SRS workers meet Pu downblending goals ahead of schedule

November 7, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
A view of Savannah River’s K Area, where employees began downblending plutonium in 2016. (Photo: DOE)

Contractor employees at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina recently exceeded their plutonium downblending goal for 2022 ahead of schedule as part of the ongoing activities to remove Pu from the state, the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced.

“Exceeding our fiscal 2022 downblending goal ahead of schedule is a testament to our team’s commitment to safe, efficient, and secure operations,” said K Area facility manager Lee Sims of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), the site’s management and operations contractor. “Much of our work in the past few years has been to introduce efficiencies and speed up our processing rates. This shows that our efforts are working.”

Challenging materials: Plutonium materials shipped to Savannah River’s K Area Complex are sealed inside a robust configuration of storage and shipping containers. The material is stored in K Area until such time as they are ready to be downblended.

Used to disposition surplus Pu at SRS, downblending involves mixing the plutonium materials with an adulterant, which produces a mixture that can eventually be safely disposed of at a geologic repository. SRNS employees began downblending plutonium in K Area in 2016.

This year, K Area personnel processed items with a wide variation in content, many of which provided unique challenges, according to EM. “K Area’s accomplishment is more impressive considering the nature of the packaging and risks associated with some of the materials we downblended this year,” Sims said.

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