Remediating High-Level Radioactive Liquid Waste at the Savannah River Site (SRS)

Remediating High-Level Radioactive Liquid Waste at the Savannah River Site (SRS)

Savannah River Remediation (SRR), an Amentum-led team, is responsible for closing the underground high-level radioactive liquid waste storage tanks at the Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken, South Carolina, U.S.

The waste is the result of more than 50 years of Cold War production of nuclear weapons materials. That production created tens of millions of gallons of liquid high-level waste (HLW), with more than 34 million gallons of the waste (HLW) stored in waste tanks. There were originally in 51 single- and double-shell tanks, but with 8 waste tanks now operationally closed, the waste remains in 43 tanks.

The cornerstone of SRR’s activities is the operation of the Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF), the nation’s only radioactive waste glassification plant. Since DWPF began operation in 1996, more than 4,200 canisters of vitrified waste have been produced, suitable for long-term storage and ultimate disposal. Amentum is the only company in the world currently operating waste vitrification facilities (in the US and UK) and participating in the construction of a DWPF sister facility at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site.

Other major operations include separating the most radioactive waste, destined for vitrification, from very low-level radioactive liquid that constitutes the majority of the waste tank volume. SRR decontaminates that liquid, mixes it with cement, and pumps it into huge concrete disposal units for permanent disposal onsite. More than 28 million gallons of decontaminated salt solution from the tanks have been solidified.

SRR is currently and historically one of the safest high-risk, high-hazard industrial contractors in the world. Amentum’s legacy company at SRS won the first-ever DOE Voluntary Protection Program Star for safety as a major DOE Cold War strategic materials production site and has continued to be recertified for that honor every year since inception.

The ultimate goal is emptying and grouting the old storage tanks and support systems, and SRR, with its heritage companies, is the first company in the world to operationally close HLW tanks.

Significant accomplishments include:

  • SRR closed the 8th HLW tank, steadily reducing the most significant environmental risk for the State of South Carolina. SRR also recently installed Melter 3 at DWPF, after extending the life of Melter 2 to 14 years, 5 times the life of the original melter.
  • Conceived and implemented double-stacking of canisters in the first storage building, avoiding the $130M cost for construction of a new storage building.
  • Completed construction of a 32-million-gallon saltstone disposal unit — the largest of its kind in the world. It represented a savings of nearly $500M in building multiple vaults of the same capacity.