Dutch regulator issues permit for Urenco waste store

15 May 2024

The Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS) has granted the final permit to Urenco for the construction and operation of a new radioactive waste storage facility at its Almelo site. The uranium enrichment company was last year granted permission to build the facility prior to the permit being issued.

The Almelo site (Image: Urenco)

In the autumn of 2022, Urenco received a warning from the ANVS after an inspection, because radioactive material (activated carbon and waste oils) was being stored in a room that was not sufficiently fire-resistant.

Although there was no immediate danger to people and the environment, ANVS in April 2023 issued a 'tolerance decision', allowing the construction of a new storage facility, without the required permit having been granted in advance, so that Urenco could meet the safety requirements as quickly as possible.

At the time of issuing its decision, ANVS said it "only tolerates [permit] violations either in the event of force majeure or in a transitional situation and if the situation does not lead to major environmental or safety risks. We have assessed that there is force majeure for the storage of the radioactive material at Urenco. The company may therefore create and use a new storage facility without a permit until 1 July 2024."

"Now that the final permit has been obtained, the tolerance situation has formally come to an end," ANVS has now noted.

Waste from Urenco's uranium enrichment activities at Almelo cannot immediately be sent for storage at the Central Organisation for Radioactive Waste (Covra). It must first be processed by the company. It can then be transported to Covra - the only storage for radioactive waste in the Netherlands. The material must therefore remain stored at Urenco until that processing has taken place.

In addition to granting the final permit for the waste storage facility, ANVS has also made three amendments to Urenco's licence for the Almelo plant. The company may also adapt the floor plan of its buildings to the new situation. Urenco is also allowed to use a higher tube voltage for its X-ray equipment. It uses these devices to screen its centrifuges during assembly. For a new type of centrifuge, Urenco needs equipment with a higher tube voltage (250 kV) than it is currently allowed to use (200 kV) according to the permit. In addition, the company may install two additional tipping autoclaves in the Central Services Building. These are used to take samples. Urenco will be able to take more samples at the same time by installing these additional tipping autoclaves.

Urenco announced plans in December last year to increase capacity at its Almelo plant by 15% in response to new commitments from customers. The project will see multiple new centrifuge cascades added to an existing plant at the site, adding about 750 tonnes of SWU per year. The first new cascades are scheduled to come online around 2027.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News