CNL completes HEU target residue material repatriation to USA

26 January 2021

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) announced yesterday that it has completed all shipments of highly enriched uranium target residue material (HEU TRM) from Canada to the USA, bringing its TRM Repatriation Project to "a safe and successful conclusion". The culmination of nearly a decade of work and planning removes "a major nuclear liability" from the Chalk River Laboratories campus, CNL said.

The Chalk River Laboratories campus, pictured in 2015 (Image: CNL)

HEU TRM is one of the by-products of Molybdenum-99, a medical isotope that was previously produced at the Chalk River Laboratories, which are located about 180 km north-west of Ottawa.

At its peak, more than 20 million diagnostic procedures around the world were carried out every year using Mo-99 isotopes produced at the site. The TRM Repatriation Project, which was completed as part of a multi-year agreement between Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, reduces Canada’s nuclear liability with the elimination of a significant quantity of HEU, CNL said.

Along with CNL’s HEU Fuel Repatriation Project, which was completed in 2019, the completion of the TRM Repatriation Project officially meets Canada’s commitments under the US-Origin Foreign Research Reactor Spent Nuclear Fuel Acceptance Program.

The completion of the project demonstrates the "ingenuity, resourcefulness and hard work" of our Fuel Program and Projects team, who had to "overcome extensive technical and logistical challenges" to safely carry out this work, said CNL President and CEO Joe McBrearty said.

Mike Gull, CNL's vice-president of Environmental Remediation Management, added: "When this project was initiated almost ten years ago, there were a number of ‘first-of-a-kind’ challenges that CNL had to overcome, including the design and development of a dedicated facility to safely retrieve and package the material." These activities were carried out successfully, within the original budget, and the materials were transported safely to the USA without incident, he added.

At the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, Canada and the USA announced that they would work together to repatriate used HEU fuel of US origin stored at the Chalk River Laboratories. At the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, that agreement was expanded to include HEU TRM.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News