Originally created 01/27/99

Audit: Waste records at SRS insufficient

Savannah River Site workers failed to record the locations of many containers full of hazardous and low-level radioactive waste, according to federal investigators.

An audit performed by the U.S. Department of Energy's inspector general found 47 containers of waste in locations other than those recorded in log books, according to a new report. Another 46 containers had no location recorded, and 28 containers had incomplete records.

"At Savannah River, adequate procedures had been developed; however, waste management personnel did not consistently adhere to the procedures," investigators reported. "For example, site procedures required that waste be tracked to a building and bay or row, but personnel often moved the containers without updating waste inventory locations."

Energy Department officials at SRS agreed with the investigators' findings, said Rick Ford, a department spokesman at SRS. The Energy Department owns the 310-square-mile plant; the department's inspector general oversees the operation of SRS and other sites to ensure that they are run safely, efficiently and without wasteful spending.

SRS workers are performing an inventory of the waste to correct problems found in the inspector general's report, Mr. Ford said. A new waste-tracking system, which uses bar codes to record the movements and locations of waste containers, also should fix the problems, he said.

That system should be ready this spring, Mr. Ford said. No waste was found outside of permitted storage areas, he said.

Investigators also noted that they could not verify the locations of 110 of 113 containers selected for testing at SRS. The containers were packed tightly into waste vaults, making access difficult, investigators said.

Because the containers already were in long-term storage vaults, further inspection was unnecessary, Mr. Ford said.

"Those vaults are essentially where that waste is going to be stored," he said. "Our response was that we know those boxes are in that vault and there's no sense in disturbing them to prove that they are there."

Brandon Haddock covers energy issues for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3409 or bhaddock@augustachronicle.com.


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