Nuclear Fuel Services Erwin plant (Tennessee, USA) - Current Issues
(last updated 21 Apr 2015)
> See also Current Issues for
NRC License No. SNM-124, Docket No. 07000143
Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. · NFSFacts
NRC resource page
Unplanned reaction involving uranium at NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant prompts special NRC inspection
An unplanned chemical reaction involving uranium at Nuclear Fuel Services has prompted a special federal inspection slated to begin Tuesday (Apr. 14) at the Erwin nuclear processing plant.
The reaction occurred April 4 in a 2-liter bottle stored in an access-controlled storage area. The bottle contained cleaning materials, some nitric acid and a small amount of uranium. It resulted in no employee exposures or injuries, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported in a news release.
(Johnson City Press Apr. 13, 2015)
After more than ten years, NRC returns Nuclear Fuel Services facility in Erwin, Tenn., to normal agency oversight and inspection
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the Licensee Performance Review for the Nuclear Fuel Services facility in Erwin, Tenn., and the recent performance documented in that review has led the agency to return NFS to the normal level of oversight and inspection for NRC-licensed facilities of the same type.
In 2004, the NRC increased its oversight of the facility, including the addition of a second resident inspector, based on the facility's performance and ongoing changes. Since that time, the agency has kept that increased level, but sustained improvement over the past several years, verified by NRC inspections, led to the conclusion that a return to the normal or core oversight level is warranted.
> Download NRC news release Mar. 5, 2015 (PDF)
> Download detailed NRC review letter (Adams Acc. No. ML15064A006 - PDF)
NRC begins special inspection at NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant after violation of safety procedures
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is launching a special inspection today at the Nuclear Fuel Services fuel fabrication facility to assess the circumstances surrounding the alleged improper disabling of safety devices in violation of NRC regulations.
The plant, located in Erwin, Tenn., fabricates fuel for the U.S. Navy's nuclear fleet.
On June 17, an employee was observed by an NFS supervisor to be improperly operating two valves that are identified as key safety devices. The valves were propped open, which rendered them unable to perform their intended safety function. They are intended to be manually operated to prevent a hazardous chemical solution from spilling on the floor and causing a chemical exposure. No radioactive materials were involved in the incident.
(NRC July 10, 2014)
NFS failed to file a proper report within one hour of the incident. As a result of the entire situation, NFS was cited for two violations: failing to make a report within the required time frame and circumvention of safety related components.
(Erwin Record Oct. 8, 2014)
On April 17, 2015, NRC issued a Notice of Violation to NFS: "...on June 17, 2014, an operator willfully violated licensee procedure SOP 401-22-302, Building 302 Area B, Step 4.2.8 Note when he held open self-closing valves 302-BA-0B01 and 302-BA-0B85 by means other than holding the valve handle. The circumvention of the self-closing isolation function of both valves resulted in unavailability of IROFS [items relied on for safety] and reduction in IROFS controls, respectively, for two potential high consequence events: chemical exposure and nuclear criticality safety."
NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant included in pilot study on cancer risks in populations near nuclear facilities
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff is implementing a National Academy of Sciences committee's recommendation to perform a pilot study of cancer risk in populations around six U.S. nuclear power plant sites and a nuclear fuel facility. The NRC is asking the Academy to carry out this effort, which will help the agency determine whether to extend the study to the remaining U.S. reactor and certain fuel cycle sites.
In April 2010, the NRC staff requested the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to perform a study on cancer mortality and incidence risks in populations living near NRC-licensed facilities to update the 1990 National Cancer Institute (NCI) report on "Cancer Risks in Populations near Nuclear Facilities." The study was divided into two phases. In Phase 1, NAS explored the feasibility of conducting an updated study by developing modern methods to perform the analysis. The staff has reviewed the results of the Phase 1 study and the NAS recommendations for the next phase. The staff's next step will be to proceed with the NAS-recommended approach to determine the feasibility of the Phase 1 methods through pilot studies at seven sites recommended by the NAS committee: [six nuclear power plant sites], and Nuclear Fuel Services in Tennessee.
> Download NRC release Oct. 23, 2012 (PDF)
> Download NRC SECY-12-0136 , Oct. 5, 2012
> Download Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities: Phase I , National Academy Press, 2012
> Download Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities: Phase 2 Pilot Planning , National Academy Press, 2014
NRC renews license of NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant for 25 years
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating license of Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. (NFS) in Erwin, Tenn., for an additional 25 years.
