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Westinghouse Electric Co. Columbia nuclear fuel plant, South Carolina (USA) - Current Issues   flag

(last updated 13 Jan 2021)

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Westinghouse Electric Co. Columbia nuclear fuel plant, South Carolina

NRC License No. SNM-1107, Docket No. 07001151

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> View: South Carolina DHEC Westinghouse page

 

Numerous contaminants still exceed groundwater standards at WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant

Groundwater monitoring data collected during October 2019 and April 2020 shows that the following contaminants still exceed the applicable maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) at the WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant: tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), vinyl chloride (VC), nitrate, fluoride, uranium, and Technetium-99 (Tc-99).
> Download: 2019/2020 Annual Groundwater Monitoring Report, Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility Hopkins, Richland County, South Carolina , Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC., September 28, 2020 (17.1MB PDF)

Technetium-99 contamination found in groundwater at WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant assumed to be 'historical'

On July 30, 2020, Westinghouse Electric Company submitted a report on the source of Technetium-99 (Tc-99) found in groundwater at its Columbia nuclear fuel plant. Not surprisingly, the "data generated by this assessment indicate that the source of the Tc-99 groundwater impact is historical and not the result of current operations at the facility."
On Aug. 25, 2020, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) concurred with the conclusions of the report.

WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant requests approval for 'alternate disposal' of legacy radioactive waste at Idaho hazardous waste site

Westinghouse Electric Co. requests U.S. NRC authorization for alternate disposal of low-activity waste resulting from the closure of the East Lagoon settling pond at its Columbia nuclear fuel plant (CFFF) at US Ecology's hazardous waste disposal facility near Grand View, Idaho.
"Approximately 45,000 ft3 [1,274 m3] of sludge, soil and debris will be generated from the closure of the East Lagoon. The waste from the East Lagoon being considered under this request is contaminated with SNM [Special Nuclear Material] (low enriched uranium (<5 wt% U-235) and the fission product Technetium-99 (Tc-99)). The SNM and Tc-99 contaminated wastes were generated from plant operations during the fabrication of nuclear fuel. Tc-99 is present in the process due to uranium feed that originated from sources of recycled uranium or down-blended high enriched uranium."
"In addition, CFFF intends to dispose of approximately 50,400 ft3 [1,427 m3] of solid CaF2 sludge dredged from the Calcium Fluoride Lagoons and subsequently placed in a storage pile. The CaF2 sludge was generated as a waste from uranium recovery waste treatment process. The CaF2 waste being considered under this request is contaminated with SNM (low enriched uranium {<5wt% U-235})."
"In addition, CFFF intends to dispose of up to 526 obsolete UF6 Cylinders, which represents a disposal volume of approximately 23,000 ft3 [651 m3] prior to downsizing. The UF6 Cylinders are transportation containers that are no longer in service. The UF6 Cylinders are solid form (steel), approximately 6 feet in length and 2.5 feet in diameter. The UF6 Cylinders are empty and upon last use had previously been through the UF6 Cylinder internal wash/rinse process prior to being placed into storage for pending disposal. The UF6 Cylinders will be downsized to eliminate void space prior to packaging for shipment off-site for disposal. While emptied and cleaned to the standard mentioned, the UF6 Cylinders are internally contaminated with SNM."
"It is expected that some contamination will exist in the soil underlying the East Lagoon liner given the long operating history of the Lagoon and the potential for a liner system leak. [...] This submittal makes the conservative assumption that a similar volume of material must be removed from the underlying soil to what is physically in the East Lagoon." [emphasis added]
> Download: Request for Alternate Disposal Approval and Exemptions for Specific Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility Waste (License No. SNM-1107, Docket No. 70-1151) , May 8, 2020

Pursuant to final NRC approval of the above referenced submittal, US Ecology requests an exemption from the licensing requirements published in 10CFR30.3 and 10CFR70.3 for their Grand View, ID facility to allow for disposal of these wastes.
> Download: US Ecology letter to NRC, May 11, 2020

On Nov. 30, 2020, NRC released the Safety Evaluation Report on Westinghouse's request. "[...] NRC staff concludes that the requested alternate disposal of this material is acceptable under 10 CFR 20.2002. In addition, as provided in 10 CFR 30.11 and 10 CFR 70.17, the NRC staff finds that issuance of the exemptions is otherwise authorized by law, will not endanger life or property and is consistent with the common defense and security, and that authorizing such alternate disposal is in the public interest. Therefore, the 10 CFR 20.2002 request should be approved, WEC's license should be amended, and exemptions to sections 30.3 and 70.3 should be granted to WEC and USEI [...]." [emphasis added]
> Download: Safety Evaluation Report , Nov. 30, 2020 (PDF)

On Dec. 9, 2020, NRC issued License Amendment No. 25 to authorize the alternate disposal of the material at the US Ecology site near Grand View, Idaho.
> Federal Register Volume 85, Number 242 (Wednesday, December 16, 2020) p. 81525-81527 (download full text )
> Download: NRC letter Dec. 9, 2020 (PDF) · License Amendment No. 25 (PDF)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2020-0265

 

Individual radiation doses of workers at Westinghouse Electric Co. Columbia nuclear fuel plant still twice average - and rising

According to NRC's report on occupational radiation exposure at NRC-licensed facilities in 2018, the workers receiving the highest individual doses in the U.S. nuclear fuel industry are those employed at Westinghouse Electric Co.'s Columbia nuclear fuel plant. In 2018, the individual TEDE (total effective dose equivalent) annual dose of workers with measurable dose was 1.95 mSv (2017: 1.74 mSv) at this plant, while the average for all five fuel facilities covered was 0.089 mSv (2017: 0.088 mSv).
> Download: Occupational Radiation Exposure at Commercial Nuclear Power Reactors and Other Facilities 2018, Fifty-First Annual Report , NUREG-0713 Vol. 40, U.S. NRC, March 2020

