Savannah River crews remove cesium columns from tank closure unit

February 10, 2021, 12:05PMRadwaste Solutions

Work crews remove the first column filled with cesium from the Tank Closure Cesium Removal unit by crane in H tank farm at the Savannah River Site. Photo: DOE

Columns filled with cesium have been removed at the Savannah River Site in a demonstration project designed to accelerate removal of radioactive salt waste from underground tanks.

“On the surface, it appeared to be like any other crane lift and equipment transport, which are routinely performed in the tank farms. However, this equipment contained cesium-rich, high-level waste, which was transported aboveground via roadway to an on-site interim safe storage pad,” said Savannah River Remediation (SRR) president and project manager Phil Breidenbach. “It was all handled safely and executed with outstanding teamwork by our highly skilled workforce.”

Operated by liquid waste contractor SRR, a system known as the Tank Closure Cesium Removal (TCCR) unit removes cesium from the salt waste in Tank 10 in the site's H Tank Farm. The TCCR is a pilot demonstration that helps accelerate tank closure at the site, according to a report by the Department of Energy on February 9.

In operation: The cesium is filtered and is held to a specially engineered resin inside four ion-exchange columns within the TCCR. The decontaminated salt solution discharge is then sent to the site's Tank 11 and eventually to the site's Saltstone Production Facility for on-site disposal.

History: The four columns were filled with cesium collected from the waste. In operation since January 2019, the columns were removed from the TCCR unit by a mobile crane in December 2020. The columns were then transported to nearby interim safe storage. Four new columns are expected to be installed in the spring.

The majority of the salt waste inside the tanks will be processed through the Salt Waste Processing Facility, which began radioactive operations in October 2020. The TCCR will supplement that processing to help accelerate the site's liquid waste mission, according to the DOE.

The TCCR has processed three batches, or nearly 300,000 gallons, of salt waste since the demonstration project began.

The team: Savannah River Remediation is a team of companies led by Amentum with partners Bechtel National, Jacobs, and BWX Technologies. Critical subcontractors for the contract are Orano, Atkins, and Amentum N&E Technical Services.

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