> Download NRC release Aug. 2, 2012
Nitric acid leak at NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant
The nitric acid leak at Nuclear Fuel Services on Monday (Jan. 9) may have totaled 800 gallons, a Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) official said Tuesday (Jan. 10).
According to the TDEC spokeswoman Meg Lockhart, the initial report on the accident that was received by the state was "that approximately 800 gallons spilled. However, there was also water in the containment area, so we cannot determine exactly how much."
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) report on Tuesday said that NFS reported to the regulatory agency that "approximately 300 gallons of nitric acid had spilled."
(The Greeneville Sun Jan. 11, 2012)
At approximately 12 p.m. today (Jan. 9), a nitric acid leak occurred in an outdoor bulk chemical storage area, according to a press release from Nuclear Fuel Services.
The nitric acid was contained by a dike designed for that purpose. Nitric acid may mix with water to cause fumes that can be hazardous.
(TriCities Jan. 9, 2012)
Residents file lawsuit against NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant
Attorneys from three states filed a class action lawsuit today (June 13) against Erwin's Nuclear Fuel Services, claiming emissions from NFS are to blame for high rates of cancer. The attorneys are fighting for their clients to get compensation for personal injury and property damage.
"No one wants to face the truth here and the truth is, I have highly enriched uranium on my property and I am 21 river miles downstream," says Park Overall who's one of the main advocates of the lawsuit against Nuclear Fuel Services. "I began to hear about all this cancer here, and we started to look into it. These chemicals and radioactive isotopes are related to particular cancers that we have too much of in the area."
Overall says Monday's filing of the class action lawsuit is the biggest step so far for the Erwin Citizens Awareness Network (ECAN). ECAN is a group that's researched NFS's emissions dating back to 1954.
(Tricities June 13, 2011)
Adkins, et al. v. W.R. Grace & Company, No. 2:11-CV-00173 (E.D. Tenn.)
Judge dismisses suit filed by residents against NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant:
A federal judge last week dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed last year against Nuclear Fuel Services and its parent company that alleged "repeated releases of hazardous and radioactive substances" at the Erwin facility had led to injuries, property damage and emotional distress.
On Dec. 21, U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer ordered that NFS' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims be granted. It was also ordered that the plaintiffs’ motion to amend the original complaint be denied.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Greeneville in June 2011. In the original 40-page complaint, 13 of the 19 plaintiffs, including one former NFS employee, alleged they had developed various forms of cancer because of hazardous releases at the nearly 60-year-old facility. Two of the plaintiffs alleged the cancer deaths of relatives were caused by materials released from NFS. According to court documents, the number of plaintiffs increased to more than 140 individuals and organizations over the course of the case.
(Johnson City Press Dec. 27, 2012)
NRC issues Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for proposed exemption from a requirement to measure the uranium element and isotopic content of Special Nuclear Material
Federal Register: December 8, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 235) p. 76496-76498 (download full text )
NRC issues Confirmatory Order to NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a Confirmatory Order to Nuclear Fuel Services, a nuclear fuel processing facility in Erwin, Tenn., which has agreed to a series of corrective actions related to the company's failure to provide the NRC with complete and accurate inspection information.
The order stems from a settlement achieved under the NRC's Alternative Dispute Resolution process, which was initiated at the request of NFS to address violations linked to fire damper inspections. On July 20, the NRC notified NFS that an agency investigation had substantiated that a former NFS Industrial Safety Specialist had on two occasions willfully provided the NRC with incomplete and inaccurate information about the inspections.
> Download NRC release Nov. 18, 2010 (PDF)
Study finds enriched uranium in river near NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant
A new study out Thursday (Nov. 11) shows the troubled Nuclear Fuel Services plant in Erwin is apparently discharging enriched uranium into the Nolichucky River.
The Sierra Club and local activists gathered water, soil and shellfish, some as far as 45 river miles downriver from the nuclear fuel plant.
The scientist who analyzed the samples said the type of uranium seen in them is not the kind that is found in nature, and the only plausible interpretation is that the elements came from the processes at NFS.
(WSMV Nov. 11, 2010)
> Download Interim Report: Results for Isotopic Studies of Uranium in Environmental Samples
from the Vicinity of the Nuclear Fuel Services Facility, Erwin, TN, Nov. 11, 2010 (1.6M PDF - Institute for Southern Studies)
NRC invites comment on Draft Environmental Assessment for license renewal of NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant (Tennessee)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeks public comment on a draft Environmental
Assessment and draft finding of no significant impact on the proposed renewal of the operating license of Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. (NFS), of Erwin, Tenn.
NRC staff will conduct a public meeting in Erwin on Oct. 26, 2010 to present the assessment's preliminary findings and receive comments from members of the public.