 

NRC identifies two undisclosed safety violations at Columbia nuclear fuel plant

> Download: NRC Inspection Report and Notice of Violation , Jan. 10, 2020

 

NRC issues Notice of Violation to Westinghouse for overlooking surface contamination on UF6 cylinder shipped from Columbia nuclear fuel plant

"[...] on September 5 and 10, 2019, the licensee failed to perform surveys of areas to comply with the regulations in this part and were reasonable under the circumstances to evaluate the magnitude and extent of radiation levels, concentration, and the potential radiological hazards of the radiation levels detected, to comply with the requirements of 10 CFR 20.1501(a). Specifically, two cylinders containing UF6 heels were shipped by the licensee with non-fixed contamination on and near the valve cover that were above NRC requirements in 10 CFR 71.87(i), and Department of Transportation requirements in 49 CFR 173.443(a)." (NRC Inspection Report and Notice of Violation, Nov. 22, 2019)

 

Violation of criticality rules at WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant

"As part of a review to revalidate the design of passive safety controls, on October 16, 2019 an engineering calculation was completed which demonstrates that one of two independent and redundant passive overflow devices used in the Solvent Extraction (SOLX) process was undersized for its credited safety function. This passive overflow device is an Item Relied On For Safety (IROFS), designated as SOLX-115. The IROFS prevents the potential backflow of uranium bearing solution from the SOLX process into the commercially-provided, chemical supply drums. These drums are non-favorable geometry (NFG) containers used to add chemicals to the batch process.[...]"
> View: NRC Event Notification Report for October 17, 2019, Event No. 54335
> Download: Follow-up report, Nov. 15, 2019 (PDF)

 

Uranium-laden water leaks from refuse container at Westinghouse Electric Co. Columbia nuclear fuel plant

When nuclear plant workers looked in a huge, 40-foot long shipping container at an atomic fuel factory two months ago, they discovered a hole in the roof that allowed rainwater to leak inside, where barrels full of radioactive trash were stacked.
Then, the workers discovered water had dripped onto some of the drums, causing uranium to trickle out and into the soil below the Westinghouse atomic fuel rod plant southeast of Columbia, according to state and federal regulatory agencies. (The State July 26, 2019)

 

Waste drum damaged due to over pressurization at Westinghouse Electric Co. Columbia nuclear fuel plant

""On July 12, 2019, at approximately 0152 EDT operations personnel in the Uranium Recycle and Recovery area of the plant reported an incident. Production packaged wet recoverable material on July 12 (3rd shift) into a closed drum at the designated drum loading station, performed the required assay measurement and placed the drum into storage. Shortly afterward, the drum pressurized forcing the lid off and some contents to disperse into the immediate vicinity. The drum contents were smoldering, smoke was observed and the smoke detector activated. Dry paper in the drum created a small fire, which was promptly extinguished without use of a water hose or a fire extinguisher. A small portion of the drums content was impacted. [...]"
> View NRC Event Notification Report for July 15, 2019, Event No. 54161

"The causal analysis determined the likely cause was an exothermic reaction from mixing of incompatible chemicals. The heat generated increased pressure in the sealed drum. Once exposed to air, the heat ignited dry paper material that was placed into the 'wet' collection drum."
> Download: Westinghouse Reported Event # EN54161 Follow-up Report , Aug. 8, 2019 (PDF)

 

Citizens frustrated, distrusting after Westinghouse cleans up uranium contamination at Columbia nuclear fuel plant

Dangerous equipment malfunctions and environmental contamination from an atomic fuel factory near Columbia have been fixed, federal regulators and officials from the factory say. But those fixes have done little to quell the outrage of citizens and residents who say they've been left in the dark about the plant's progress and who question its dedication to environmental safety.
At a Tuesday (May 7) meeting, officials with the Westinghouse nuclear fuel factory on Bluff Road said they've completed fixes and clean-up of an air pollution control device known as a "scrubber" that once had three times the uranium build-up allowed by federal safety standards. Agents with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission discovered the issue in 2016 and said the problem could have caused a nuclear reaction or burst that would impact workers but not the Lower Richland area.
The Tuesday meeting at a banquet room in the South Carolina State Museum focused on the NRC's 2018 assessment of the plant.
Lower Richland residents said Westinghouse officials have promised for three years they would improve communications to the community but haven't done so. (The State May 8, 2019)

 

Workers at Westinghouse Electric Co. Columbia nuclear fuel plant still receive individual radiation doses twice average

According to NRC's report on occupational radiation exposure at NRC-licensed facilities in 2017, the workers receiving the highest individual doses in the U.S. nuclear fuel industry are those employed at Westinghouse Electric Co.'s Columbia nuclear fuel plant. In 2017, the individual TEDE (total effective dose equivalent) annual dose of workers with measurable dose was 1.74 mSv at this plant, while the average for all five fuel facilities covered was 0.088 mSv.
> Download: Occupational Radiation Exposure at Commercial Nuclear Power Reactors and Other Facilities 2017, Fiftieth Annual Report , NUREG-0713 Vol. 39, U.S. NRC, March 2019

 

NRC issues Notice of Violation to Westinghouse for non-compliance to safety rules at Columbia nuclear fuel plant that lead to hydrofluoric acid spill

"[...] the licensee failed to establish adequate management measures to ensure that two engineered controls identified as IROFS [items relied on for safety] were designed and implemented such that they were available and reliable to perform their function. Specifically, for a minimum of three years prior to June 16, 2018, established management measures failed to ensure IROFS ADUHFS-502 and ADUHFS-902 were available and reliable to perform their intended function when needed in order to comply with the performance requirements of 10 CFR 70.61. As a result, on June 16, 2018, hydrofluoric acid (HF) solution was spilled from HF Spiking Station #2 and spilled from the diked area. [...]" (enphasis added)
(NRC Inspection Report and Notice of Violation, Oct. 5, 2018)

