For Immediate Release October 11, 2006
Media Contact: James R. Giusti   (803) 952-7697

 

DOE’s SRS Disposes of its 20,000th Drum of TRU Waste

 

AIKEN, S.C., (October 5, 2006) The Department of Energy (DOE) announced today the safe disposal of 20,000 drums of transuranic waste previously stored at its Savannah River Site (SRS) with a recent shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), in New Mexico.

 Until recently, these drums were covered with mounds of earth at SRS’s central waste management facility.  The drums were generated during decades of nuclear operations at SRS.  They contain such items as used protective clothing, tools and equipment that were used in radiological areas and were contaminated with small amounts of transuranic materials such as plutonium.  The items were placed into drums as waste and covered with dirt until a repository was available. 

 SRS has disposed of approximately 5,500 cubic meters of the original 11,800 cubic meters of legacy TRU waste.  At the current rate SRS hopes to disposition the remaining inventory by 2012, twelve years sooner then earlier estimates.

 “We started this project with about 33,000 drums and containers, and nearly 2,000 planned shipments to WIPP” says Terrel Spears, the Department of Energy’s Assistant Manager for the Waste Disposition Project.  “To safely make 700 shipments and dispose of nearly half of the stored TRU waste volume is a tremendous achievement for the Department and the Site.”

 Even before WIPP opened in 1999, SRS began uncovering the drums, taking inventory to determine the exact contents, and certifying them WIPP-acceptable.  SRS has now disposed of approximately 5,500 of the original 11,800 cubic meters inventory of legacy TRU waste.

“We’ve made a point of doing this the smart way,” says Leo Sain, the Washington Savannah River Company (WSRC) executive vice president responsible for TRU waste disposition.  “We characterize each container to determine the optimum disposition, and if a container doesn’t meet the transuranic waste criteria, we don’t let it take up valuable space in the repository.”

 Such determinations are made using today’s more precise instruments, which give better readings and end up saving significant amounts of money in saved space at WIPP.  Other disposition paths include the Nevada Test Site, which takes mixed low level waste from various DOE sites, and disposition at SRS waste management facilities for low-level wastes. 

 Characterization and disposition work has taken on more prominence at SRS in the last 18 months.  Operations have accelerated and are now conducted in many more facilities than the original Waste Management Facility, located in E Area.  Waste remediation work, to remove prohibited items prior to shipping, is now being done in F/H Laboratory, the Savannah River National Laboratory, H Canyon, and F Canyon. 

 “Our success is due to combined efforts by many diverse groups of people and areas around the site,” says Sain.  “People from other areas on site have learned new skills to support this important work.  It’s truly been a team effort.”

SRS is owned by DOE and operated by a team of contractors led by WSRC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Washington Group International.

 

-DOE-

SR-06-05

 

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