Written comments will be accepted through Dec. 31, 2010 (comment period extended).
> Download NRC release Oct. 15, 2010 (PDF)
> Federal Register: October 15, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 199) p. 63519-63521 (download full text )
> Federal Register: November 19, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 223) p. 70952-70953 (download full text )
> Download Draft Environmental Assessment, Oct. 2010 (3.5M PDF)
> View Docket ID NRC-2009-0435 (regulations.gov)
The Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact was released on Oct. 25, 2011:
> Download NRC release Oct 26, 2011 (PDF)
> Federal Register: October 26, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 207) p. 66334-66336 (download full text )
> Download Final Environmental Assessment for the proposed renewal of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission license No. SNM–124 for Nuclear Ruel Services, Inc. (4.9MB PDF)
NRC issues Notice of Opportunity To Request a Hearing and Provide Written
Comments on Order Approving Indirect License Transfers of BWX Lynchburg (VA) and Erwin (TN) nuclear fuel facilities
> View here
NRC authorizes partial restart of Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. plant in Erwin
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff is allowing Nuclear Fuel Services to resume operation of one process line at its Erwin, Tenn., facility, where all process lines have been shut down since late December 2009.
> View NRC news release Mar. 24, 2010
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorized Nuclear Fuel Services to restart a second production line.
NRC Public Affairs Officer Joey Ledford told The Erwin Record Wednesday afternoon that the Erwin-based company could officially restart its uranium metal/oxide process line.
(The Erwin Record May 19, 2010)
Pressures may be too high in some uranium hexafluoride storage cylinders at the Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. plant in Erwin
Pressures may be too high in some uranium hexafluoride (UF6) storage cylinders at the Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. plant in Erwin, Erwin-based NFS has reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
That, according to a Jan. 20 "event notification report" posted on a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Web site, apparently could pose a fire hazard and the company is taking precautions as a result.
But NRC Spokesman Joey Ledford said the problem is not believed to pose an immediate hazard to either workers or the public.
Ledford noted that NFS officials discovered the apparent pressure problem while making calculations as part of an investigation related to a Nov. 14 fire at the NFS plant.
He said there are "several hundred" of the cylinders that are about seven inches in length, or "about test-tube size." In addition, he said, there are five larger UF6 storage cylinders that are about a foot tall.
Ledford noted that 40 of the cylinders are "potentially at risk" from the pressure problem.
Ledford noted the NRC also is continuing an investigation into the Nov. 14 incident at the NFS plant and noted that it is "too early" to draw any conclusions into whether it was related to the suspected cylinder-pressure situation.
He also said some of the UF6 cylinders date to the 1950s and that most have been stored at the NFS plant for a number of years.
(The Greeneville Sun Feb. 3, 2010)
> View NRC Event Notification Report for January 26, 2010, Event Number: 45642
NFS to temporarily shut down most operations at Erwin nuclear fuel plant during safety changes after incidents
Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin is suspending most of its production to deal with safety changes that are being implemented in cooperation with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the wake of several safety-related incidents.
NRC spokesman Joey Ledford said this morning the agency has had an "augmented inspection team" at NFS for several weeks. Ledford also said the NRC will issue a "confirmatory action letter" next week outlining what NFS will need to do to restart the idled operations.
(Johnson City Press Dec. 31, 2009)
Fire in UF6 cylinder sublimation station at NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant
"On Saturday November 14, 2009 at approximately 0730 there was a heated high pressure release from the 5A/5B UF6 cylinder in the CDL facility Sublimation Station 3. At the time of the upset, the operators were in the process of preparing the cylinder for sublimation. They had just satisfactorily performed the valve leak checks (SOP 409 Section 56 step 5.3) and were performing the cylinder pressure test (SOP 409 Section 56 step 5.4). The cylinder was not being heated. The upset occurred when the cylinder valve was opened (step 5.4.7) to vent the cylinder to column 1D01. The release ruptured the connective teflon tubing that was enclosed in braided stainless steel. When flame was observed the operator actuated the CO2 release valve and extinguished the flame. The subsequent damage appears to be limited to: 1). Braided teflon tubing, 2). Singed area on lexan cover of the enclosure, 3). Possible leak on the inlet and outlet side of the eductor."
"No actual exposures occurred to the workers, the public, and environment. Potential UF6 exposure to workers. However, no loss of containment occurred."
(Event Number 45497, NRC Event Notification Report for November 19, 2009 )
NRC issues Notice of Opportunity to Request a Hearing on the License Renewal Application from Nuclear Fuel Services, Erwin
NRC issued a Notice of license renewal application and opportunity to
request a hearing for the Nuclear Fuel Services, Erwin, plant.