 

Underground piping leaks at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant (2008)

Further underground piping leaks at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant disclosed ten years later: [...] The NRC has said it did not know about the 2011 uranium spill until the fall of 2017.
Now, it has learned of pipe breaks in the same area beneath the plant that occurred in 2008, said Smith and Tom Vukovinsky, a senior fuel facility inspector with the NRC in Atlanta. Westinghouse disclosed this information to the NRC amid growing questions about the 2011 leak, officials said.
The 2008 pollution leaks are the third to surface publicly this summer. In July [2018], the NRC learned that uranium drained through a hole in the floor of the plant building. The NRC's environmental report in June mentioned the 2011 leak that not been reported. In examining the circumstances surrounding the 2011 spill, leaks from 2008 were discovered, according to the NRC. (The State Aug. 30, 2018)

 

Uranium leaked through floor of WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant

Radioactive uranium has leaked through the floor at the Westinghouse fuel factory on Bluff Road, contaminating the soil in an area of Richland County with a nearly 35-year history of groundwater pollution from the plant.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the uranium, a toxic substance used to make nuclear fuel rods, seeped through a 3-inch hole in a concrete floor in part of the factory where an acid is used. The hole extends 6 feet into the ground, according to the NRC. The NRC learned of the leak July 12.
Officials with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said they have no reason to believe the uranium has trickled off the site or that public water supplies are threatened. However, the agency said it does not have the results of recent groundwater tests on the Westinghouse property. Those test results will show whether pollution in the soil washed into the area's shallow groundwater, which seeps into creeks in the Congaree River flood plain.
NRC records show uranium pollution reached 4,000 parts per million in the soil beneath the plant. Those levels are 1,300 times higher than the amount of uranium typically found in soil, records show. Soil usually contains about three parts per million of uranium, according to the Health Physics Society, a radiation safety organization. (The State July 24, 2018)

> View Event Notification Report for July 20, 2018, Event Number: 53504

"The probable cause of the event is a gap existed in the CFFF standards related to design, configuration management, operations and maintenance when the spiking station dike and liner were modified in 2002.
Specifically, a design modification was made in 2002 to line the diked area with polypropylene material to protect the concrete floor. The site did not recognize that this design change would allow process fluid to get trapped between the bottom of the liner and the epoxy coated concrete surface. Thus, the modification introduced an unrecognized failure mode in which the concrete could become degraded and any resulting defect in the concrete underneath the liner would not be visible. The contributing factors are degradation of the polypropylene liner from operations and maintenance activities, and system leaks into the diked area over time." (Westinghouse 60-day follow-up report to NRC, Oct. 5, 2018 )

Groundwater not contaminated from uranium leak through floor of WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant: The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control met with Lower Richland residents on Thursday night (July 25), to discuss what they found in their investigation of the Westinghouse nuclear fuel facility in Columbia. Last year, a chemical leaked through the floor of the facility and was believed to have gone into the soil beneath the Bluff Road plant.
DHEC's investigation found that there was no contaminated groundwater. DHEC and Richland County also tested nearly 100 private wells in the Lower Richland Community and also found no contamination from the Westinghouse facility. (wltx.com July 25, 2019)

 

Screening report identifies two chlorinated compound groundwater plumes at WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant site

This report documents the assessment work conducted to screen groundwater for the presence of CVOCs [chlorinated volatile organic compounds] and proposes locations for a permanent monitoring well network to monitor the CVOCs in groundwater.
The main two chlorinated compounds that were detected during this investigation were primarily PCE [tetrachloroethene] and, to a lesser extent, trichloroethene (TCE).
Analysis of the groundwater analytical results indicates that there appears to be two separate chlorinated compound groundwater plumes at the WCFFF site.
> Download: CVOC Field Screening Report, Westinghouse Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility , Dec. 14, 2017 (10.3MB PDF)

 

Violation of criticality rules at WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant

Unanalyzed scenario associated with uranium recovery and recycle system:
"On March 15, 2018 during an NRC inspection of the Solvent Extraction area, an inspector identified a potential credible scenario which is not adequately addressed in the applicable Criticality Safety Evaluation (CSE). Plant Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) staff reviewed the issue and at 1130 [EDT] determined that, based on the available information, the scenario did not appear to be properly analyzed in the CSE and thus the Integrated Safety Analysis (ISA). The scenario is associated with the Uranium Recovery and Recycle System (URRS) 706 hood operation. The process performed in the 706 hood is the transfer of low concentration residues into a container for disposal at a Low Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) facility. There was no actual event, and no impact to public health and safety, the workers, or the environment."
"The issue revolves around the lack of a specific analysis controlling the handling, transport and replacement of the container, a 55 gallon drum, used in that process. A criticality event for the scenario of an inadvertent container handling upset was identified as incredible in the safety basis documents. However, the accident sequence does not meet the definition of incredible as defined in the license application, and thus appears to be an improperly analyzed scenario."
> View: Event Notification Report for March 19, 2018, Event Number: 53266 , U.S. NRC

On Apr. 25, 2018, NRC issued a Notice of Violation to WEC, because "the licensee failed to assure that under normal and credible abnormal conditions, all nuclear processes were subcritical. Specifically, the licensee failed to assure that, under the credible abnormal condition of a fissile-bearing solution leak from process vessels or piping in the solvent extraction or cylinder wash areas, movement and replacement activities for 55-gallon drums used for processing in the uranium recycle and recovery services (URRS) area would remain subcritical. This resulted in a failure to include a credible accident sequence in the licensee's integrated safety analysis."
> Download: Inspection Report and Notice of Violation , Apr. 25, 2018 (PDF)

 

Underground piping leak at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant (2011)

