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New York and will be located in the town of Ashford in Cattaraugus County, 30 miles south of the city of Buffalo.
While the NFS facility will be the first commercial chemical reprocessing plant, the processes which will be used in this plant have all been studied at length and used by the AEC and its contractors. The solvent extraction dissolution, waste concentration, waste handling, fuel receiving, and storage aspects have all been used in production plants for over a decade and have had the benefit of a considerable amount of research and development effort. The mechanical handling aspects have had several years of development testing at full geometrical scale. It is believed that the technology upon which this plant is based has been sufficiently demonstrated and is completely adequate to provide reasonable assurance that the plant can be constructed and operated without undue risk to the health and safety of the general public and of the personnel of the plant.
The proposed plant will receive spent nuclear fuel in heavily shielded casks brought in by rail or by truck. The fuel elements will be removed from the casks under water to provide shielding from the radiation associated with the spent fuel. The removed elements will be kept under water in a storage basin until they are processed in the plant. Processing will consist of bringing the elements into a shielded process mechanical cell (PMC) wherein, by means of remotely operated mechanical equipment, extraneous hardware will be removed and the fuel will be cut up into pieces small enough to permit their subsequent introduction into a dissolver. Dissolution will be carried out in a chemical process cell (CPC) in which all of the equipment can be maintained remotely. The fuel will be put into aqueous solution using appropriate chemical agents; the quantity of feed input will be accurately determined and the feed concentrations adjusted. This feed solution is then subjected to a series of solvent extraction steps which result in the formation of separate, decontaminated product streams containing uranium and plutonium and a number of waste streams containing fission products. The material in the product streams is assayed and packaged into special shipping containers and the products returned to the Atomic Energy Commission. The waste streams are reduced in volume by evaporation, neutralized, and stored in tanks located adjacent to the plant. All of the solvent extraction processing is carried out in a series of cells which contain equipment which permits contact maintenance.
The license application is based upon the assumption that the plant will process fuel containing radioactivity equivalent to that of 365 tons per year of a fuel with the following maximum parameters:
Burnup, 20,000 megawatt-days per ton.
Specific power, 27.5 megawatts per ton.
Load factor, 85 percent.
Cooling time, 150 days.
Most of the spent reactor fuels to be processed in this plant are low enriched UO2 contained in tubes of stainless steel, zirconium, or zircaloy. The plant also has capability for processing ThO,-UO: fuels in which the uranium is highly enriched; uranium-molybdenum alloys; uranium-zirconium alloys; and uraniumaluminum alloys. Certain types of fuels, generally described as stainless steelcermets and sodium-bonded fuels, may be processed in this plant at a later date with additional equipment. Facilities for these fuels will not be installed at the outset.
The proposed facility will be located on the Western New York Nuclear Service Center in the town of Ashford, near Riceville, Cattaraugus County, N.Y., about 30 miles southwest of Buffalo and referred to hereinafter as the Riceville site. The site was chosen after considerable study by the New York State Atomic Research Development Authority. The location was dictated by a combination of favorable factors including: Population density, geological and hydrological features, and relationship to other industrial complexes. In selecting this site for its proposed reprocessing plant and waste storage facilities, Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., took into account these favorable characteristics and the facts that analysis indicated that this particular environment would accommodate the operation contemplated, and that the site was well situated geographically in relation to the nuclear energy industry developing in the northeastern part of the United States.
The site contains 3,331 acres, and the processing plant and waste storage facilities will be located 3,000 to 4,000 feet from the nearest site boundary. The site is in the middle of a rural area of low population density—an average of less than 90 persons per square mile within a 25-mile radius (see table 1). The population has not changed within a 10-mile radius over the past 50 years, and the character of the land and community are such that it should not change materially over the next 15 years. There is no town within 25 miles of the site with a population in excess of 10,000. The nearest village is Springville, 41⁄2 miles to the north with a population of 3,852, and the nearest major population center is the city of Buffalo, the city limits of which are 26 miles north of the site. The immediate area within 4 miles around the site is divided between unusable rugged terrain and level fertile land used for farming. All roads through the site will be used solely for access purposes and will be controlled by the applicant. There is a spur of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. railroad used solely for freight traffic running through the site at a distance of 1,800 feet at its closest point to any facility.