A request for a hearing must be filed by December 7, 2009.
Federal Register: October 6, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 192) p. 51323-51326
(download full text )
> View NRC release Oct. 9, 2009
Babcock & Wilcox Co. acquires Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. in Erwin, Tennessee
Babcock & Wilcox Co., which designs, supplies, and services power generation systems and equipment like nuclear generators, has entered a definitive agreement to purchase Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. in Erwin, Tenn.
Nuclear Fuel Services, which provides specialty nuclear fuels and related services for commercial and military use, is a privately held company with more than 700 employees that owns and operates a nuclear fuel fabrication facility licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Erwin.
Babcock & Wilcox, a subsidiary of McDermott International Inc. and based in Barberton, Ohio, said it plans to continue existing activities at the Erwin facility. The deal will require regulatory approval and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2008. Details of the transaction were not disclosed.
(Knoxville News Sentinel Aug. 12, 2008)
On Jan. 5, 2009, Babcock & Wilcox announced the completion of the acquisition.
NRC releases old event reports for Nuclear Fuel Services Erwin plant (Tennessee)
On May 12, 2008, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released event notification reports for two nuclear fuel fabrication facilities, Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) in Erwin, Tenn., and BWX Technologies (BWXT) in Lynchburg, Va., for the period 2004 - 2007, which were previously withheld for security reasons.
> View NRC release No. 08-091, May 12, 2008
NRC approves increased Possession Limit of high-enriched uranium for Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received, by letter
dated May 15, 2007, a license amendment application from Nuclear Fuel
Services, Inc., requesting to increase the uranium-235 possession limit at its facility site located in Erwin, Tennessee.
A request for a hearing must be filed by December 17, 2007.
Federal Register: October 18, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 201) p. 59117-59118
(download full text )
The U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff is considering
a request to amend Materials License SNM-124, issued to Nuclear Fuel
Services, Inc. (NFS), to authorize an increase in the
possession limit of high-enriched uranium (HEU). The NRC has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in support of this action. Based upon the
EA, the NRC has concluded that a Finding of No Significant Impact
(FONSI) is appropriate and, therefore, an Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) will not be prepared.
The NFS facility in Erwin, Tennessee is authorized, under License
SNM-124, to manufacture high-enriched nuclear reactor fuel. In
addition, NFS is authorized to blend HEU with natural uranium and
manufacture low-enriched nuclear reactor fuel. License SNM-124 limits
the amount of HEU that NFS may possess for these operations. On May 15,
2007, NFS requested a license amendment to increase its possession
limit of HEU.
Federal Register: November 7, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 215) p. 62880-62883
(download full text )
On Nov. 23, 2007, NRC approved an increase in the possession limit for uranium enriched up to 100 percent in the uranium-235 isotope.
Federal Register: December 14, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 240) p. 71164-71165
(download full text )
NRC reveals spill of high-enriched uranium at NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant
In its Report to Congress on Abnormal Occurrences - Fiscal Year 2006, NRC reported a spill of high-enriched uranium that had occured at the NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant on March 6, 2006:
"In a facility authorized to
process high-enriched uranium (HEU), a transfer of HEU solution through
a transfer line resulted in a portion of the HEU solution,
approximately 35 liters, leaking into a glovebox where criticality was
possible and subsequently to the floor where criticality was also
possible because of the presence of an elevator pit." [...]
"In different circumstances, the total volume of the
transfer would have been more than enough for criticality to be
possible in the filter glovebox or the elevator pit. If a criticality
accident had occurred in the filter glovebox or the elevator pit, it is
likely that at least one worker would have received an exposure high
enough to cause acute health effects or death."
Federal Register: May 4, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 86) p. 25339-25342 (download full text )
> Download Report to Congress on Abnormal Occurrences - Fiscal Year 2006 (NUREG-0090, Vol. 29)
NRC to exempt NFS from certain safety requirements when shipping low-level radioactive waste
Federal Register: June 1, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 105) p. 31223-31226 (download full text )
ATSDR releases draft Public Health Assessment finding No Apparent
Public Health Hazard
ATSDR has evaluated the releases of volatile organic compounds to the environment
surrounding the Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. facility in Erwin, Tennessee. The releases of these materials may have occurred in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s; there was little or no monitoring of the environmental media at that time.
CERCLA legislation directing ATSDR activities excluded the evaluation of the radioactive materials released from this site.
- Past Conditions: for lack of data, ATSDR considers the site an Indeterminant Public Health Hazard.