NRC didn't know about 2011 underground piping leak at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant for six years: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says its safety inspectors did not know for six years that uranium had leaked from an atomic fuel factory on Bluff Road, a sprawling industrial plant under scrutiny for past operating practices.
The leaking uranium, discovered by plant owner Westinghouse in 2011, was unknown to NRC inspectors until the fall of 2017, when they ran across information about the accident while preparing a special environmental study on the plant, the agency told The State newspaper. (The State Aug. 29, 2018)

Underground piping leak detected at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant in 2011 will not be cleaned up before 2058: Seven years before a uranium leak was discovered at a Westinghouse nuclear fuel factory this summer, the toxic radioactive material trickled out of a pipe buried below the plant on Bluff Road. That 2011 leak, unknown to many Lower Richland residents, sent uranium levels soaring to amounts not typically found in the area's soggy soil, in one spot exceeding safe drinking-water standards.
But Westinghouse hasn't cleaned up the polluted site - and it doesn't plan to for at least 40 years - despite evidence the contamination will spread into creeks, ponds and groundwater, according to a June report by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
If Westinghouse obtains a new 40-year operating license this year from the NRC, the cleanup would occur no sooner than 2058, when its Bluff Road plant would be shut down, federal records show. The NRC's June environmental assessment says the contaminated soil is below a uranium recovery and recycling building on the Westinghouse site.
"Because the contaminated material is located beneath the ... building, the soil will not be remediated until decommissioning," the NRC report said. "Therefore, the contaminated material will likely be a source of future ground-water and/or surface water contamination if the material leaches into the shallow water-table aquifer." Westinghouse does not know how long the uranium leak - discovered in 2011 - occurred or how much pollution escaped into the ground, the NRC report said. (The State Aug. 16, 2018)
> Download: Final Environmental Assessment for the Renewal of SNM-1107, Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility , June 2018 (12.5MB PDF)
> See also: Westinghouse requests 40-year license renewal for Columbia nuclear fuel plant

Underground piping leak detected at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant in 2011 requires soil excavation: A leak of an underground contaminated waste water line was detected under the concrete floor slab of the Solvent Extraction Area at Westinghouse Electric Co's Columbia nuclear fuel fabrication facility in 2011. Westinghouse now presented a supplement to its 2014 Environmental Report specifying how the resulting soil contamination shall be dealt with once the plant will be decommissioned. Westinghouse expects that an amount of 81,610 cubic feet [2,311 m3] of soil will have to removed.
> Download: SNM-1107 Environmental Report Supplement , March 6, 2018 (13MB PDF)

 

Brookfield Business Partners to buy bankrupt Westinghouse

A subsidiary of Canada's Brookfield Asset Management Inc plans to acquire Westinghouse Electric Co LLC, the bankrupt nuclear services company owned by Toshiba Corp, for $4.6 billion. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter but will require approval from regulators and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. (Reuters Jan. 4, 2018)

On June 28, 2018, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the indirect transfer of Westinghouse Electric Co.'s licenses from Toshiba to Brookfield WEC Holdings, Inc. The NRC action covers Westinghouse's licenses for the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility in Hopkins, S.C., and the Hematite Fuel Fabrication Facility in Festus, Mo., as well as 29 export licenses. The Hematite facility is in decommissioning.
> Download: NRC News release June 29, 2018 (PDF)
> Download: NRC Order, June 28, 2018

 

Violation of safety rules at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant

On Oct. 26, 2017, NRC issued a Notice of Violation to Westinghouse for design and maintenance failures at the ventilation ductwork of the Columbia nuclear fuel plant.
> Download: Integrated Inspection Report number 70-1151/2017-004 and Notice of Violation , U.S. NRC, Oct. 26, 2017

 

Worker contaminated by uranyl nitrate spill at Westinghouse Electric Co. Columbia nuclear fuel plant

"On October 18, 2017 at approximately 1005 EDT, while operators were unloading a LR-230 container of liquid uranyl nitrate, the liquid offload hose became disconnected from the container fitting. The event resulted in a uranyl nitrate exposure to one operator and a release in the offloading area. The estimated quantity of spilled solution was 6-8 gallons."
> View: Event Notification Report for October 20, 2017, Event Number: 53026 , U.S. NRC
> Download: 30 Day Follow-Up Report , Nov. 17, 2017 (PDF)

 

Workers in Westinghouse Electric Co. Columbia nuclear fuel plant receive individual radiation doses twice average

According to NRC's report on occupational radiation exposure at NRC-licensed facilities in 2015, the workers receiving the highest individual doses in the U.S. nuclear fuel industry are those employed at Westinghouse Electric Co.'s Columbia nuclear fuel plant. In 2015, the individual TEDE (total effective dose equivalent) annual dose of workers with measurable dose was 1.98 mSv at this plant, while the average for all five fuel facilities covered was 1.06 mSv.
> Download: Occupational Radiation Exposure at Commercial Nuclear Power Reactors and Other Facilities 2015, Forty-Eighth Annual Report , NUREG-0713 Vol. 37, U.S. NRC, Sep. 2017

 

Toshiba's nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co declares bankrupt

Toshiba Corporation hereby gives notice that Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC), WEC's U.S. affiliates and Toshiba Nuclear Energy Holdings (UK) Limited (TNEH (UK)), a holding company for Westinghouse Group operating companies outside the U.S. (collectively, the "WEC Group"), have resolved to file for a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code on March 29, 2017 (local time) with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of New York.
> Download: Toshiba Corp. release Mar. 29, 2017 (PDF)

 

Violation of criticality rules at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant

On November 8, 2016, the licensee failed to remove LOTO [lockout/tagout] and restart nozzles. Specifically, the licensee failed to reestablish process water flow to the spray nozzles for the front of the S-1030 scrubber packing section. The failure to reestablish process water flow resulted in a degradation to the ability of IROFS [items relied on for safety] VENTS1030-105 to perform its intended safety function of preventing excess uranium accumulation for approximately 23 hours. (NRC Integrated Inspection Report and Notice of Violation, Jan. 27, 2017)

