Waste tank closure deadlines hard to meet with Savannah River Site budget, official says



Savannah River Site’s tightened budget will likely cause missed deadlines for cleanup of aging, highly-radioactive nuclear waste storage tanks that are considered the biggest environmental risk at the U.S. Department of Energy site, SRS manager Dave Moody said Monday.

Moody said site officials are talking to regulators from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control about “alternatives” to cleanup activities for the tanks, such as removing the liquid waste but not filling the vats with a specialized grout by the deadlines outlined in a federal agreement.

Moody and other site officials spoke Monday at a public forum hosted by the SRS Community Reuse Organization on the site’s fiscal 2016 proposed budget. Closure of the high-level waste tanks remains a funding priority for the site’s environmental management mission, Moody said.

The White House’s budget released in February proposed $1.3 billion for SRS. The budget for tank closure was $582 million, a $35 million increase over 2015.

SRS has 51 underground storage tanks, six of which are no longer in use, holding high-level radioactive waste. .

South Carolina and SRS continue to debate the deadline for closure of tank 12 after the site requested to extend the deadline for it and tank 16 from Sept. 30 to the end of 2016. The state refused the 15-month extension for tank 12 and allowed 21 days extra for tank 16 in an agreement last month.

“There’s no question we recognize and the state recognizes our challenge with meeting out-year commitments on cleaning and closing tanks,” Moody said. “In addition to discussing tanks 12 and 16, we are also discussing some alternatives with the state.”

The site is on target to meet two tank closure milestones in fiscal year 2016, but deadlines in later years will be difficult to meet, Moody said. Discussions with regulators have included options that would improve efficiencies for closing the tanks, he said.

Moody, citing one example, said it could be possible to remove bulk waste from the entire tank farm then come back later to clean and grout them for permanent closure.

“The chemical cleaning and grouting applies additional risk reduction. When we remove the bulk of the soluble materials, you accomplish the bulk of your risk reduction,” he said.

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