Cold War–era cooling tower at Savannah River Site demolished

October 12, 2021, 7:02AMRadwaste Solutions
Workers demolish a large industrial cooling tower built in 1952 at the DOE’s Savannah River Site. (Photo: SRNS)

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), the management and operations contractor for the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site, has torn down a large industrial cooling tower at the site’s D Area complex. The cooling tower, built in 1952, is one of more than 30 structures being removed from SRS’s D Area as the DOE works to reduce the site’s footprint.

More than 85,000 cubic feet of waste and scrap material has been removed from the site in South Carolina, SRNS announced on October 11.

Made of fiberglass, steel, and wood, the tower was constructed over a large concrete basin to remove heat from water used to generate steam in a nearby powerhouse. During the Cold War, D Area facilities extracted heavy water from the Savannah River for use in SRS reactors.

The task: According to Kelsey Holcomb, an SRNS project manager, the demolition of the cooling tower was completed inexpensively, ahead of schedule, and without a safety incident. “One of the few remaining steps is to remove 70 years’ worth of debris out of the concrete basin itself, where water accumulated before being pumped back to the powerhouse,” he said.

The 3,800-square-foot tower stood about 50 feet tall. Its concrete foundation reached seven feet in depth to form the water-filled holding basin.

The contract: SRNS awarded the cooling tower demolition subcontract to CTI and Associates, which has conducted the majority of deactivation and demolition work in D Area over the past year.

“CTI continues to impress us with their performance, including meeting, and often exceeding, our safety and quality-of-work requirements,” Holcomb said. “SRNS requested that this project be accelerated, and CTI ensured that the task was safely and effectively accomplished as asked.”

CTI is set to demolish additional structures this year, helping to further reduce the footprint at the 310-square-mile site. So far, 89 percent of the footprint has been removed.

He said it: “In the near future, we are scheduled to have a total of 34 structures removed from D Area,” Holcomb said. “The completion of the D Area closure project will result in a significant footprint reduction for the site. Our goal is to return every waste site at SRS to a more natural state, which also reduces associated maintenance and environmental surveillance costs.”

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