WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today issued the waste determination for the treatment and stabilization of low activity salt-waste at the Savannah River Site allowing for significant reductions in environmental and health risks posed by the material. Stored in forty-nine underground tanks, approximately 36 million gallons of radioactive waste is left over from plutonium production during the Cold War. In addition, the department issued an amended Record of Decision and Implementation Plan to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.
"Today's announcement clears the way for the removal and treatment of this waste, but more importantly, protects the health and safety of our workers, the surrounding communities and the environment," said Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management, James Rispoli. "This determination will allow us to move forward in emptying the tanks to the greatest extent feasible."
Today, approximately 33.8 million gallons of the waste stored in the tanks is comprised of salt waste. The remaining 2.6 million gallons consists of sludge that has settled to the bottom of the tanks, and is being treated as part of the SRS High-Level Waste Program.
The department anticipates moving forward with this plan in 2006, once the appropriate permits are issued by the state of South Carolina. To treat and dispose of the tank waste, DOE will undertake a two-phase, three-part process. The first, or interim, phase consists of two parts:
- Beginning in 2006, SRS will treat some of its lowest activity salt waste through a process involving deliquification, dissolution and adjustment of the waste (DDA).
- Beginning in approximately 2007, SRS will process some additional salt waste having a slightly higher activity level using an Actinide Removal Process (ARP) and a Modular Caustic Side Solvent Extraction Unit (MCU).
The second and longer-term phase, high capacity salt processing, is scheduled to begin in 2011 with the start up of the Salt Waste Processing Facility and involves the separation and processing of the remaining (and majority) of the salt waste, augmented as necessary by continued use of the Actinide Removal Process.
Mike Waldron, 202/586-4940
Julie Petersen, 803/952-7697