- Current and Future Conditions: ATSDR ranks this site as No Apparent
Public Health Hazard, as there are no completed exposure pathways
existing whereby the groundwater would be used as a source of public water.
ATSDR concludes that although some
exposure might be occurring as a result of site conditions via the atmospheric
exposure pathways, exposures are not at levels likely to cause adverse health
effects and thus the site does not pose a public health hazard.
> Download Public Health Assessment, Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., Erwin, Unicoi County, Tennessee, Draft, ATSDR, Atlanta, Georgia, Aug. 2006 (839k PDF)
Citizens concerned about possible health effects from contaminants released into the air, groundwater and surface water in the vicinity of the Nuclear Fuel Services site in Erwin have until April 1, 2006, to send them to the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry. The federal public agency will review the concerns, evaluate the existing environmental and public health data, and report the findings in a public health assessment.
> View ATSDR release March 17, 2006
ATSDR accepts petition to perform Public Health Assessment
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR ) has accepted a petition submitted by environmental groups asking for a "public health assessment" of the area surrounding the Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., plant in Erwin.
(The Greeneville Sun, March 6, 2004)
On October 17, 2003, the NRC issued a Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty in the amount of $60,000 to Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc.:
"[...] This problem represents a significant breakdown in the implementation of the licensee’s material control and accounting (MC&A) system in that a substantial amount of Category 1A Strategic Special Nuclear Material (SSNM) went unaccounted for at the Erwin facility for a period of approximately 6 weeks beginning in June of 2001. The multiple failures in this case could have led to the undetected diversion of SSNM, and there would have been no record providing evidence that it was missing. [...]"
(NRC, EN 03-045, October 14, 2003)
> See also NRC release Oct. 20, 2003
> See also NRC Enforcement Action 03-124, Oct. 17, 2003
Federal Register: May 7, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 88) p. 24521-24524 (download full text )
"The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering the amendment of Special Nuclear Material License SNM-124. The proposed amendment will allow the licensee to reduce the source term at the site through removal of contaminated soil from the Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) site in Erwin, Tennessee. The NRC has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in support of NFS’ amendment request, in accordance with 10 CFR Part 51. The conclusion of the EA is a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the proposed licensing action. [...]"
> see details
Two uranium fuel plants in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Erwin, Tennessee, must immediately adopt stricter anti-terrorist measures such as more guards, vehicle barriers and patrols, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Aug. 22, 2002.
The plants, owned by BWX Technologies Inc. and Nuclear Fuel Services, take enriched uranium and make it into fuel for nuclear reactors.
The NRC said it ordered the two plants to adopt similar measures already put in place by U.S. nuclear power plants as a precaution after the Sept. 11 attacks. (Reuters Aug. 22, 2002)
> View NRC release Aug. 22, 2002
> Federal Register: August 27, 2002 (Vol. 67, No. 166) p. 55043-55045 (download full text )
Judge refuses to dismiss lawsuit against NFS
A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed earlier this year by two Erwin companies that claim Nuclear Fuel Services contaminated their property.
Impact Plastics Inc., Preston Tool and Mold, and Gerald O'Conner Jr. filed a lawsuit May 31, 2002, in U.S. District Court in Greeneville claiming NFS has allowed hazardous substances - such as uranium, thorium and plutonium - to migrate from its facility to their property.
The plaintiffs cite environmental reports that show that NFS has allowed the contaminants to migrate and impact upon the groundwater beneath their property, including the Nolichucky River. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim NFS has failed to abate the movement of these substances even though they have urged the company to do so. NFS filed a motion on Aug. 9, 2002, asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed. On Dec. 11, 2002, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hull denied the motion to dismiss.
(Kingsport Times-News Dec. 12, 2002)
Erwin businessman sues Nuclear Fuel Services over groundwater contamination
The owner of Impact Plastics Inc. and Preston Tool and Mold Inc. of Erwin has filed suit against Nuclear Fuel Services Inc., a Maryland corporation doing business in Erwin, over potential cancer-causing contaminants found in groundwater underneath his property.
(Elizabethton Star, June 4, 2002)
Plutonium, other contaminants found in groundwater offsite near NFS
A 13-acre (5.3 ha) plume of chemical and radioactive contamination, including plutonium, has been identified in groundwater located offsite from Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. in Erwin.
State and federal regulators say NFS is meeting all compliance standards and the contamination poses no threat to public health. All radionuclides present are below the Maximum Contaminant Level considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which regulates monitoring wells outside the NFS complex.
