done, and all direct surveys were between 50 and 75 DPM/100 cm2, well below our free release threshold of 200 DPM/cm2. Contamination surveys were also completed on the ambulance, impacted hospital areas, equipment, and medical staff. All results were below limits, indicating no spread of contamination during the treatment of the employee. All potentially contaminated materials related to treatment or decontamination while in transit or at the medical facility were collected and returned to CFFF for disposal.

There was no release to the environment, and no process or plant equipment involved. Surveys were taken at the hospital and of all emergency response equipment and personnel, which revealed no contamination spread.

A 24-hour event notification was made to the NRC per 10CFR70.50(b)(3) regulations: An event that requires unplanned medical treatment at a medical facility of an individual with spreadable radioactive contamination on the individual’s clothing or body. The event report is expected to be made publicly available on the NRC webpage the week of July 27.

Westinghouse Responds to NRC Preparing an Environmental Impact Statement

For more than three years, Westinghouse has been executing the transformation of the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF). We have aligned our company goals and values with our operations to achieve world-class quality while operating in a safe, transparent, environmentally sound, and socially responsible manner. We have self-identified our challenges and proactively initiated engagement with regulatory bodies and the surrounding communities to resolve issues through trust, honesty, and respect. We have introduced our Environmental Excellence Plan to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and used it to implement our commitments under the Consent Agreement (CA). The CA is designed to correct legacy environmental issues and ensure remediation strategies match industry standards of excellence – because integrity is at our very core.

We are using best practices to guide our decision-making and have made significant investments in programmatic changes, equipment modifications, and upgrades. We have also greatly increased the number of sampling locations and wells to assess legacy environmental issues, to ensure we continue to protect the public health and safety. We have made substantial progress in eliminating containers that store radioactive materials and have developed plans to close and clean the East Lagoon, a former part of the wastewater treatment system located on site. We have made major headway in eliminating legacy hazards, including the storage and usage of perchloroethylene (PERC). The removal of PERC rids the site of the only remaining significant source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The next phase in our commitment to improving operations and culture is the completion of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for license renewal. The EIS will be a comprehensive review, allowing the NRC to evaluate in detail the potential environmental impacts of continued operation beyond the current license term ends in 2027—including beneficial impacts. We understand some people may feel uncertain about the potential for contamination involving uranium and VOCs. The NRC has stated that its decision is not due to a public health or safety concern. However, we respect the concerns of our stakeholders and view this as an additional opportunity to reaffirm our environmental improvements.

Our current advances do not excuse missteps from prior decades. As part of our transformation, we are focused on leaving a positive legacy in environmental performance. Excellence in environment, health, and safety performance is rooted in our improvement plans and future state strategies. We hope to earn the trust of our communities through our extensive transparency and accountability measures. Our publicly accessible website, a resource stakeholders can access at their convenience, shares information related to our environmental efforts, including data and reports sent to DHEC and NRC.

Westinghouse is working closely with DHEC, the NRC, and the community to create a positive legacy for the future, based on our core values of safety, quality, integrity, and trust.

Planned Closure of the East Lagoon

As part of our commitment to transformational change, excellent environmental stewardship and being good neighbors, the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) has developed an environmental improvement plan that is being executed in conjunction with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) Consent Agreement (CA) to actively address legacy environmental issues and reduce the future risk of environmental challenges at the site. As part of the agreement, we share weekly updates and submit monthly progress reports to SCDHEC. These reports are publicly available on SCDHEC and CFFF websites.

The initial step of this CA was the Remedial Investigation (RI), a highly in-depth study to gather data and samples needed to determine the presence and extent of contamination from historic operations at the site. We completed the first phase of the RI in 2019, then submitted an interim report containing the results on February 28, 2020. The data found no evidence of any off-site contamination.

Now we are working with SCDHEC to develop the scope of work for the investigation’s second phase. We will continue working with SCDHEC to complete the comprehensive site evaluation as part of our commitment to correct legacy environmental issues.

The CA also requires the elimination of older materials and equipment identified as obsolete due to the potential for environmental impact. Therefore, we have been diligently removing sealands that stored radioactive materials off-site and are planning to close the East Lagoon and replace it with an above-ground storage tank.

