The launch of the Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF) at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina was marked on September 24 with a ceremony attended by the Department of Energy’s undersecretary for science, Paul Dabbar, and senior advisor to the undersecretary for environmental management, William “Ike” White. Also attending the event were Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) and representatives from the offices of Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Tim Scott (R., S.C.).
“SWPF is the final piece to what is an impressive and highly successful liquid waste program here,” said Dabbar, who served as the ceremony’s keynote speaker. “Bringing it on line is a tremendous victory, not only for the site, but for the entire cleanup mission.”
DOE top priority: The startup of the SWPF, which will treat the majority of Savannah River’s salt waste inventory by separating the highly radioactive waste—mostly cesium, strontium, actinides, and waste slurry—from the less radioactive salt solution, was listed as one of the DOE’s top priorities for the year.
In August, the DOE approved Critical Decision 4, which authorized “hot,” or radioactive, operations of the SWPF, the final major piece of the liquid waste treatment system to be completed at Savannah River. The DOE said that its Office of Environmental Management and prime contractor Parsons Corporation are ready to begin transferring radioactive material to the SWPF for processing during the first week of October. Processing will occur at a rate eight times faster than recent waste treatment operations at the site, according to the DOE.
The startup of the SWPF is a major step toward emptying and closing Savannah River’s remaining high-level waste tanks, the DOE said. The site’s 31 million gallons of radioactive salt waste currently fills more than 90 percent of tank space in Savannah River’s underground liquid waste tank farms.
Parsons, which designed and built the multibillion-dollar facility, will operate it for one year. Parsons finished building the SWPF in April 2016, eight months ahead of schedule and more than $65 million under the target cost of the contract for construction activities, the DOE said.
Quotes: Mike Budney, manager for the Savannah River Operations Office, said, “This is a big day for us at the site, for the state of South Carolina, for the Department of Energy, and I believe for the nation as we recognize completion of SWPF, which will usher in a new era in the processing of radioactive material.”
Frank Sheppard, senior vice president and SWPF project manager for Parsons, said, “The startup of SWPF is a testament to the commitment and dedication of the Parsons workforce over the last 12 years of construction and testing. The SWPF team has achieved this major milestone while focusing on safety and ensuring the long-term operational success of this first-of-a-kind facility.”