Aiken, SC - Construction of a key cleanup facility at the Savannah River Site (SRS) is gaining some serious ground given the remarkable building progress since Fall 2009. Construction and operation of the Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF) is among the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) highest cleanup priorities. When operational, SWPF will treat millions of gallons of salt waste currently stored in 49 underground tanks at SRS by removing radioactive constituents for vitrification at the nearby Defense Waste Processing Facility. Disposition of the salt waste inventory is a major driver in DOE’s goal to empty and close the SRS Tank Farms and reduce risks.
From the SWPF construction site, Tony Polk, SWPF Federal Project Director for DOE, shares some of the highlights of progress made over the last several months. The construction workforce completed 58 individual concrete placements and the walls for the first level; installed the circular support structure for six large processing tanks; completed six concrete placements (82%) for the operating deck of the second level as well as 16 concrete placements for the walls of the second level,” said Polk. These achievements occurred despite record amounts of rain and cold weather this past winter that required re-sequencing of most concrete work. Even with adverse weather conditions, SWPF currently continues on track for startup in Fall 2013, well within the approved performance cost and schedule baseline.
Most importantly, Polk notes, the recent building progress was achieved with a sharpened focus on safety and the use of innovative resources and practices to prevent injuries and accidents. Mesh mats with 4-inch spacing were used to cover the rebar in decks that had 12-inch openings. This provided a stable walking surface for construction crews, avoiding slips, trips and falls common construction job sites. “Undeterred by cold and wet conditions, every precaution was taken to ensure our folks went home safely every day,” said Polk.
Parsons Infrastructure and Technology, Inc. is DOE’s prime contractor on the project. They have responsibility for designing, building, starting up and, operating SWPF for the first year. The high caliber of project leadership by DOE and Parsons accounts for the excellent execution of construction milestones, prompt resolution of technical issues, and maintaining the course on an aggressive project schedule.
As the facility takes shape, the size of the workforce continues to grow and is expected to peak around 850 in 2011. “We have added about 200 jobs this year and another 200 will be added next year,” said Polk. Dozens of jobs have been created locally with the decision to improve quality by establishing a pipe fabrication facility at SRS. The welding work onsite gets first-hand, rigorous attention on selection and qualification of welders as well as close performance oversight by an experienced leadership team.
A major challenge continues to be obtaining high quality products from nuclear industry suppliers. Parsons put in place aggressive oversight inspections in supplier facilities. Coupled with increased Department of Energy inspections, this effort ensures that only high quality components meeting strict Nuclear Quality Assurance standards are delivered on site for installation.
The Department remains confident about SWPF’s future performance to meet critical environmental cleanup goals. A smaller capacity facility using the same technologies has been in operation at SRS for two years and is achieving waste treatment cleanup well beyond original expectations.
Once SWPF begins operating, the Department will gain even greater ground in treating legacy waste, closing SRS waste tanks, meeting regulatory commitments, and reducing risk .