Savannah River Site scientists are working to identify a strange growth found on racks of spent nuclear fuel collected from foreign governments.
The “white, stringlike” material was found among thousands of spent fuel assemblies submerged in deep pools within the site’s L Area, according to a report filed by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a federal oversight panel.
“The growth, which resembles a spider web, has yet to be characterized, but may be biological in nature,” the report said.
Savannah River National Laboratory collected a small sample in hopes of identifying the mystery lint – and determining whether it is alive.
L Area, with 3-foot-thick concrete walls, includes pools that range from 17 to 30 feet deep, where submerged racks are used to store an array of assemblies – some containing highly enriched uranium – from foreign and domestic research reactors. The material is kept there for national security reasons.
The safety board’s report said the initial sample collected was too small to allow further characterization.
“Further evaluation still needs to be completed,” the report said.
Will Callicott, a spokesman for Savannah River National Laboratory, said in an e-mail that officials hope to collect a larger sample for analysis.
“But whatever it is, (it) doesn’t appear to be causing any damage,” he said.