The U.S. Department of Energy has appointed a new federal project director to oversee the $1.4 billion Salt Waste Processing Facility under construction at Savannah River Site.
Pamela A. Horning, who has 29 years of nuclear experience, most recently served as the vice president of assurance and operational excellence for Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services.
She will replace Tony Polk, who will become programs director at DOE-Savannah River’s Office of the Assistant Manager for the Nuclear Material Stabilization Project.
The processing facility is a one-of-a-kind plant that will treat the highly radioactive portion of salt waste stored in underground tanks at the site. It will replace interim components of its existing Saltstone Facility, which opened in 1990.
In a news release announcing Horning’s appointment, site manager David Moody said the facility advanced significantly under Polk’s leadership, with construction 65 percent complete and all major equipment delivered.
The project, which will use new technology to accelerate cleanup operations, is behind schedule. It was supposed to be working in 2009, then 2011, and now 2015 – a date DOE acknowledged earlier this year might be pushed to 2018.
Officials have said the missed deadlines were the result of delays in delivery of specially made steel tanks, regulations triggered by a change in the project’s “performance category” and recurring issues with material quality.
In the meantime, the contractor that manages the site’s interim salt waste facilities said the program has exceeded expectations.
“The salt processing facilities have surpassed expected operational results by processing more efficiently, at a higher rate, and for a longer period than expected,” said Savannah River Remediation President Dave Olson.
The program set a record in 2012 by processing more than 704,000 gallons of salt waste – more than 4,000 gallons over its target number.