 

Unexpected accumulation of uranium-bearing material in air scrubber of Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant

More uranium accumulation found in scrubber at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel fabrication facility: "On August 17, 2017 at 11:17 a.m., it was reported to the Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) department that additional residual material located within the out of service S-1056 scrubber was found. Material in this out of service system was previously reported on August 7, 2016. The material was removed and placed into favorable geometry storage. The material has been quantified and determined to contain less than 80 grams of uranium, which is well within safety margins." (NRC Event Notification Report for August 21, 2017, Event Number 52090 )

NRC issues Confirmatory Order on uranium accumulation in scrubber and ventilation systems at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel fabrication facility:
> Federal Register Volume 82, Number 155 (Monday, August 14, 2017) p. 37903-37908 (download full text )
> Download: NRC release Aug. 11, 2017 (PDF)
> Download: NRC cover letter · Confirmatory Order , Aug. 9, 2017
> Access Docket ID NRC-2017-0176

NRC issues report on lessons learned from uranium accumulation in scrubber and ventilation systems at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel fabrication facility:
> Download NRC report, Jan. 30, 2017

Unexpected accumulation of uranium-bearing material in air scrubber of Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant rated INES Level 2: "[...] For this event, the maximum potential consequences were Level 3 or 4 because, 'The main hazard from a criticality excursion is exposure of personnel due to high radiation fields from direct neutron and gamma radiation,...' The number of remaining safety layers were zero because all of the controls relied on to prevent criticality were compromised. Therefore, this event is rated a Level 2. While there were significant failures in safety provisions, there were no actual consequences." (NRC INES Event Rating Dec. 7, 2016 )

NRC Augmented Inspection Team report scathes management of criticality hazards at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant: "The Augmented Inspection Team (AIT) was established to inspect and assess the facts and circumstances surrounding the failure to meet the performance requirements of 10 CFR 70.61 due to exceeding the nuclear criticality safety (NCS) mass limit in a process off-gas scrubber. The team reviewed the record of activities that occurred, interviewed personnel, and conducted facility walkdowns. [...]
The AIT determined that items relied on for safety (IROFS) for the S-1030 scrubber did not ensure that a criticality accident was highly unlikely. The IROFS were not sufficient to prevent exceeding the NCS mass limit of the CSE. Westinghouse incorrectly assumed that only minor amounts of uranium were expected to accumulate in the S-1030 transition and scrubber vessel packing; that low uranium concentration would be present within the scrubber vessel; minimal amounts of small uranium particles were entrained within the intake ductwork; and that the scrubber would constantly dilute the uranium concentration with the addition of makeup water during normal operation and anticipated upsets. As a result, the controls and measures to protect against a criticality were not sufficient to assure subcriticality conditions. The AIT also determined that Westinghouse did not establish adequate management measures to ensure IROFS related to ventilation systems were designed, implemented, and maintained such that they were available and reliable to perform their function when needed.
The AIT also concluded that Westinghouse failed to provide adequate levels of oversight, enforcement, and accountability to the organizations directly involved with configuration management, operations, and maintenance of the wet ventilation systems. Specifically, the management team did not enforce procedure compliance and did not promote the importance of problem identification and resolution, even though established inspection criteria and procedure actions were available. Management did not drive corrective actions to be taken when action limits were exceeded, did not display accountability for monitoring criticality safety controls through management measures, and had a less than adequate questioning attitude that led to non-conservative decision making."
> Download: NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION AUGMENTED INSPECTION TEAM REPORT NO. 70-1151/2016-007 , Oct. 26, 2016 (23.3 MB PDF)

NRC allows restart of operations at Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant: On Oct. 20, 2016, NRC authorized Westinghouse to restart conversion area process equipment and the S-1030 scrubber system.

NRC issues Information Notice requesting nuclear fuel facility operators to consider potential for uranium accumulation in off-gas ventilation and scrubber systems:
> View here

Westinghouse concedes "long-standing deficiencies" led to accumulation of uranium in air scrubber of Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant: An internal review of a Columbia nuclear fuel factory has identified multiple problems with how the site has been managed for atomic safety through the years. The report, compiled by plant operator Westinghouse, says the company wasn't always tough-minded enough about safety and it didn't ensure employees knew enough about nuclear safety while operating some of the factory's equipment.
Westinghouse's report cited "long standing deficiencies" that led to a buildup of uranium in excess of federal nuclear safety standards in part of the Bluff Road plant.
The 47-year-old plant employs about 1,000 people, but at least 170 have been laid off temporarily while Westinghouse and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission separately investigate why uranium built up in apparent violation of federal standards.
Buildups of atomic material are of concern because they can lead to nuclear accidents, although that did not occur in this case. Nuclear safety advocates say Westinghouse needs to redouble its efforts to make sure other, more serious problems don't arise.
"There were no actual safety-related consequences as a result of the accumulation, but the potential for such consequences may have existed," the NRC said in a recent news release. The NRC has scheduled a public meeting Tuesday night [Sep. 27] in Columbia to discuss problems identified this past summer at Westinghouse. (The State Sep. 22, 2016)
> Download: Westinghouse Reported Event #EN52090 60-Day Follow-Up Report , Sep. 12, 2016 (3MB PDF)
> Download: NRC release Sep. 19, 2016 (161k PDF)

