Contractors have completed placement of about 1,700 truckloads of concrete into Savannah River Site’s dormant C Reactor building that once served the nation’s Cold War nuclear weapons program.
The reactor’s huge, below-ground disassembly basin – similar to a series of interconnected swimming pools – required more than 2.8 million gallons of grout designed to permanently seal the area.
The once water-filled basin was used to cut and store irradiated fuel elements for the reactor, which was in use from 1955 to 1985 and helped produce weapons-grade plutonium.
Before the area could be grouted, the contractor, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, had to remove about 2 million gallons of water through an evaporation process, said Chris Bergren, the manager of area completion projects.
“Due to C Reactor’s historical status, the rest of the building will not be filled with grout,” he said. “Our goal is to safely eliminate a potential source of contamination while fully preserving the historical integrity of the building as a whole.”
At peak operations, SRS maintained five productions reactors, beginning in the 1950s. The last, K Reactor, was shut down in 1992 and is still used for plutonium storage. Both P and R Reactors have been fully grouted and permanently sealed. L Reactor remains in use as a storage site for spent nuclear fuel.