DOE cleanup teams win Secretary of Energy achievement awards

January 25, 2023, 12:01PMRadwaste Solutions
The ICP buried waste retrieval team successfully completed targeted TRU waste retrieval at the INL Site. The effort spanned 17 years and resulted in the exhumation of more than 10,000 cubic meters of buried TRU waste from 5.69 acres of the site’s Subsurface Disposal Area. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy recently honored eight teams from its Office of Environmental Management (EM) with Secretary of Energy 2022 Achievement Awards. The awards recognized projects at the DOE’s Idaho, Savannah River, and Hanford sites, as well as a group of employees that revamped and expanded DOE-EM’s Minority Serving Institutions Partnership Program (MSIPP-EM). In addition, DOE-EM employees on crosscutting departmental teams received awards.

The awards were part of the DOE’s annual Honor Awards, the agency’s highest form of employee recognition for excellence and achievement.

Samuel Takyi, a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, explains his research project during a poster session held last year at DOE-EM's inaugural Minority Serving Institutions Partnership Program Competitive Research Awards Workshop. (Photo: DOE)

MSIPP-EM execution team: The team received support to increase its Minority Serving Institutions Partnership Program budget from an average of $5.5 million from fiscal year 2014 to FY 2021, to $56 million in FY2022, according to the DOE. The award recognized team members for their dedication in reaching thousands more students and hundreds more universities through the program.

Idaho Cleanup Project (ICP) buried waste retrieval team: The team members were honored by the DOE for completing buried transuranic (TRU) waste retrieval at the Idaho National Laboratory Site. Over the course of 17 years, and in adverse and hazardous conditions, the team exhumed more than 10,000 cubic meters of buried TRU waste from 5.69 acres of the site’s Subsurface Disposal Area. A novel approach that used large fabric tent enclosures for waste retrieval was integral in protecting the workers and the public from cleanup hazards.

Office of Assistant Manager for Business and Acquisition Management, ICP team: The team successfully implemented the indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity end-state contracting model for the ICP. This approach was developed and implemented within DOE-EM to provide flexibility for its contractors during site closure or end-state projects to yield significant reductions in environmental risk and financial liability.

At SRS, U.S. Forest Service employees Secunda Hughes (left), a civil engineering technician, and Andrew Thompson, a forester, inspect irrigation piping and sprinkler heads, part of 62 acres of pine trees used to safely disperse tritium into the Earth’s atmosphere and away from local waterways in a process called phytoremediation. (Photo: DOE)

Savannah River Site phytoremediation project team: The team’s members were honored for their innovation and commitment to remediating the site’s largest tritium groundwater plume. A low-energy phytoremediation system irrigates pine trees using groundwater contaminated largely with tritium; the trees then evaporate the tritiated water in a safe, natural, and environmentally friendly way. This system has prevented about 190 million gallons of water containing nearly 7,000 curies of tritium from entering the Savannah River, a downstream drinking water source, and will save approximately $168 million over 20 years, compared with traditional remedial technologies, according to the DOE.

SRS accelerated basin de-inventory (ABD) team: The team created, planned, and implemented ABD, a novel approach to spent nuclear fuel disposition. Their efforts will result in a cost reduction of over $4 billion and will accelerate by more than 20 years the handling of spent fuel, currently stored in the L Area Disassembly Basin at SRS. ABD also helps move several facilities at the site closer to deactivation, according to the DOE.

SRS Lower Three Runs final remedial decision team: The team secured the record of decision remedial agreement for the Lower Three Runs stream system at the site, an effort that will culminate in substantial cost savings and the protection of approximately 30 miles of canals and streams and more than 3,000 acres of aquatic habitat. The approach can also be applied to the other stream systems at the site.

In 2022, DOE-EM contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company received groundwater treatment units for installation at the 200 West Pump and Treat Facility at the Hanford Site, part of an upgraded system that will expand capacity for the largest of Hanford’s six groundwater treatment plants. (Photo: DOE)

Hanford groundwater pump and treat team: The team received an award for its contributions to the continued operation and expansion of the pump and treat facilities at the Hanford Site, identifying areas for improved contaminate mass removal that will accelerate the cleanup schedule and ultimately shorten the time and reduce the cost of groundwater cleanup. The DOE called Hanford’s groundwater pump and treat program instrumental in reducing risk to the public and environment, most notably the Columbia River, by reducing the contaminants entering the waterway.

Hanford tank-side cesium removal demonstration integrated project team: The project represents the first large-scale treatment of radioactive and chemical waste from large underground tanks at the Hanford Site. Its team was honored for the completion of construction and start of operations—a significant milestone in the path toward the direct-feed low-activity waste approach for treating radioactive and chemical waste. The project was completed three months ahead of schedule and $29 million under the approved total project cost of $164 million.