Inspectors find another unexpected accumulation of uranium-bearing material in air scrubber of Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant: An atomic safety investigation at a Columbia nuclear fuel factory uncovered additional problems this week as inspectors discovered more radioactive material had built up in the plant than they previously knew about.
An air pollution control system pipe potentially contained enough uranium to cause a nuclear accident at the Westinghouse plant on Bluff Road, records show. The amount of uranium found in the pipe might have exceeded a federal safety limit, according to a federal event notification report.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission became aware of the problem Tuesday (Aug. 23), about five weeks after Westinghouse notified the agency that uranium had built up in another part of the air pollution scrubber system, records show. In that case, the amount of uranium found in the scrubber was three times higher than federal safety limits, the notification report says.
This week's discovery, like the uranium buildup that surfaced in July, did not pose any danger to the surrounding community and no workers at the factory were harmed, according to the NRC. But buildups of nuclear material are a concern.
A buildup of atomic material can cause accidents that could endanger plant employees working nearby. Too much uranium in one place can increase chances of a "critical event," which federal officials say is one of the most serious problems at a nuclear fuel plant. (The State Aug. 26, 2016)
> View NRC Event Notification Report for August 24, 2016, Event No. 52090

Westinghouse voluntarily shuts down part of Columbia nuclear fuel plant as NRC investigates cause of unexpected accumulation of uranium-bearing material in air scrubber: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently dispatched a special inspection team to the plant after learning that enough uranium had been found in an air scrubber to raise concerns. The buildup did not result in any "safety related consequences" or injuries, but the NRC said "the potential for such consequences may have existed." Records indicate that the amount of uranium exceeded a limit of 29 kilograms. While the NRC investigation is ongoing, the plant's operator, Westinghouse, voluntarily shut down part of the facility and began notifying some employees this week of a "temporary workforce reduction," said company spokeswoman Courtney Boone.
NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said nuclear materials can cause an atomic reaction if not handled carefully, which is why the agency is taking the matter seriously. "In a fuel facility, probably the biggest safety issue is getting either too much material or material in the wrong configuration so that you could potentially have criticality - basically a chain reaction that could cause some kind of flash explosion," Hannah said Thursday (Aug. 11). "It's not as much of an off-site risk as it is to employees and workers in the area."
(The State Aug. 11, 2016)

NRC sends Augmented Inspection Team to assess unexpected accumulation of uranium-bearing material in air scrubber of Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today is sending an Augmented Inspection Team to the Westinghouse nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Columbia, S.C., to assess the unexpected accumulation of an excessive amount of uranium-bearing material in a plant component.
An air scrubber, which removes unwanted material from a number of processes at the plant, was undergoing an annual inspection and cleanout. During that work, an unexpectedly large amount of material was found inside the scrubber. Initially, it was thought the material did not contain a significant amount of uranium, but upon analysis, it was found that the uranium levels were higher in that area than allowed under NRC requirements in the facility license.
The initial problem was reported to the NRC July 14, agency records show. A report provided Thursday by the NRC said a limit of 29 kilograms of uranium was exceeded. The material found contained 87 kilograms of uranium, agency records show. (NRC Aug. 1, 2016)

 

Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant shipped fuel assemblies exceeding limit for artificial uranium istope U-236

On Nov. 16, 2015, Westinghouse notified NRC that "During investigations from late January to early March 2015, Westinghouse discovered and confirmed that it had shipped seven fuel assemblies that exceeded the U236 limit for unirradiated uranium during the year 2005."

 

Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant requests increase of possession limit for U-235 to pursue "business opportunities" involving enriched UF6 interim storage

On Nov. 11, 2014, Westinghouse submitted to NRC a license amendment request to increase the material possession limit for U-235:
"An amendment request to increase the material possession limit for U-235 is needed so that Westinghouse can pursue business opportunities involving uranium hexafluoride (UF6) interim storage that have arisen out of government contracts, changing enricher dynamics, and customer storage requests. This proposed possession limit increase will enable Westinghouse to expand its UF6 storage capacity."
> Download Westinghouse license amendment request , Nov. 11, 2014 (ML14315A078)

On Nov. 21, 2014, Westinghouse provided additional information, including the following, among others:
"As of November 2014, there are around 1,000 cylinders containing SNM [Special Nuclear Material, here: enriched uranium] on site. Most of the cylinders (74%) on site are owned by enrichers (USEC, Urenco, Areva, TENEX, CNEIC). The balance is a combination of Transporters (8%), Department of Energy (6%) and Westinghouse (12%). Also, under certain storage arrangements with our utility customers, they may provide the cylinders."
> Download Additional information to support license amendment request , Nov. 21, 2014 (ML14328A605)

 

NRC to hold meeting on seismic and criticality prevention programs at Westinghouse Electric Co. Columbia nuclear fuel plant

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 to discuss ongoing programs of interest at the Westinghouse Fuel Facility, which is located near Columbia, S.C.
At the meeting, Westinghouse officials will discuss the facility's seismic program, including the results of an independent consultant's review of how the plant would respond to an earthquake. Westinghouse will also discuss the status of its ongoing project to enhance safety and improve procedures to prevent nuclear criticalities.
> Download NRC release Dec. 28, 2012 (PDF)

 

Westinghouse requests 40-year license renewal for Columbia nuclear fuel plant

NRC invites comment on scope of Environmental Impact Statement for 40-year license renewal of Columbia nuclear fuel plant:
Comments must be filed by August 31, 2020.
> Federal Register Volume 85, Number 148 (Friday, July 31, 2020) p. 46193-46194 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2015-0039

NRC announces unprecedented decision to prepare full EIS rather than Environmental Assessment on 40-year license renewal for Columbia nuclear fuel plant: Following state concerns about previously unknown pollution at an atomic fuel plant near Columbia, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Friday (June 5) that it will conduct an extensive environmental study of the Westinghouse fuel factory.
The detailed study is expected to delay by a year any decision on a new license for the plant while the agency looks into problems that have surfaced in recent years.
Westnghouse's plant has polluted groundwater, and some of that contamination has only been discovered since 2018. Neighbors have raised concerns about safety and well water contamination. Friday's NRC decision marks the first time the agency has ever conducted a full environmental impact statement before deciding if a nuclear fuel fabrication plant should be relicensed, NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said. The plant's owner, Westinghouse, wants a new 40-year-operating license for the plant, built in 1969.
"In March 2020, the NRC received new data collected by Westinghouse during ongoing site investigations," the agency said in a news release Friday afternoon. "Based on the NRC's independent evaluation of the new data .... the NRC decided it could no longer conclude that renewal of the license would result in a finding of no significant impact" to the environment. (The State June 5, 2020)
> Download: NRC news release June 5, 2020 (PDF)
> Download: NRC letter to WEC Columbia plant , June 5, 2020 (PDF)
> Download: Frequently Asked Questions about U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Decision to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Westinghouse Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility License Renewal Review , June 10, 2020 (PDF)

