Savannah River Site was granted an eight-month extension to close an underground high-level nuclear waste storage tank, ending a dispute with South Carolina over cleanup deadlines at the U.S. Department of Energy facility.
The site has until May 31, 2016, to empty and permanently seal in place tank 12, according to a news release. The department agreed to research commercial methods for treatment and processing of salt waste, which could hasten tank closure.
Last August, DOE asked to extend the closure dates for tanks 12 and 16 from Sept. 30, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2016.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control denied the request for a 15-month extension, launching a formal dispute resolution process outlined in the site’s Federal Facilities Agreement.
DOE and the state agreed in February to extend the closure deadline for tank 16 to Oct. 27 in exchange for days lost during government furloughs and restoring operations afterward.
South Carolina has pressured the Energy Department to dispose of the waste and close the tanks they say pose an environmental risk.
Some of the Cold War-era tanks are rusted, cracked and have leaked. The site has 51 tanks, including six no longer in use.
The Energy Department must provide a report to DHEC and the Environmental Protection Agency on efforts to find commercial sources for salt waste treatment by Oct. 15.
“This activity serves to satisfy the parties’ desire to accelerate and expedite tank closure through the application of innovative approaches whenever possible,” the news release says.