Savannah River Site scientists plan to 'harvest' nuclear waste growths

A "white, stringlike" material found among spent fuel assemblies at Savannah River Site will be tested by researchers from Savannah River National Laboratory.

Scientists will fabricate a special piece of equipment to harvest samples of an unidentified white growth appearing in racks of nuclear waste stored at Savannah River Site.

A federal oversight panel, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, made note of the white, cobweblike material and speculated it “may be biological in nature.”

However, the board said, the tiny sample collected for testing was insufficient for analysis.

“We won’t have the info on the origins and identity of the material until we get a larger sample to analyze,” said Angie French, a spokeswoman for Savannah River National Laboratory, which is conducting the inquiry. “We expect to be able to get that sample in late January.”

The “white, stringlike” material was found among spent fuel assemblies submerged in pools in the site’s L Area, where nuclear materials from foreign and domestic research reactors are stored for national security reasons.

The sampling can commence as soon as equipment for the task is ready, French said.

“The material disperses readily when disturbed, so we are designing and fabricating sampling apparatus to collect the larger sample needed,” she said, adding that the mystery growth does not appear to be causing any problems or damage.

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