IDAHO NATIONAL LABORATORY
Naval Reactors Facility
The Naval Reactors Facility (NRF), which is located about 52 miles northwest of Idaho Falls in Butte County in central INL, was established in 1949 when the U.S. Atomic Commission, DOE's predecessor, created the INL as the National Reactor Testing Station. Only about 84 of the NRF site's 4,400 acres are developed. The NRF was originally a part of Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, operated by Westinghouse Electric Corporation under the supervision of the DOE's Office of Naval Reactors. While the NRF is not managed by the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), its work advances the NNSA's mission.
NRF was created to support the U.S. Navy's Nuclear Propulsion Program. For fifty years, the NRF tested reactor designs, received naval spent nuclear fuel (SNF) for examination and storage, and trained approximately 40,000 navy personnel using prototypes to operate nuclear power plants on ship. From the early 1950s through the mid -1990s, the NRF built and operated prototype nuclear propulsion plants for submarines and aircraft carriers. While the complex consists of three naval nuclear reactor prototype plants, the Expended Core Facility (ECF)/Dry Fuel Storage Facility, and support buildings, only the ECF remains active.
The submarine thermal reactor prototype (S1W) was built in 1951, became operational in 1953, and closed in October 1989. The S1W was the prototype reactor for the USS Nautilus. The large ship reactor prototype (A1W) was constructed in 1958 and remained open until January 1994. A1W facility, a prototype for Enterprise aircraft carrier, had a dual-pressurized water reactor plant in a steel hull replica. It was the first facility with two reactors powering the propeller shaft of one ship. The submarine reactor plant prototype (S5G) was built in 1965 and operated until May 1995. The pressurized water reactor prototype was built in a submarine hull that could simulate a ship's motion while at sea. All the prototype reactor plants at NRF have been defueled, the last one in 1999, and placed in safe condition.
According to the 1995 Idaho Settlement Agreement, all SNF must be in dry storage by 2023 and removed from Idaho by 2035. Shipments of SNF to NRF have been limited as follows. No more than 24 shipments were to be made from the time of the agreement through the end of 1995. No more than 36 were to be made in 1996. From 1997 to 2000, no more than 20 shipments were to be made per year. From 2001 through 2035, the running average could not exceed 20 shipments. In total, no more than 575 shipments and no more than 55 metric tons could be shipped. The Secretary of Defense was charged with certifying, with notice to the Governor of Idaho, the shipments.
The ECF, which was built in 1958, receives, inspects, and conducts research on, and provides temporary storage for naval SNF. It also prepares and examines developmental nuclear fuel material samples. NRF work helps in the design of longer-lived cores, minimizing the creation of SNF and thus the need for disposition. The Expended Core Facility Dry Cell Project was created in response to Settlement Agreement. It added additional equipment and space for dry loading, handling, and storage. One dry loading station, the East End Modification task, was built. Following a November 1996 environmental impact statement and an April 1997 record of decision to return naval SNF to the ECF, a second dry loading station, the West End Modification task, was constructed.
The NRF was classified as part of Waste Area Group (WAG) 8. Its 3.2-mile Industrial Waste Ditch (IWD) was the focus of the cleanup effort. Starting in 1953 when the first section of the IWD was constructed, it served as a disposal for non-radioactive, non-sewage, industrial wastewater from plant operation processes. In 1980, the NRF stopped its discharge of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) wastes to the IWD. The NRF also had three landfill units for solid waste from the prototype and support facilities. In 1996 the DOE constructed landfill caps for the IWD. In 2003 phase one, excavation and soil and debris consolidation, of a cleanup plan was completed. In the summer of 2004, phase two, capping of the consolidated waste was finished. In June of that same year, a Five Year Review was completed.
On June 4, 2008, an agreement between the State of Idaho and the U.S. Navy was announced. An addendum to the 1995 Settlement Agreement, it extends the Navy's nuclear operations at INL beyond 2035. As a result, the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program plans to refurbish its INL facilities for long-term operations.
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