(Elizabethton Star, April 4, 2002)
NRC issues License Amendment for deconversion of highly enriched uranium hexafluoride in a new process line of Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc.'s, Erwin, plant
On May 11, 2009, NRC issued a licence amendment to authorize the processing of uranium fluoride compounds in the new commercial development (CD) line.
Federal Register: June 4, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 106) p. 26894 (download full text )
On July 30, 2009, NRC authorized NFS to introduce uranium hexafluoride into the new commercial development (CD) line.
NRC issues Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact related to proposed deconversion of highly enriched uranium hexafluoride in a new process line of Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc.'s, Erwin, plant
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff is considering the
issuance of a license amendment to Materials License SNM-124, issued to
Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. (the licensee), to authorize the processing
of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) in a new processing line (the CD Line).
The NRC has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in support of
this proposed action. Based upon the EA, the NRC has concluded that a
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is appropriate and, therefore,
an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will not be prepared.
Federal Register: September 2, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 170) p. 51319-51322 (download full text )
NRC issues Notice of License Amendment Request of Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., Erwin, TN, and Opportunity To Request a Hearing on CD Line Facility (HEU deconversion) project
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received, by letter dated August 31, 2007, a license amendment application from Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., requesting authority to process uranium hexafluoride (UF6) in a new Commercial Development (CD) line at its facility site located in Erwin, Tennessee. Specifically, the amendment provides authorization to convert high-enriched uranium (HEU) in the form of UF6 into another chemical form (oxide or nitrate), which can be processed in the existing facility.
The purpose of CD line process operations is to convert Department of Energy (DOE) highly-enriched uranium (HEU) in the form of UF6 to either uranium oxide form (U3O8), or to uranyl nitrate solution for subsequent purification and downblending in the adjacent BLEU Preparation Facility (BPF) (Building 333). The final form depends on the enrichment.
A request for a hearing must be filed by February 29, 2008.
Federal Register: December 31, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 249) p. 74352-74354 (download full text )
> View docket NRC-2008-0004 (regulations.gov)
> Download Redacted Version of Amendment Request for Processing UF6 in the CD Line Facility at the NFS Site, Oct. 31, 2007 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML073090651)
> see also: Downblending of U.S. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) for commercial reactor use
NRC authorizes restart of uranium hexafluoride processes after accident at NFS Erwin BLEU fuel plant
On July 12, 2011, NRC issued to Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. an authorization to resume operation of the uranium hexafluoride processes in its Blended Low Enriched Uranium Preparation Facility.
> Download NRC authorization July 12, 2011 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML111930272)
NRC proposes imposition of $140,000 penalty for violations leading to an accident in the NFS Erwin BLEU fuel plant
On Sep. 2, 2010, NRC issued a Notice of Violation to NFS and proposed the imposition of a penalty of $140,000 for violations leading to an accident in a bowl cleaning station of the uranium aluminum process in the Blended Low-Enriched Uranium Preparation Facility on October 13, 2009.
On October 12, 2009, NFS finalized procedure changes to allow chemical processing of high enriched uranium scrap material in the centrifuge bowl cleaning stations. On October 13, 2009, upon addition of nitric acid into the bowl cleaning station, the solution exhibited an unexpectedly high rate of reaction. The operator shut down the station recirculation pump and shut off the heaters. However, the reaction continued producing an excessive quantity of nitrogen compound gases (NOx). These gases triggered NOx detectors at the air gap of the nitric acid knockout column, which prompted an evacuation of the building. The heated gases deformed a section of the wet off-gas piping system for the bowl cleaning station and the nitric acid knockout column.
> Download NRC release Sep. 3, 2010 (PDF)
> Download NRC Notice of Violation, EA-10-086 , Sep. 2, 2010
> Download NRC Inspection Report No. 70-143/2010-007 , May 26, 2010
> Download NRC Inspection Report No. 70-143/2009-011 , March 19, 2010
NRC issues Notice of Violation for criticality issues at NFS Erwin BLEU project
On April 24, 2008, NRC issued a Notice of Violation concerning the nuclear criticality safety analysis for the Blended Low-Enriched Uranium Preparation Facility Centrifuge Bowl Cleaning Station.
U.S. DOE awards contract for downblending of U.S. Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) for commercial reactor use
> See here
Plan for uranium downblending at NFS Erwin facility upheld
Two administrative judges have upheld a Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff decision allowing Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. to convert surplus weapons-grade uranium into fuel for a TVA commercial reactor.
Judges Alan S. Rosenthal and Richard F. Cole dismissed a petition filed by the Sierra Club seeking a full environmental impact statement on the project. The Sierra Club was the only one of several groups that the judges determined had legal standing to challenge the NRC's action. The Sierra Club has 15 days to decide if it will appeal to the NRC.