State regulators request full EIS rather than Environmental Assessment on 40-year license renewal for Columbia nuclear fuel plant: State regulators are pressing the federal government to look more carefully at an atomic fuel plant's potential threat to Lower Richland before giving the factory a new 40 year license to operate.
In a letter last week to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, South Carolina officials raised concerns about earthquakes, as well as previously unknown pollution they have found, at the 51-year-old Westinghouse plant southeast of Columbia.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control wants the NRC to conduct a full environmental impact statement, which could delay a decision on a new operating permit for the fuel plant for a year or more. The current license expires in 2027 but the NRC, which must approve a new permit, is weighing whether to issue one sooner, perhaps as early as this year. (The State May 5, 2020)
> Download: SC Department of Health and Environmental Control Comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Westinghouse Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility pursuant to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) , Apr. 27, 2020 (306kB PDF)

State regulators concerned about rising pollution in pond near Columbia nuclear fuel plant: State regulators, citing rising pollution in two ponds near an atomic fuel factory, say the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is moving too quickly to approve a new 40-year operating license for the Westinghouse plant on Bluff Road. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is asking the NRC to suspend a final decision on the permit or extend a public comment period while the department reviews new pollution data, according to a Nov. 26 letter from the agency's Ken Taylor to the federal agency.
However, a spokesman for the NRC said the comment period, which closed Nov. 27, would not be reopened and the review is scheduled to be completed by April . "The answer is no," spokesman Roger Hannah said of delaying the process. [...]
Taylor's letter says uranium levels "not previously identified" are showing up in the mud of upper and lower Sunset lakes, which are between the Westinghouse plant and the Congaree River in eastern Richland County. Westinghouse has indicated the pollution may be tied to a 1.5-million gallon [5,678 m3] wastewater spill in 1971, but Taylor's letter said the NRC's draft environmental study on whether to approve a new license does not discuss the wastewater spill. The S.C. department wants more information on the spill.
The letter also says that while 40 new groundwater wells have been installed to monitor for pollution, the agency won't receive the data until early January. (The State Dec. 27, 2019)
> Download: SC Department of Health and Environmental Control Comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Westinghouse Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility pursuant to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) , Nov. 26, 2019 (744kB PDF)

NRC invites comment on new draft Environmental Assessment for 40-year license renewal of Columbia nuclear fuel plant: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is withdrawing its June 2018 final environmental assessment (EA) and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) concerning the license renewal request from Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC's (WEC) Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF). Because of its withdrawal, the NRC is issuing for public comment a new draft EA and draft FONSI concerning WEC's CFFF.
Comments must be filed no later than November 27, 2019.
> Download: NRC release Nov. 5, 2019 (PDF)
> Federal Register Volume 84, Number 208 (Monday, October 28, 2019) p. 57777-57778 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2015-0039
> Download: Draft Environmental Assessment , Oct. 21, 2019 (30.6MB PDF)

Westinghouse submits revised 40-year license renewal application for Columbia nuclear fuel plant: On Aug. 22, 2019, WEC submitted to NRC a revised application for a 40-year license renewal for its Columbia nuclear fuel plant.
> Download: SNM-1107 License Renewal Application , Aug. 22, 2019 (PDF)

Westinghouse submits revised 40-year license renewal application for Columbia nuclear fuel plant: On July 11, 2019, WEC submitted to NRC a revised application for a 40-year license renewal for its Columbia nuclear fuel plant.
> Download: SNM-1107 License Renewal Application , July 11, 2019

Westinghouse submits revised Environmental Report for 40-year license renewal application of Columbia nuclear fuel plant: On March 28, 2019, WEC submitted responses to NRC's request for additional information regarding the Environmental Review for the 40-year license renewal application. This includes a revised Environmental Report:
> Access: Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC Transmittal of Responses to Request for Additional Information Regarding the Environmental Review for Renewal of the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility License

NRC to reopen Environmental Assessment prepared for license renewal of Westinghouse Columbia nuclear fuel plant after disclosure of further leaks: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will take a closer look at a troubled nuclear fuel factory on Bluff Road as information surfaces about leaks that date back at least a decade, federal officials said Thursday (Aug. 30) night.
NRC officials said they have learned about leaks going back to 2008 that were not reported to the agency by Westinghouse, the owner and operator of the 49-year-old atomic fuel assembly plant. The NRC said it should have been told about the pollution leaks, even though notice was not always legally required.
To learn more, the NRC will reopen an environmental study of whether the Westinghouse facility poses a danger to Richland County if the company receives a new operating license, agency officials said at a community meeting Thursday night in Hopkins. (The State Aug. 30, 2018)

On June 8, 2018, NRC issued a Final Environmental Assessment in favour of Westinghouse Electric Co.'s request for a 40-year license renewal for its Columbia nuclear fuel plant.
> Download: Final Environmental Assessment for the Renewal of SNM-1107, Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility , June 2018 (12.5MB PDF)

On March 28, 2018, WEC submitted responses to NRC's request for additional information and a revised 40-year license renewal application:
> Download: Westinghouse Consolidated Responses to Request for Additional Information with Revised SNM-1107 License Renewal Application , Mar. 28, 2018

On Feb. 27, 2015, the NRC announced an opportunity to request a hearing and to petition for leave to intervene on WEC's application for a 40-year license renewal.
A request for a hearing or petition for leave to intervene must be filed by April 28, 2015.
> Federal Register Volume 80, Number 39 (Friday, February 27, 2015) p. 10727-10730 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2015-0039

On Nov. 30, 2012, - only three months after NRC granted a 15-year license renewal (!) - Westinghouse Electric Co requested a 40-year license renewal for its Columbia nuclear fuel plant.
On Feb. 7, 2013, NRC notified Westinghouse that it plans to defer the review of the application until January 2014.

