The operational closure of two of Savannah River Site’s high-level radioactive waste tanks will be completed in September, well ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline imposed by the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control.
The site includes 49 underground storage tanks – some of which are leaking – that contain up to 1.3 million gallons apiece of waste generated by nuclear weapons programs housed there since the 1950s.
The cleanup process includes removing and processing the waste from the tanks, then filling them with a thickened, custom-made grout that will permanently seal them in place.
Work began April 2 to fill two of the emptied tanks – tanks 18 and 19 – with more than 3.2 million gallons of grout.
Remaining steps include grouting of related equipment and capping of the tanks, including grouting of the tanks’ two-foot wide service entrances used to place equipment inside the tanks during cleanup.
“We have some work remaining to completely fill and cap the tanks, but, with bulk grouting complete, we have eliminated considerable risk for our workers and the environment,” said Dave Olson, president of liquid waste contractor Savannah River Remediation.
Although the U.S. Energy Department agreed to complete the grouting by Dec. 31, the work will be finished in September, said Terrel Spears, the department’s SRS assistant waste disposition manager.
Savannah River Site was the first Energy Department facility to close waste tanks when Tanks 17 and 20 were closed in 1997.
The only other high-level waste tanks were closed at the Idaho National Laboratory in 2007.