Salt Waste Processing Facility Operations Underway
Aiken, SC -- The Savannah River Site (SRS) Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF), designed to significantly increase the site’s ability to empty and close radioactive waste tanks, has processed thousands of gallons of waste in its first month of operation.
The first batch of radioactive waste was transferred to SWPF Oct. 5, beginning “hot” commissioning of the facility. As of Nov. 9, SWPF has received eight transfers totaling nearly 86,000 gallons of waste.
“SWPF begins a new era in processing radioactive material that in the near future will enable DOE to close waste tanks at an unprecedented rate,” said Department of Energy Manager for the Savannah River Operations Office Mike Budney.
The first batch of approximately 4,000 gallons of waste took about two weeks to process as the facility methodically goes through a series of surveillances and sampling to ensure all aspects of the process work as designed.
The first three transfers were relatively small and subsequently diluted once received at SWPF. This is a common practice with any type of nuclear facility startup. It allows for operation of the facility with real, albeit diluted, feed to ensure all systems and components perform as expected.
According to Jim Folk, DOE’s Assistant Manager for Waste Disposition, the startup of any nuclear facility is performed in a deliberate manner to ensure it operates as designed. “Our startup of SWPF is similarly being conducted using a conservative and safe approach.”
The next three transfers were larger and less diluted as the facility ramped up its testing expectations. The remainder of the hot commissioning testing will be performed using non-diluted waste as the facility goes through its final operational checkouts.
The process begins by transferring the waste from H Tank Farm to SWPF where it undergoes a two-step cleanup process.
The first step removes strontium and actinides (uranium, plutonium, etc.) from the waste. The second step, known as Caustic Side Solvent Extraction (CSSX), is designed for the removal of radioactive cesium.
After the separation process is completed, the concentrated high-activity waste is sent to the nearby Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF). The decontaminated salt solution is mixed with cement-like grout at the nearby Saltstone Production Facility for disposal on site
Transfers of these waste streams out of SWPF have also been completed successfully. Decontaminated salt solution from SWPF has been sent to the Saltstone Production Facility. The actinide-laden sludge solids and the cesium-laden strip effluent radioactive waste streams removed from the salt waste by SWPF, have been sent to the DWPF where the waste will be immobilized in glass and stored in stainless steel canisters on site until a federal repository is established.