Savannah River Site's one-of-a-kind transporter makes pit stop

May 30, 2024, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
The Savannah River Site’s shielded canister transporter. (Photo: DOE)

The large vehicle used to transport highly radioactive canisters at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site has completed a pit stop to ensure the continued movement of the site’s radioactive liquid waste work.

The work: The shielded canister transporter (SCT) carries the stainless steel containers filled with glassified high-level waste, one at a time, from the Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF) to nearby Glass Waste Storage Buildings (GWSBs). Inside a GWSB, the transporter lowers each canister into a below-grade concrete vault containing support frames for vertical storage of the canisters. The buildings are for interim storage until a federal repository is ready to receive the canisters.

The transporter: Measuring more than 18 feet tall and 25 feet long and weighing 235,000 pounds, the SCT is a front-wheel-drive vehicle powered by diesel engines. It clocks in at a top speed of around 3 mph.

The DOE Office of Environmental Management’s liquid waste contractor at SRS, Savannah River Mission Completion (SRMC), operates and maintains the SCT.

The pit stop: The recent pit stop included repairing brakes, servicing drive motors, and installing eight new rubber tires—each weighing 2,500 pounds. The maintenance took about two weeks, but there was no impact to operations since production was paused for a sitewide steam outage so that needed facility maintenance could take place, according to the DOE.

History: In its 28 years, the SCT has traveled 1,980 miles between the DWPF and the two GWSBs—a trek equal to 792 laps around the Daytona International Speedway. It has transported more than 4,400 canisters. DWPF is expected to produce more than 8,100 canisters over the life of the project.

Operators also use the SCT to relocate canisters to enable vault modifications for double-stacking canisters in a single storage slot—a milestone recently completed in GWSB 1 by SRMC.

Noted: The SCT is critical to the SRS liquid waste cleanup process, according to Jim Folk, DOE-Savannah River assistant manager for waste disposition.

“The shielded canister transporter is the only way the canisters of high-level waste can leave the Defense Waste Processing Facility to be safely stored on-site, and there is not another one like it,” Folk said. “Maintaining reliable operation of the transporter is critical to the highly integrated and interconnected SRS liquid waste system.”

SRMC chief operations officer Wyatt Clark said that SRMC crews continue to take great care of the machine to ensure its longevity over the mission.

“All the corrective and preventive maintenance is done by skilled SRMC mechanics,” Clark said. “Because of their diligent work, we are able to ensure reliability of this critical vehicle as we continue to pursue our mission to reduce the risk to people and the environment of the radioactive waste stored at SRS. There is only one shielded canister transporter, and we have to keep it moving.”

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