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Shipping Savannah River Site Waste to Offsite Facility Improves Overall Safety

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM) has shipped legacy cleanup equipment to an offsite disposal facility after storing some of it at the Savannah River Site (SRS) since 2006.


Examples of the equipment include a column of drill pipe, known as a sampling drill string, which was used to collect reprocessing waste samples from an underground radioactive waste storage tank; bubblers used to increase efficiency of operations to immobilize the waste in glass at the Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF); and glass pumps that were used before being replaced by the bubblers.


Shipping of the used equipment was made possible by the 2019 interpretation of the high-level waste definition by DOE. The goal of the interpretation is to classify waste according to its radiological characteristics, rather than the waste’s origin, so that it can be properly disposed of. In 2020, the first time the interpretation was used, EM packaged and shipped DWPF recycled wastewater to a licensed facility for commercial treatment and disposal.


Savannah River Mission Completion (SRMC), EM’s liquid waste contractor at SRS, properly packaged the sampling drill string in a transport container and sealed it for shipment. EM sent the container to a disposal site outside of South Carolina. This first shipment left the site in March.


Future shipments of used bubblers and pumps will continue as DWPF pours glassified, high-level waste into canisters for safe, long-term storage and disposal. The facility replaces bubblers approximately every six months.


According to EM, removing this equipment from SRS to a disposal facility outside of the state would have no significant environmental impacts and does not constitute a major federal action.

Cutline: A team of Savannah River Mission Completion workers secures a used drill string into a shielded box for transport to a disposal facility.


Jim Folk, DOE-Savannah River’s assistant manager for waste disposition, said the most important goal of this effort is to safely move the equipment for disposal.


“By moving this equipment that has completed its purpose within the Liquid Waste Program from SRS and from the state to its permanent disposal location, we are making strides to better protect our surrounding communities and our workers,” Folk said.


SRMC President and Program Manager Dave Olson said the company’s workforce is performing well to ensure the equipment is safely packaged and readied for transport.


“Our team developed a strict procedure for managing the waste throughout this process,” Olson said. “We adhere to our plan and take all necessary steps to execute the packaging, storing and safe transporting of this equipment. This project is an important step as we properly dispose of the used equipment that has helped move the Liquid Waste Program forward.”


Cutline: With the help of a large crane, workers carefully place a drill string container on a flatbed truck. The truck left Savannah River Site, bound for a licensed facility for commercial treatment and disposal of the used equipment. Shipments are planned for the disposal of additional equipment that remains at the site.


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