(The Tennesseean, March 31, 2005)
> Download LBP-05-08 (March 28, 2005)
Environmental groups sue to stop Project BLEU
A local chapter of the Sierra Club and three other environmental groups filed suit on Oct. 14, 2004, against Nuclear Fuel Services in an attempt to revoke permits recently awarded by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for work associated with the conversion of surplus uranium into fuel.
The suit names Friends of the Nolichucky River Valley, Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance and the Tennessee Environmental Council as plaintiffs along with the State of Franklin Group of the Sierra Club.
The groups seek to force the NRC to prepare an environmental impact study and seek comment from state and local agencies as well as the general public.
(Johnson City Press Oct. 16, 2004)
NRC approves third and final amendment request for BLEU project
On October 4, 2004, NRC approved the third and final amendment request for the Blended Low-Enriched Uranium Project.
> View NRC release (Oct. 12, 2004)
Federal Register: October 12, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 196) p. 60671 (download full text )
> Download non-proprietary version of the Safety Evaluation Report (SER), July 2004
NRC issues Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for third and final amendment request for BLEU project
Federal Register: June 18, 2004 (Vol. 69, No. 117) p. 34198-34202
(download full text )
NRC judge grants hearing request on BLEU project
An administrative law judge for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted federal standing to only one of three petitioners seeking a public hearing about the Blended Low Enriched Uranium (BLEU) Project to be carried out at the Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. site in Erwin.
In a ruling issued March 17, 2004, NRC Judge Alan S. Rosenthal granted standing to the State of Franklin Group of the Sierra Club but shot down three similar requests made by another environmental group (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League), 16 private citizens and a Carter County property owner.
(Elizabethton Star Mar. 19, 2004)
> Download LB Memorandum and Order (Ruling on Hearing Requests) LBP-04-05, March 17, 2004
NFS approves second of three license amendments required for BLEU project
On January 13, 2004, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved the second of three license amendments Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. in Erwin will need to recycle weapons-grade uranium into commercial reactor fuel for the Tennessee Valley Authority. The amendment allows NFS to begin operating a new facility to convert the material into low-enriched uranium oxide.
The third license amendment will be for a facility to convert the material into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.
Federal Register: February 11, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 28) p. 6701 (download full text )
NRC announces receipt of third amendment request for BLEU project
On October 24, 2003, NRC received the third and final amendment request for the Blended Low-Enriched Uranium Project.
The deadline to request a hearing had been extended to February 2, 2004.
Federal Register: December 24, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 247), p. 74653-74654 (download full text )
BLEU project Integrated Safety Analysis (ISA) Summary available
The Non-Proprietary Version of Integrated Safety Analysis (ISA) Summary for
the BLEU Project Oxide Conversion and Effluent Processing Buildings, Oct. 2003, is available for download at ADAMS now (ML033380535 , 376 pages, 17MB PDF)
NRC issues Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for second license amendment required for BLEU project
On Sep. 17, 2003, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued an Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), authorizing processing operations in the Blended Low-Enriched Uranium Preparation Facility (BPF). This is required for the second of three license amendments Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. in Erwin will need to recycle weapons-grade uranium into commercial reactor fuel for the Tennessee Valley Authority.
> See also NRC release Oct. 3, 2003
> See also Federal Register: October 27, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 207) p. 61235-61238 (download full text )
NFS receives first shipment of highly enriched uranium for downblending
The first shipment of former weapons-grade uranium arrived in Tennessee last week to be processed for use in the TVA's Browns Ferry nuclear reactor.
The material was taken from the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site in South Carolina to Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin, Tenn., where it will be blended with natural uranium, then shipped to the Framatome ANP plant in Richland, Wash., where it will be formed into nuclear fuel rods. (Augusta Chronicle/Tennesseean, July 25, 2003)
NFS receives first of three license amendments required for BLEU project
On July 7, 2003, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved the first of three license amendments Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. in Erwin will need to recycle weapons-grade uranium into commercial reactor fuel for the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Under the first BLEU license amendment, NFS can begin receiving low-enriched uranyle nitrate solution from DOE's Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
The agency approved the amendment even though a public hearing request from interested groups is pending with the independent Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.
A second license amendment, requested in October 2002, will allow NFS to begin operating a new facility to convert the material into low-enriched uranium oxide.
The third license amendment will be for a facility to convert the material into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. NFS officials said they expect to apply for that third license amendment in the third or fourth quarter of 2003.
