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Preparations Begin for Construction of Final SRS Saltstone Disposal Units

AIKEN, S.C. (August 18, 2022) – The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management has begun preparing for construction of three Saltstone Disposal Units (SDUs) at Savannah River Site (SRS) – the final ones planned to complete the site’s liquid waste mission.


The SRS liquid waste contractor, Savannah River Mission Completion (SRMC), is overseeing the SDU construction.


A subcontractor began preparing the land that the units will eventually occupy. The major steps being undertaken include clearing the location of vegetation and subsurface roots, establishing haul routes and material-staging areas, installing subsurface utilities, excavation and filling activities, and completion of compaction and grading, which basically establishes a buildable surface at the design elevation.


SDUs 10, 11 and 12 — the last three planned SDUs — are mega-volume units, similar in size and construction to SDUs 6 through 9. These units are 375 feet in diameter, 43 feet high, and can hold approximately 34 million gallons of saltstone. They are designed for the larger volume of decontaminated salt solution being produced by the site’s Salt Waste Processing Facility.


Building the three units in series allows crews to work efficiently. As they complete work on one unit, they can move on to the next.


Jim Folk, DOE-Savannah River’s assistant manager for waste disposition, said the work being performed is crucial for paving the way for the liquid waste mission’s success.


“Once these SDUs are constructed, we will have significant pieces of the overall liquid waste mission in place so that we can continue with treating the remaining waste in the site’s underground tanks without interruption,” Folk said.


The 43 underground waste tanks, located in the site’s two tank farms, currently contain approximately 35 million gallons of high-activity radioactive waste. SRMC Chief Operations Officer Wyatt Clark said he is proud of the safe work the construction crews have demonstrated on all SDU construction.


“It’s so significant to have the end of SDU construction in sight,” Clark said. “The Salt Waste Processing Facility is safely treating waste in greater volumes than SRS has ever experienced before. We have to be ready to store all that decontaminated salt solution, and we will be.”


The SRS liquid waste mission is expected to require another 15 years of work, with the last of the waste expected to be treated and disposed by 2037.


Cutline: Crews begin clearing the site on which Savannah River Site’s Saltstone Disposal Unit 10 will sit.