Savannah River rebuilds its liquid waste equipment

July 29, 2022, 1:11PMRadwaste Solutions
A worker replaces a manipulator arm at the Savannah River’s SWPF. (Photo: DOE)

Savannah River Mission Completion (SRMC), the radioactive liquid waste contractor at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site, is optimizing some equipment maintenance at the Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF). The facility traditionally uses centrifugal contactors in the solvent extraction process, and its laboratory uses manipulators to handle process samples and equipment within its radioactive cell. The equipment requires periodic maintenance and rebuilding.

The repair process has been improved by packaging and then transporting the contactors and manipulators to existing onsite facilities for decontamination and rebuilding, resulting in functional spares, according to the DOE.

Repair sites: The SWPF contactors are decontaminated and rebuilt in the site’s 299-H facility, which historically was used to decontaminate and rebuild similar contactors from the previous interim salt processing facility. Meanwhile, SWPF manipulators are being rebuilt at the Savannah River Site’s Defense Waste Processing Facility‘s (DWPF) manipulator shop, which is used to decontaminate and rebuild similar manipulators used at DWPF.

“It was an easy decision to use existing decontamination facilities instead of creating a duplicate capability inside the Salt Waste Processing Facility,” said Dave Olson, SRMC president and program manager. “Not only does it reflect our focus on cost savings, it demonstrates our teamwork since the repairs are done by experienced staff from SWPF and the repair facilities at DWPF and 299-H.”

Using refurbished spare contactors and manipulators instead of buying new equipment is a significant cost savings, according to Jim Folk, DOE-Savannah River assistant manager for waste disposition. “DOE is committed to creating solutions that reduce risk, promote efficiency, and incorporate lessons learned, all while maintaining good stewardship for taxpayers,” he said. “Minimizing facility downtime by having available rebuilt spare equipment means we can stay focused on completing the Savannah River Site liquid waste mission.”

Site history: The Savannah River Site was constructed during the early 1950s to produce basic materials—primarily tritium and plutonium-239—in support of the nation's defense programs. Five reactors were built to produce these materials, along with support facilities, including two chemical separations plants, a heavy water extraction plant, a nuclear fuel and target fabrication facility, a tritium extraction facility, and waste management facilities.

One task is the environmental cleanup and management of newly generated and legacy wastes that exist at various facilities throughout the site.

The 310-square-mile (198,046-acre) Savannah River Site is in the sandhills region of South Carolina.

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