TABLE 1.-Total population and that of towns, villages, and cities within successive 5-mile radius of the western New York Nuclear Service Center
The site is located on a small plateau cut by Buttermilk Creek and numerous tributaries which collect all of the surface and shallow subsurface drainage from the site. This valley is surrounded by glaciated bedrock hills. All surface drainage on the Service Center is discharged into Buttermilk Creek which is wholly within the boundaries of the Center. Hence, all surface drainage leaving the site can be monitored. The Service Center includes all of the Buttermilk Creek valley for 5 miles above its mouth including at the northwest end of the property the confluence of Buttermilk Creek with Cattaraugus Creek which then flows in a westerly direction into Lake Erie 39 stream-miles away.
The eastern, western, and southern boundaries of the Service Center are along the slopes of glaciated bedrock hills, some of which reach altitudes in excess of 1,900 feet above sea level. Land surface slopes from these hillsides onto the elongate rolling plain that constitutes the central part of the Service Center. The surface of the plain upon which the processing plant will be built is approximately 1,380 feet above sea level. Buttermilk Creek flows through the central part of the plain in a valley cut about 100 feet below the surface of the plain. Tributaries of Buttermilk Creek have further dissected the topography of the Service Center. The valley walls of Buttermilk Creek and its tributaries are generally quite steep, but are badly slumped in some areas.
The area has a mean annual temperature of 45° F., an annual rainfall of 40 inches, and an annual snowfall of 80 to 100 inches.
The meteorologists who have investigated the site have stated their opinion that the Springville site is considerably more favorable than most from the point of view of meteorology, topography, and the indicated population factors. This section of New York State is generally characterized by relatively vigorous windflow with two prevailing directions, northwest in the winter and southwest in the summer. Both of these are favorable from the standpoints of distance from major population centers and the very low population densities in the intervening areas (see table 2.8 and fig. 2.8 of the safety analysis). The area around the site is seldom subject to persistent stagnant high-pressure areas and poor dif
fusion conditions. Such phenomena are much more commonly found south of this region in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia.
The local windflow patterns are difficult to define, even though the general circulation above the hilltop level can be estimated fairly accurately. The terrain surrounding the site is rolling, with maximum differences in elevation of a few hundred feet. The immediate site area will probably show local wind circulations associated with Buttermilk Creek, which runs northwest-southeast through the site and possibly to some extent by the smaller creek running northeastsouthwest and joining Buttermilk in the southern part of the area. The probable air drainage flow during stable conditions is of interest, since a low-level release under such circumstances would be likely to remain concentrated for significant distances. Based upon the topography, it is reasonable to anticipate that such flow will be quite consistently northwestward down the Buttermilk Creek Valley, possibly reaching the Cattaraugus Creek Valley about 3 to 4 miles to the northwest. It is doubtful that a release would reach the village of Springville under such conditions, but rather would either become stagnant in the Buttermilk or Cattaraugus Valleys or follow the Cattaraugus Valley away from Springville into an area of very low population.
Wind data from the available nearby sites have been obtained and studied. These include airport observations from Olean, 30 miles south-southeast; Jamestown, 35 miles south-southwest; and Dansville, nearly 50 miles to the east. Study of these wind records indicates that each is primarily affected by the local terrain. Therefore, the wind rose and diffusion parameter data presented in table 2 have been deduced from a knowledge of the conditions aloft in this general area and from assessing the probable impact of the local terrain. During the course of construction and operation local meteorological data will be obtained and will be used for operating purposes. In the absence of specific data for the site, the diffusion parameters have been chosen on an exceedingly conservative basis. Determination of the onsite data will undoubtedly justify the use of more liberal values.
TABLE 2.—Probable wind roses and diffusion parameters for the western
New York Nuclear Service Center
The plant and the waste storage facilities are located on a plateau between two of the ravines which form tributaries flowing into Buttermilk Creek. Geology of the site has been investigated by a series of drillings and a seismic survey. Bedrock, which has a profile steeper than the surface, is overlain by glacial deposits. The glacial deposits in the Buttermilk Creek Valley range from 5 to 560 feet or more in thickness. This thickness is neither uniform and consistent in lithology, nor the result of a single deposition. Glacial ice advanced over, and melted back from, this area several times. During each such oscillation, a series of deposits, quite diverse in character, were laid down. The glacial deposits are thinnest on the higher hills around the perimeter of the site where they constitute a thin veneer over the bedrock surface. These deposits thicken toward the central part of the service center where they partly fill the preglacial bedrock valley. The surface layer on part of the site is relatively permeable coarse granular deposits, the thickness of which varies from zero to 25 feet. This is underlain by a much less permeable silty till varying in thickness from 25 to 35 feet. On part of the site, this silty till is at the surface. Under that there may be irregular sandy tills and various shales. These layers have been shown to have good ion exchange capacities.