The closure of the East Lagoon is a critical part of our environmental improvement plan. The East Lagoon is located near the manufacturing building on the bluff and far from the site boundary. To date, there is no evidence that groundwater has been impacted by the Lagoon or that the Lagoon liner has failed.

The East Lagoon closure involves multiple regulatory bodies, including SCDHEC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). On Tuesday, May 12, we convened with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to discuss the submittal for Alternate Disposal under 10 CFR 20.2002. We discussed the request for NRC approval to dispose of specified low-activity radioactive material from CFFF to the US Ecology Idaho, Inc. (USEI) disposal facility in support of the closure of the East Lagoon.

This activity is to remediate on-site legacy issues from several decades ago. The request consists of disposal of the following waste:

A radiation exposure/dose evaluation was completed using NRC-approved USEI site-specific methodology. This evaluation concluded that the dose to workers and members of the public would be well below NRC limits and well within the “few mrem” criterion (equivalent to a chest x-ray) established in NRC guidance for alternate disposal requests.

During the meeting, we emphasized that this request is in support of ongoing cleanup and remediation of the CFFF site and that we are seeking approval no later than December 2020. We also stated that delaying this request after the renewal of the CFFF SNM-1107 license is not in the interest of any stakeholders. Still, we asked that this license action not impact the schedule or completion of the ongoing license renewal.

NRC stated that as they review the request, they will determine whether there are any potential impacts to the license renewal due to this submittal. They will notify us if such an impact is identified.

USEI stated that they have prepared and submitted a letter with the exemption request. This letter was sent to NRC in the mail. Due to the COVID-19 work from home restrictions, USEI will work to get NRC an electronic copy of this letter to support the submittal.

The remainder of the meeting was open for public comment. Below is a summary of the comments/questions:

The decommissioning of the East Lagoon exemplifies our commitment to handling site issues in a manner that is in the best interest of our employees, the public, and the environment. The necessary operational changes to replace the Lagoon with an above ground tank are in development. Removing any material that builds up in a lagoon over time is standard practice; accordingly, desludging it is part of the normal process to remove it from service.

The Lagoon contents will be appropriately disposed of per regulations, and the soil below the Lagoon will be sampled. Results will be shared with SCDHEC, and we will develop any necessary remediation strategy based upon those results. We will continue to be transparent and inform you about our progress. Each of these steps and phases will be documented in accordance with the Consent Agreement and the results made publicly available - as we have with all other efforts under the Consent Agreement to date.

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Comments on Draft Environmental Assessment

On April 28, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) issued comments concerning the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Westinghouse Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF). The letter provides SCDHEC’s comments on the NRC draft EA and its proposed Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) concerning the 40-year license renewal for operations at CFFF. It includes a request for the NRC to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and raises topics typically not addressed in NRC environmental reviews. Westinghouse is working with SCDHEC and NRC to minimize environmental impacts, protect public health and safety, and meet regulator expectations.

Westinghouse has developed and is implementing an extensive and robust environmental improvement plan linked to its Consent Agreement (CA) with SCDHEC. This effort is designed to de-risk the site from past environmental issues by fully exploring and cataloging the actual and potential impact of known legacy issues on-site.

Under the plan, Westinghouse is developing appropriate remediation strategies to prevent any adverse effects on the environment. This effort also introduces new processes, tools, sampling regimes, and programs designed to avoid future environmental issues. SCDHEC’s feedback about recently-reported environmental data collected by Westinghouse under the CA supports the conclusion that contamination from environmental releases is confined within the property controlled by Westinghouse. There is no known off-property contamination.

Because of the additional extensive sampling and monitoring being performed, Westinghouse is finding results that better define the on-site impact of past issues. The previous challenges are being further explored in Westinghouse’s Remedial Investigation Work Plan (RIWP) process to ensure understanding of how to mitigate and prevent any potential sources or increased risks of off-site spread. Westinghouse is awaiting a meeting with SCDHEC to review the updated Conceptual Site Model (CSM), discuss additional research to improve knowledge about Tc-99 contamination on-site, and explore an additional investigation to refine the understanding of sediment quality and the volatile organic contaminants (VOC) plume in the next phase of the Remedial Investigation.

