Built to Last: 15 Years of Proven Success with Radioactive Materials Packaging with Columbiana Hi Tech
General Plastics’ core material protects radioactive material containers at its core
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For the past three decades, Columbiana Hi Tech (CHT) has supported the full Nuclear Fuel Cycle, specializing in custom fabrication and specialty products for the nuclear industry. Manufactured products range from front-end to back-end transport and storage of nuclear materials, as well as equipment used for outage maintenance support. Additional capabilities include expert welding and machining services.
CHT Supporting Nuclear Fuel Cycle:
- Front End Transport
- Reactor Services – Ancillary equipment
- Back End Transport/Storage
The company, founded by Don Olson in 1985, addresses a critical need to store and transport nuclear material that meets the arduous quality assurance requirements and regulations of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC mandates that any manufacturer intending to transport nuclear materials or produce transportation materials must receive a license or certification, respectively. NRC regulations include “crash and fire protection” requiring radioactive materials (RAM) packages to withstand 1,475° Fahrenheit, 30-minute fire conditions, and 30-foot free drops.
The products Columbiana Hi Tech manufactures are built based on customers’ design and requirements. Among these are Traveler protective shipping containers and clamshell for pressurized water reactor (PWR) fuel assemblies. These are fabricated with heavy gauge stainless steel, as well as high density polyurethane foam material. The stainless steel provides structural strength, while the polyurethane foam acts as an impact absorber and thermal insulator for fire protection.
How Columbiana Hi Tech Meets Exacting Client Needs:
Columbiana Hi Tech, the leader in radioactive materials packaging, is required to adhere to stringent quality assurance programs. Moreover, components used in materials packaging need to perform based on the strictest guidelines. Over the past 15 years, General Plastics’ LAST-A-FOAM® FR-3700 Performance Core Series has been spec’d in to CHT’s clients’ projects. It is the only foam material that meets NRC requirements for Type A and Type B nuclear containers.
The FR-3700 is a rigid, closed-cell polyurethane foam that exhibits a high strength-to-weight ratio and boasts of a fire-retardant mechanism that produces an intumescent char when thermally attacked. It exhibits resistance to most chemicals and solvents, and common petroleum products have proven to have negligible effect on it. The foam’s applications require that it retain its physical properties over the normal life span of the product. To this end, tests have proven that compressive strength and char formation were not compromised despite long-term use, outperforming wood and other polymeric materials.
LAST-A-FOAM® FR-3700 Benefits:
- Satisfies radioactive material (RAM) regulations
- Closed-cell foam with intumescent properties
- High strength-to-weight ratio
- Proven long-term performance
- Biologically inert
- Does not swell, crack or split when exposed to water
- Outperforms wood and other polymeric materials
- Resistant to most chemicals and solvents
Download the FR-3700 Performance Foam Series PDS
Olson believes that one of the main reasons General Plastics is chosen by his customers is due to their strong reputation for quality and earned credibility through its long history in the industry. Other companies have attempted to supply foam for front- and back-end nuclear transportation and storage packages, but none were successful because they lack the certification and quality reputation that General Plastics has with the NRC.
“Having an FAA-certified testing lab works to their advantage,” Olson said, “I know that they’ve done extensive testing on their foam, both for fire and compression strength.” In addition, General Plastics meets the quality standards for NQA-1 and MIL-I-45208A.
The partnership between Columbiana Hi Tech and General Plastics is a success story proven in almost two decades of delivering quality products year after year. Every year, roughly three million packages of radioactive materials are shipped within the United States from source to storage.
The NRC has a zero-tolerance policy for human contact with nuclear waste during transport, and has penned proper transportation procedures for RAM.
Creating a Legacy of Success:
In January 2013, CHT was acquired by AREVA-TN, leading provider of total systems solutions for used fuel and radioactive waste management and nuclear transportation in the U.S. In 2015, Olson stepped down as President but remained as Vice President of Front End Business Line and Fabrication, putting him in direct charge of all CHT manufactured products using General Plastics foam. When CHT is awarded a contract from clients, they are provided all of the specifications and drawings, including the foam material. General Plastics may be the preferred producer of polyurethane foam for nuclear packaging in the United States due to its qualifications and certifications, but CHT enjoys working with General Plastics because of its high caliber product and service.
“We’ve had absolutely no problems with them whatsoever,” Olson said, “Which is very unique when somebody has a sole-source proprietary item. Usually they become lackadaisical and you have to go to them, but General Plastics does not operate that way.”
For Olson, the road to getting CHT to where it is now may have spanned decades and different names (CHT was originally called Hi Tech Manufacturing) but Olson claims it was an exciting one.
“It’s been good because of good customers and also because of good suppliers like General Plastics,” Olson said. “I love having a vendor or supplier that I don’t have to worry about, but I can count those on probably one hand. General Plastics is there.”
General Plastics continues to work with Olson and his team to deliver high-quality, successful products to Columbiana Hi Tech’s clients.