RadWaste Monitor Vol. 13 No. 22
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RadWaste Monitor
Article 8 of 8
May 29, 2020

Wrap Up: New NRC Inspector General Sworn In

By ExchangeMonitor

A longtime federal attorney was sworn in Wednesday as inspector general for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Robert Feitel succeeds Hubert Bell, who retired in December 2018 after 22 years in the position.

As inspector general, Feitel now leads an office with a yearly budget of about $13 million and a mission to conduct audits and investigations “to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness within the NRC, and to prevent and detect fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement in agency programs and operations.” The office provides the same services for the federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, the nuclear health-and-safety monitor for the Department of Energy.

President Donald Trump nominated Feitel as inspector general in October 2019. The Senate confirmed the nomination on May 4.

Feitel joined the federal government as a lawyer in March 1995.  Among his assignments, he spent nearly 12 years as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. His most recent post was the Capital Case Section at the Justice Department, which primarily supports the Attorney General’s Review Committee on Capital Cases in determining whether to recommend the death penalty in capital cases.

Meanwhile, two nominees confirmed last week to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had not been sworn in as of Friday.

Former energy consultant David Wright has served on the commission since May 2018, with his current term expiring on June 30. His new term would keep him on the commission through the end of June 2025.

Senate Appropriations Committee staffer Christopher Hanson will fill a spot left vacant by the April 2018 retirement of Commissioner Stephen Burns. That term ends on June 30, 2024.

 

The United Kingdom’s Sellafield nuclear site is resuming some cleanup operations and ramping up the number of on-site personnel, after two months of COVID-19 precautions.

Site operator Sellafield Ltd. in late March reduced staffing inside the fence from over 8,000 to roughly 1,500 “key workers,” according to a May 22 update. It hopes by the middle of June to double that count, with a maximum of 3,500 workers on-site “at any one time … to allow people to more readily socially distance themselves from other workers.”

“The preparations we have made in plants enable everyone to come back to work with confidence,” Chief Executive Martin Chown said in prepared comments. ”I was most impressed with the commitment and positive attitude from all of our staff, who are an asset to our business.”

Sellafield, in West Cumbria, for decades was a major location for the U.K.’s nuclear weapons and energy work. It is now approaching the end of its nuclear fuel reprocessing mission, while hosting a large-scale cleanup program. Sellafield Ltd. is a wholly owned branch of the U.K. government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which expects to spend close to £2.2 billion there in the 2020-2021 spending year – £1.1 billion going toward decommissioning and cleanup.

In the week leading up to May 22, work resumed on three projects at Sellafield:

  • Preparations resumed for commissioning the Silo Emptying Plant retrieval systems within the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo, which holds waste cladding material extracted from spent Magnox nuclear fuel.
  • Workers are once again working on repackaging cans of plutonium within new containers.
  • Maintenance is underway again on the skip-handler crane in Sellafield’s First Generation Magnox Storage Pond. A corresponding project is set to begin this week in the Pile Fuel Storage Pond.

“Extensive engagement with client, contractor and trade union representatives for the restart of further workstreams is ongoing,” Sellafield Ltd. said in a further update Thursday.