Savannah River Site celebrates completed reactor projects, cleanup funded by Recovery Act

Savannah River Site's long-defunct P reactor was permanently closed and sealed specially designed grout.

Workers celebrated the retirement Thursday of Savannah River Site’s most notable Cold War remnants.


The long-defunct P and R reactors, brought online 60 years ago to make nuclear weapons materials, were permanently closed and sealed this year with 254,000 cubic yards of specially designed grout.

David Huizenga, the Energy Department’s acting assistant secretary for Environmental Management, joined federal and state regulators, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions workers, and others to celebrate the completion of the reactor projects and other cleanup milestones funded by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.

“The accomplishments achieved through the Recovery Act, such as the closure of P and R Reactor Areas, are tremendous, but I commit to you that SRS is not a closure site,” Huizenga said, noting that SRS has a promising future through new missions in the areas of environmental stewardship, clean energy and national security.

The site received $1.6 billion in stimulus funds designed to accelerate cleanup efforts and free up large areas of the site for future missions.



• The decommissioning of the Heavy Water Components Test Reactor was completed in June 2011. This project required highly technical engineered lifts to remove the top of the reactor dome, steam generators and reactor vessel from the building. In addition, the radiation exposure for the 25-person team was less than the 620 millirems one average American receives in a year from medical and background sources. Completion of this project was accelerated by 13 years.

• In August 2010, M Area, which spanned 45 acres and included a reactor fuel manufacturing area, became the first operable unit to be closed under the Recovery Act at SRS in 2010. Nineteen waste units were remediated, process sewer line manholes were grouted and approximately 4,000 cubic yards of contaminated soils and concrete rubble were addressed as part of the remedial action.

• In D Area, large detritation units heated contents up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit to remediate 1,650 cubic yards of tritium-contaminated soils and concrete.

• The most visual of the clean-up projects, the 455-foot K Reactor Cooling Tower, was imploded in May 2010. The debris from the massive implosion was carted away for permanent dispositioning or recycling by August of that year. The project was completed with an excellent safety record and contributed 45 acres to the footprint reduction.

• Developed and installed melter bubbler technology, including a 3,000-gallon argon tank at the Defense Waste Processing Facility, which will increase production of vitrified waste into stainless steel storage canisters by approximately 40 percent.

• Procured and installed major items of equipment, including a 9,000-gallon nitrogen tank, two 60,000-gallon salt solution receipt tanks, a 35,000-gallon waste concentration hold tank, and 14 mixing, blending and transfer pumps, all to accelerate waste removal and tank closure.

• Performed modifications to tanks and facilities to support salt feed to the Salt Waste Processing Facility, including the development and installation of a 10,000-gallon chemical addition tank.