SCDHEC’s general feedback demonstrates Westinghouse is taking the necessary actions to protect public health and safety and prevent adverse environmental impacts by employing programs with regulatory controls. Westinghouse has processes that monitor critical infrastructure, utilize designated items relied on for safety, and maintain material integrity programs; while investing capital to address long-term safe and sustainable operations to ensure quality production.

CFFF Returns to Traditional Oversight and Completes Confirmatory Order

On March 31, Westinghouse’s Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held their public meeting via webinar due to the COVID-19 pandemic and discussed the results of CFFF’s Licensee Performance Review (LPR) conducted by NRC. The local community was invited to observe the meeting and had an opportunity to speak after the results were presented.

The NRC discussed CFFF’s 2019 performance through six core inspections at the site, covering 11 modules. In total, they spent 546 hours inspecting onsite operations - not including preparation, documentation, and travel time.

The review closed the plant’s 2017 confirmatory order related to the S-1030 Scrubber. The confirmatory order was the result of the discovery in 2016 of excessive accumulation of uranium in a ventilation scrubber, which converts UF6 into UO2 and fabricates fuel for both pressurized water and boiling water reactors.

Westinghouse notified the NRC on March 3 that it had completed all actions required by the confirmatory order. In addition, NRC noted there were no areas needing improvement. As a result, CFFF is returning to routine NRC oversight, marking a significant milestone in CFFF’s journey towards improving safety practices. The LPR frequency will now be biennial, with the next review happening in 2022, covering 2020-2021. NRC offered recommendations for the inspection program moving forward. Both parties also provided a summary of actions underway in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CFFF and NRC answered questions related to Appendix B in NRC’s public inspection report concerning CFFF’s vendor inspection from January 2020. Our Mike Annacone mentioned the Notice of Nonconformance (NON) issued by NRC was evaluated and corrected by CFFF. CFFF submitted a written response to NRC documenting the cause of the NON and the actions taken to prevent a recurrence.

Stay up-to-date on the NRC's regulatory activities with CFFF through a variety of meetings open to the public. Find future dates and times here.

Westinghouse Preparedness – COVID-19

Westinghouse puts the safety, health and wellness of our employees, our families, our customers and our communities at the highest priority. The Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility has taken proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of our employees as it continues to operate, including the institution of remote work procedures and limiting entry at the facility to essential personnel.

We are utilizing regular all-employee communications regarding the importance of good personal hygiene, as well as guidance on how to prevent illness and best practices for workplace cleanliness. We have a comprehensive plan that maximizes protection of our workforce and ensures continued safe and compliant operations. We routinely review and adjust our plan based upon information from key external policy makers and through sharing best practices and lessons learned across our industry.

Per NRC guidelines, we have measures in place to assure the safety of nuclear material. Those plans have been in place prior to COVID-19 and are reviewed with the appropriate regulatory agencies.

Confirmatory Order Closed by Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The Confirmatory Order closure letter and Inspection letter from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) formally verify that the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) has completed the terms of its Confirmatory Order. CFFF satisfactorily finished all confirmatory order actions in February 2020 – more than six months ahead of schedule.

In March 2020, the NRC closed the confirmatory order, removed CFFF from the area needing improvement in Operational Safety and returned CFFF to a normal performance review frequency. The satisfactory completion of the confirmatory order is a major accomplishment and representative of the significant progress in performance improvement that is being been made at CFFF.

We thank all of our employees who contributed to this important effort. The NRC will deliver their performance review and announce the results of its reporting during the annual public meeting on March 31st.

Westinghouse Comments on NRC Violations (January 2020)

You may have seen a posting to ADAMS earlier this week (week of January 13, 2020) regarding an event notification issued to Westinghouse following an inspection in late 2019. The below is the comment that the company has issued to members of the media regarding the event:

"This correspondence is related to a regularly scheduled inspection that occurred in November 2019 and includes a self-identified item. The final inspection report was issued on January 14.

Immediate actions were taken upon identification in November and longer-term corrective actions have been implemented. There was and is no danger to the environment, our employees or the local community."

