Workers add finishing touches to grouting a reactor disassembly basin.
Recovery funds are accelerating the cleanup of contaminated facilities, soil, and ground water at one of the nation’s key nuclear weapons sites.
During the early 1950s, the Savannah River Site (SRS) produced tritium and plutonium-239 to be used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Five reactors along with support facilities -- two chemical separations plants, a heavy water extraction plant, a tritium extraction facility, and waste management facilities -- were built specifically for this purpose. SRS produced about 36 metric tons of plutonium from 1953 to 1988 when the last of the reactors was finally shut down as part of international agreements to reduce nuclear stockpiles.
Since the 1990s, the Department of Energy (DOE) has been working to clean up contamination on the 310-square-mile site in South Carolina. Recovery funds totaling $1.6 billion are allowing DOE to accelerate these clean-up efforts. DOE says the Recovery funds – from six separate awards – will reduce the SRS footprint by 75 percent by 2012, seven years earlier than previously planned.
Demolition of P Reactor Stack.
Approximately 250 structures have been decommissioned or destroyed so far, including a cooling tower that was imploded in September 2010 [Watch Video].In addition, two aging exhaust stacks on reactors were recently demolished and the reactors sealed. Workers have also removed the 75-foot-tall, 87-ton dome of a third reactor, the first step before razing the remaining structure. Sump pumps for treating contaminated ground water have been installed at various locations.
Welder cuts the dome of the Heavy Water Components Test Reactor (HWCTR).
Most significantly, the first area fully decommissioned using Recovery funds – covering 40 square miles and 23 buildings – was completed in August 2010, two years ahead of schedule. Approximately 735 structures are still to be decommissioned or destroyed.
Once completed, DOE intends to re-use or redevelop the space. For instance, DOE is planning to use some remediated space for a joint project with the Department of Homeland Security.
K Cooling Tower Cleanup
(click for larger view).
SRS officials reported in January 2011 that the overall cleanup is about 52 percent complete. While other remediation work is expected to continue until 2018, the work underwritten by Recovery funds will be completed by September 2012, according to DOE.
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC, which operates and manages the site for DOE, is the main contractor on the project. As of December 31, 2010, the company reported that it had made Recovery awards to 617 subcontractors, and had funded as many as 600 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2009.
Department of Energy - Savannah River Site's Flickr Site
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