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Energy Department Announces Achievement of Major Cleanup Milestone at Savannah River Site

December 19, 2014 - 3:30pm

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Energy Department Announces Achievement of Major Cleanup Milestone at Savannah River Site

Department Issues Path Forward for Closing Additional Radioactive Waste Storage Tanks in H Tank Farm

WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of Energy reached a major milestone in efforts to clean up the Cold War legacy at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, and took a step forward to closing additional radioactive tanks at the site.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz signed a determination today that allows SRS to complete cleanup and closure of the underground liquid waste tanks in the H Tank Farm as they are emptied and cleaned.  Prior to the determination, the Department and SRS conducted extensive technical environmental analysis, public review and comment, and consultation with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The State of South Carolina and the Environmental Protection Agency also provided input as part of the review process.

“Today’s announcement is an important step in the effort to close tanks at the Savannah River Site, and is a result of hard work and sustained collaboration between partners at the local, state, and federal level,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “We are now able to move forward to safely, effectively and efficiently clean up and close these tanks in the H Tank Farm, as we work to achieve the key mission of cleaning up the environmental legacy of the Cold War.”

The first tank closed in the H Tank Farm will be Tank 16, which is the only one at Savannah River that historically leaked to the environment.  This will be followed by the closure of Tank 12. The determination also allows for the closure of 27 additional tanks after cleaning, following public review and state approval.

Workers have removed more than 99 percent of the waste in Tanks 12 and 16.  Next steps include grouting the interiors with a cement-like material to stabilize the tanks and immobilize the remaining residual waste, to minimize future risk and protect human health, safety and the environment.

SRS was constructed in the early 1950s to produce basic materials used in the fabrication of nuclear weapons in support of our nation's defense programs.  Tanks 12 and 16, two of the many nuclear facilities constructed at the site to support the United States Cold War effort, were built in the 1950s to store radioactive liquid waste generated through the site’s nuclear weapons material processing.

Section 3116 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 establishes the criteria and the process, including consultation with NRC, for making the determination signed by Secretary Moniz.

The Secretary’s Section 3116 Determination for Closure of H-Tank Farm at the Savannah River Site, the Basis for Section 3116 Determination for Closure of H-Tank Farm at the Savannah River Site, and the High-Level Waste Tank Closure Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Savannah River Site, Supplement Analysis can be viewed at:  http://sro.srs.gov/fhtankfarm.html

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