Cattaraugus Creek flows in a generally westerly direction through Zoar Valley, Gowanda, and the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation and empties into Lake Erie 27 miles west of Buffalo. It is 20 stream-miles from the confluence of Buttermilk and Cattaraugus Creeks to Gowanda and another 19 miles to the mouth of Cattaraugus Creek. The nearest gaging station to the site on Cattaraugus Creek is at Gowanda, where one is maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey. Based upon drainage areas and USGS data taken at Gowanda over a 15-year period, the following flow data can be calculated:
Cattaraugus Creek as measured at Gowanda.
There are no villages or cities downstream from the site which rely on Cattaraugus Creek for their water supply and there are no potable water sources or large water supplies used in the immediate area. Lake Erie is used as a source of public water, but there is no such use closer than 7 miles from the mouth of the Cattaraugus. The closest Lake Erie water uses are shown in table 3. Cattaraugus water is used downstream from the site for industrial and recreational purposes as shown in table 4. There is no commercial or industrial use of water on or within 4 miles of the service center. All existing water supplies in the area are for domestic and livestock uses. Most of these supplies are obtained from shallow, large-diameter dug wells or springs.
TABLE 3.—Public water users of Lake Erie Water in the vicinity of Cattaraugus Creek
Erie County Water Authority (Sturgeon Point).
Erie County Water Authority.
TABLE 4.--Uses of Cattaraugus Creek water downstream from western
Mouth of Cattaraugus Creek to south boundary of
There are three aquifers on the site. One is in the surficial glacial till. Ground-water movement in this formation is from 1 to 2 feet per day. On some parts of the site there is an aquifer located in sandy tills underneath the silty till. Finally, there is a deep bedrock artesian aquifer which is situated well below impermeable layers at the facility location. The silty till, in which the waste tanks and the solid burial will be located, is not an aquifer but it is water saturated. Ground-water movement in this very impermeable layer is calculated to be about 5X105 feet per day. It is calculated that it would take about 40,000 years for the high-level wastes and 5,500 years for the low-level wastes to move through this silty till from the point of storage to the nearest ravine.
The particular area chosen for the plant facilities is one in which the artesian aquifer is missing. This area is a “peninsula” bordered on the east by Erdman Brook and on the west by an unnamed stream. The incision of the valley floor by these two defiles is deep enough and the water table contours are such that it can be definitely stated that any activity getting into the ground water in the plant site area will show up eventually in one of these two streams and nowhere else except, of course, for that which is sorbed upon the soils and held therein. This situation will permit an excellent monitoring system with a minimum of expense and a maximum of reliability.
There will be two monitoring stations set up. The first will be located at the confluence of the two streams mentioned in the previous paragraph. The total flow at this point is less than 5 percent of the flow in Buttermilk Creek so that any activity showing up will be less diluted and consequently more readily detected. Thus, this point represents the most sensitive on which could be selected for environmental control of the surface drainage. There will also be a station located in Cattaraugus Creek at the site boundary below the confluence of the Cattaraugus and Buttermilk. Results obtained here will be used as a permanent record and as a check upon those obtained closer to the plant. At each point there will be flow measurement and a continuous sampler which will give representative samples for total flow.
Western New York is an area of low seismicity and the danger of earthquakes which might rupture any of the plant's facilities is minimal. The nearest fault to the site is at a distance of 35 to 40 miles, and this is more properly classified as a minor earth structure rather than a fault. Thus, the site presents no seismological problems.
The characteristics of the site are such as to minimize the possibility that the health and safety of the public would be endangered by operation at the site of the NFS chemical processing plant or by the storage of low or high level wastes. The remoteness of the site from population centers, the low population density for 25 miles beyond the site, the large exclusion area, and the meteorology, all are favorable factors to assure protection both from normal operation of the facility and from credible accidents. The hydrology and geology are well suited to permit control of low level and high level wastes under normal condi