Contractors are awaiting final clearance to permanently close and seal two more of Savannah River Site’s underground nuclear waste tanks.
The contractor, Savannah River Remediation, must complete a self-assessment and pass a formal readiness assessment by an independent review team before grouting can begin, said Stuart MacVean, the company’s interim president and project manager.
Such assessments affirm adequacy of preparations, equipment, personnel training and hazard mitigation.
The two tanks – called 5 and 6 – held about 750,000 gallons each of Cold War radioactive waste, which has been removed. The final step, grouting, is scheduled to begin next month and continue through the fall.
Originally, there were 51 underground tanks at the site. Two were closed in the 1990s, and two more – tanks 18 and 19 – were closed last year under a long-term plan to eventually clean up and close all tanks.
Although tanks 5 and 6 are on schedule to be grouted this year, site officials have advised that looming federal budget cuts could affect the schedule for future tank cleanups.
The U.S. Department of Energy has advised the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control that it might not be able to remain in compliance with the closing schedule outlined in a federal facilities agreement.
David Moody, the DOE’s site manager, has said that funding is available to complete the grouting of tanks 5 and 6 this year but that there might not be enough money available for the next round.
A possible change under discussion with South Carolina involves using available funding in fiscal years2014 and 2015 to clean out the next round of tanks and process the waste, but postpone final grouting process until more money is available.