Westinghouse Comments on Oct 1 – Dec 31 2019 Inspection Report

You may have seen an article in The State regarding the NRC’s Oct. 1 – Dec. 31, 2019 Inspection Report of the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility. The below is the comment that the company has issued to members of the media regarding the report.

“As indicated on page 11 of the NRC inspection report, the Site self-identified the pinhole flaws during the quarterly liner leak check in December 2019. Spiking Station 1 was shut down upon this discovery. No leaks were identified in the previous quarterly liner leak check in August 2019. Additionally, there is no evidence of leakage of the spiking station system fluids since the previous quarterly liner leak check.

Spiking Station 1 is in the process of being replaced with a new spiking station that significantly improves its design to prevent leakage and eliminates the need for a liner. The floor under the existing liner will be inspected as part of that replacement project. Appropriate corrective actions have been taken for the causes of this issue.”

  • Ensure that CFFF procedures match the actions performed by Richland County’s Bomb Squad or other off-site responders coming to our site in the event of an incident.
  • Help build stronger relationships between CFFF’s response units and our local emergency responders.
  • Allow local emergency responders to train in a different environment.
  • Allow local emergency responders a chance to become more familiar with our site.
  • Allow local emergency responders to better understand the capabilities of the CFFF response teams.
    1. Employee exposure to chemicals.
    2. The frequency of strains, sprains, and repetitive motion injuries by employees.
    3. The potential for fire hazards at the facility.
    1. The need to purchase and store certain chemicals on site.
    2. Waste disposal is related to the process.
    3. The risk for potential release of chemicals.
    1. It has increased our security of supply.
    2. The plant can redirect more financial and employee resources to target areas within our current transformation process.
    3. It creates production space in the plant to develop our lean manufacturing process further.
    • Groundwater, surface water, and sediment data indicate that there are no (“Constituents of Potential Concern) COPCs migrating off the site.
    • No source of Tc-99 was identified in soil.
    • Analysis of groundwater samples from four private water supply wells identified no COPCs related to CFFF manufacturing operations. The closest private water supply well is over 1 mile downgradient of the known areas impacted by of COPCs. The private water supply well survey findings reinforce that there is no potential for COPCs from CFFF to impact private water supply wells.
    • Approximately 45,000 ft3 of radiologically contaminated sludge, soil, and debris from the closure of CFFF East Lagoon treatment/settling pond
    • Approximately 50,400 ft3 of contaminated calcium fluoride solids placed in a storage pile
    • Up to 526 obsolete uranium hexafluoride cylinders with internal radioactive contamination
    • Additional soil waste generated from remediation and closure of the East Lagoon
    • There was a question related to the fact that the site-specific dose methodology used to calculate doses to workers and the public is proprietary to USEI. The method is not public, which makes it difficult for the public to verify the calculations. NRC stated that the inputs and outputs for this submittal are in the request submitted by Westinghouse, which is publicly available. NRC’s technical review letter of the site-specific dose methodology is also publicly available, which should help with understanding the results of the public dose calculations (mentioned in the preceding paragraphs).
    • There were several questions related to how this licensing action impacted the Environmental Assessment for the CFFF license renewal. In response, NRC stated that other licensees have submitted licensing activities in parallel to license renewal. The renewal is typically a several-year process, and that as they work through their review process of the alternate disposal request, it will be included in the license renewal. Additionally, NRC stated that the requested action would help environmental activities on-site (because it is tied to remediation/cleanup efforts) and that they can work on both activities separately. Finally, NRC shared that as a new and separate licensing action from the license renewal, they would consider what the appropriate NEPA action is for this request. If it is determined that there is a need to include this in the license renewal, it would be considered under cumulative impacts. However, NRC also cautioned that they could not speak on specific details or effects at the time of the meeting, as the Westinghouse request had just been received, so NRC has not begun their review or made any decisions related to the alternate disposal request at that time.
    • Lastly, there was a question related to how long the cleanup/disposal activity would take. We stated that the schedule is based on several factors. Still, assuming NRC approval of the alternate disposal request happens in December 2020 and work were to begin in January 2021, completion would occur in summer/fall 2021.