 

NRC grants 15-year license renewal for Westinghouse Electric Co Columbia nuclear fuel plant

Westinghouse Electric Company submitted a revised license application dated March 20, 2012.
On Aug. 8, 2012, NRC granted a 15-year license renewal.

 

Violation of criticality rules at WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant, South Carolina

On Feb. 25, 2011, NRC issued a Notice of Violation to Westinghouse Electric Company for violations of criticality protection rules identified at its Columiba nuclear fuel plant.

 

Spill at WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant, South Carolina

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has dispatched a Special Inspection Team to the Westinghouse commercial nuclear fuel plant near Columbia, S.C., to review the circumstances associated with a Jan. 24 event involving a spill of about 200 gallons of wastewater containing ammonia and low levels of uranium.
The spill was the result of a pump failure and operators shut down the process after a few minutes. Plant employees cleaned the area, no workers were exposed to significant concentrations and no medical attention was needed. Westinghouse reported the event to the NRC on Jan. 25 and the NRC staff decided that a special inspection to review the facts surrounding the event, assess the Westinghouse response and evaluate the company's corrective actions was the appropriate course of action.
> View NRC release Feb. 1, 2010

NRC proposes $17,500 fine against Westinghouse for violations at Columbia nuclear fuel plant: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has proposed a $17,500 civil penalty against Westinghouse Electric Company for violations of nuclear safety requirements at its commercial nuclear fuel plant in Columbia, S.C. NRC officials said the proposed civil penalty is based on violations identified during an NRC review of a Jan. 24, 2010 event involving a spill inside the plant of about 200 gallons of wastewater containing ammonia and low levels of uranium.
> Download NRC release Nov. 4, 2010 (PDF)

 

Nuclear fuel pellets missing from WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant, South Carolina

The operators of a Bluff Road nuclear fuel plant can't find 25 pounds of radioactive material - and federal investigators say that's a problem. Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission suspect someone at the Westinghouse nuclear fuel factory deliberately moved uranium fuel pellets without properly accounting for them. Neither Westinghouse nor the NRC has been able to pinpoint the person. Investigators say the fuel pellets, first reported missing in May, pose little danger to the public because the material likely never left the site. The pellets were probably recycled in the fuel plant, according to the NRC. (The State Oct. 2, 2009)
> View NRC release Sep. 17, 2009
> Download Notice of Violation and NRC Inspection Report , Oct. 15, 2010

 

U.S. NRC issues Confirmatory Order regarding falsifications at Westinghouse Electric Company's Columbia nuclear fuel facility

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a Confirmatory Order to Westinghouse Electric Company's Columbia facility as part of a settlement agreement involving the actions of a former contractor foreman. That individual deliberately created inaccurate training records for his work group and also falsified ventilation system data when the required readings had not been taken. The foreman caused Westinghouse to be in violation of NRC requirements.
> View NRC release Aug. 7, 2009

 

NRC increases oversight of Westinghouse's fuel fabrication plant in Columbia

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is increasing oversight of Westinghouse's fuel fabrication plant in Columbia, South Carolina, after the plant's latest performance assessment found problems with safety operations and facility support, the agency said on Wednesday.
Normally the plant is evaluated once every two years. It will now be evaluated every 18 months until the agency sees improvement, NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said. The agency's last assessment, for the period February 13, 2007 to February 13, 2009, found two Severity Level III violations and six Severity Level IV violations. (Platts Apr. 15, 2009)
> View NRC release Apr. 15, 2009

 

Westinghouse Electric Co plans construction of new dry conversion process at Columbia nuclear fuel plant (South Carolina)

By letter dated July 3, 2007, Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC (WEC) notified the NRC that it plans to install a new Dry Conversion Process at the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF). WEC has an existing dry conversion process within the main manufacturing building at the CFFF that was operated from approximately 1985 to 1995. This facility was mothballed in place for business reasons. Rather than restoring the current processing equipment, WEC plans to construct a new building within its Controlled Access Area to meet current industry codes and standards.
On Dec. 15, 2008, WEC notified the NRC it "plans to delay for business reasons implementation of a project to install a new Dry Conversion Facility at the Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF)."

 

Employee burned with hydrofluoric acid at Westinghouse Electric Co's Columbia nuclear fuel plant (South Carolina)

On February 26, 2007, an employee was burnt with hydrofluoric acid (HF) and sent to the hospital for treatment. The root cause of the event was determined to be that the uranium hexafluoride (UF6) cylinder valve failed to seat. (WEC/NRC, Dec. 18, 2007)

 

Westinghouse Electric Co requests 20-year license renewal for Columbia nuclear fuel plant (South Carolina)

NRC issues notice of license renewal request of Westinghouse Electric Company, Columbia, SC, and opportunity to request a hearing.
Federal Register: December 29, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 249) p. 77195-77197 (download full text )

On April 19, 2007, the NRC staff issued an Environmental Assessment concluding that the renewal of the license will not result in a significant impact to the environment.

 

NRC proposes $24,000 fine for violations of criticality safety procedures

> View NRC release Jul 30, 2004
> Download NRC INSPECTION REPORT NO. 70-1151/2004-001 (May 13, 2004) (PDF)
> Download IR 07001151-04-001, Corrected page 18 (June 1, 2004) (PDF)
> Download June 3, 2004, Predecisional Enforcement Conference presentation slides (PDF)
> Download Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty, EA-04-096 (July 28, 2004) (PDF)


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