(The State July 9, 2003)
> See also NRC release July 9, 2003
NRC: NFS continues BLEU project construction at its own risk
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has denied a petition demanding Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. stop construction of buildings intended for use as part of the Blended Low-Enriched Uranium ("BLEU") project at the company's Erwin site.
However, the commission stipulates in their decision that NFS is taking a risk by constructing the multimillion dollar facilities before the NRC grants approval of three license amendment requests for the BLEU Project.
"In short, NFS proceeds at its own risk with construction activities," reads the order issued by a four-member panel of commissioners on April 29, 2003. (Elizabethton Star May 2, 2003)
> Download CLI-03-03, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER, April 29, 2003, U.S. NRC (PDF)
NRC announces opportunity for hearing on Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. (NFS) license amendment request
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is offering the opportunity for a hearing on a license amendment request from Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. (NFS) to authorize uranium processing operations at a Blended Low-Enriched Uranium Preparation Facility (BPF) within its existing facility located in Erwin, Tennessee.
> View NRC release Jan. 3, 2003
Federal Register: January 7, 2003 (Vol. 68, No. 4) p. 796-797 (download full text )
NRC issues revised Federal Register notice
Federal Register: October 30, 2002 (Vol. 67, No. 210) p. 66172-66176 (download full text )
See also correction in Federal Register: November 12, 2002 (Vol. 67, No. 218) p. 68699 (download full text )
ASLBP Board raises questions regarding Federal Register announcement of NFS proposed expansion plans
On September 11, 2002, an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLBP) issued a Memorandum and Order "Raising Questions Regarding Completeness of [the] Federal Register Notice" dated July 9, 2002 (see below). The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has until Sept. 19, 2002 to answer the questions.
On September 19, 2002, "the [NRC] Staff recognizes that the July 9, 2002 Federal Register Notice was inadequate in that it failed to properly notice the opportunity for a hearing. In order to remedy this defect, the Staff will publish a revised notice to properly notice both the license amendment application and the opportunity for hearing."
Citizens File Objection To Nuclear Fuel Services' Proposed Expansion Plans
A Greeneville attorney has filed documents with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on behalf of 15 Northeast Tennessee residents objecting to an amendment of an Nuclear Fuel Services Inc.'s (NFS) “special nuclear material license.” NFS seeks to build additional buildings and begin a new production process in which highly enriched uranium will be “down-blended” to produce low-enriched uranium fuel for Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear reactors.
(The Greeneville Sun, Aug. 10, 2002)
NRC issues Environmental Assessment for NFS' Blended Low-Enrichment Uranium (BLEU) project
An “environmental assessment” issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on July 9, 2002, indicates that a proposed new operation at Erwin-based Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., will result in the release of “small amounts” of both chemicals and radioactive materials to the atmosphere.
The environmental assessment indicates that the NRC expects “no significant impact,” from approval of a request for amendments to Nuclear Fuel Services’s “materials license” to allow construction and operation of a uranyl nitrate storage building on the NFS site in Erwin, and to increase the amount of Uranium 235 that can be stored there.
The requested license amendments, according to the environmental assessment, are part of preparations by NFS eventually to implement a Blended Low-Enrichment Uranium (BLEU) project.
NFS had announced earlier plans to turn 33 metric tons of bomb-grade uranium into fuel for Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) reactors at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Ala.
The BLEU Project is part of a Department of Energy program to reduce stockpiles of surplus high-enriched uranium through reuse of low-enriched uranium, thus converting weapons grade material to a form unsuitable for nuclear weapons and addressing a nuclear proliferation concern.
Because the BLEU Project supports the production of nuclear generated electric power for public use, NFS will have to comply with a more stringent public dose constraint. To address the change, NFS has submitted revised dose assessment methods for NRC review.
(The Greeneville Sun, Aug. 3, 2002)
Federal Register: July 9, 2002 (Vol. 67, No. 131) p. 45555-45559 (download full text ):
"The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering the amendment
of Special Nuclear Material License SNM-124 to authorize construction
and operation of the Uranyl Nitrate Storage Building at the Nuclear
Fuel Services site in Erwin, Tennessee, and has prepared an
Environmental Assessment in support of this action. [...]"
NRC issues Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Assessment for
License Amendment for the Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., Erwin, Tennessee plant
Federal Register: March 4, 2002 (Vol. 67, No. 42) p. 9791-9792 (download full text ):
"The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering the amendment
of Special Nuclear Material License SNM-124 to authorize new activities
at the Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. (NFS), facility located in Erwin,
TN, and will prepare an Environmental Assessment to determine whether
to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or a Finding of No
Significant Impact. [...]"