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SRS Demonstrates New Safety Method for Radiological Construction Areas

AIKEN, S.C. (July 12, 2023) – The liquid waste contractor at the Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management’s Savannah River Site (SRS) recently demonstrated an innovative method that is a win for all involved — improving worker safety, reducing construction costs, and minimizing radiological waste generation at SRS.

Cutline: A new method to reduce the risk of radioactive contamination to equipment and employees has been demonstrated in the Savannah River Site’s Tank Farms.

Many projects in the SRS Tank Farms, where the site’s radioactive waste tanks are located, consist of ongoing construction using heavy machinery, like cranes and forklifts. The tank farms are managed by Savannah River Mission Completion (SRMC).

Previously, for that equipment to work within radiological contamination areas, plastic roadways were constructed to prevent the potential spread of contamination to the tires on the machinery.

While the plastic roadways protect the tires from radiological hazards, they hide potential industrial hazards that pose a threat of slips, trips, and falls to workers.

Recently, employees demonstrated a solution to reduce hazards to the workforce and increase overall safety: Instead of laying plastic on the roadways, they placed dual-layer nylon tire covers on the tires of vehicles being used within radiological contamination areas. The tire covers are a heavy-duty material that can stretch over the tires to envelop them completely.

This method was initially tested on a 100-ton crane outside of a radiological contamination area. Additional demonstrations were performed with a 15-ton forklift in a contamination area.

In addition to increasing safety, the tire covers also reduce costs. Their use saves more than $10,000 per equipment entry to radiological contamination areas due to fewer labor hours required for installation and fewer expenses for materials and waste disposal.

The tire covers also minimize radiological waste. It would take 15 uses of the tire covers to match the waste produced by one project using plastic roadways. Using the tire covers reduces waste generation by 93% per project — stopping about 1,250 cubic meters of plastic waste from ending up in landfills every year.

Jim Folk, DOE-Savannah River assistant manager for waste disposition at SRS, said the tire covers are another example of simple approaches that improve work at SRS.

“Keeping workers safe is the first priority for EM,” Folk said. “This simple idea also saves taxpayers’ money and reduces our impact on the environment.”

This innovation was born out of a bias for continuous improvement, according to SRMC Environment, Safety, Health, and Quality Director Joel Cantrell.

“The liquid waste workforce is proactive when identifying and fixing problems, especially when safety is involved,” Cantrell said. “This new method for safe construction in the tank farms ensures each worker has the ability to return home in the same state that they arrived at work.”

Additional coverings have been ordered for multiple pieces of equipment with the ability to implement immediately upon receipt.


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