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NRC to observe nuclear waste tank closure efforts

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Nuclear Regulatory Commission observers will visit Savannah River Site on March 27-28 to evaluate ongoing efforts to close underground storage tanks that contain Cold War radioactive waste.

Originally, there were 51 underground tanks at the site’s H and F areas. Two were closed in the 1990s, and two more — tanks 18 and 19 — were closed last year, with efforts under way to clean up and close two more tanks this year.

Under the terms of the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act, the NRC has authority to monitor the tank cleanup and closure projects, a site spokesman said.

Because NRC’s monitoring role is in coordination with the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control, state representatives will also attend.

The NRC will review plans for closure of the next two tanks — 5 and 6 — and review radiation dose information for the last two tanks closed.

The waste in the aging tanks includes thick liquids, sludge with a consistency similar to peanut butter and a caustic material that turns to salt.

Disposal programs include emptying the tanks, processing the waste and then filling in the aging, carbon-steel vats with a specialized grout and leaving the tanks buried forever.

Each tank is 86 feet across and 44 feet deep, and all are buried 10 to 12 feet below ground level.


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