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EM’s SPRU Celebrates Waste Removal Success, Safety Milestone

February 27, 2014 - 12:00pm

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Members of the EM and URS SPRU Project Team gather to celebrate the last shipment of solidified sludge liners today.

Members of the EM and URS SPRU Project Team gather to celebrate the last shipment of solidified sludge liners today.

The final waste shipment from the SPRU Disposition Project leaves the site today.

The final waste shipment from the SPRU Disposition Project leaves the site today.

Workers place a solidified sludge liner into shielded storage. A spotter keeps a close eye on all lifts and heavy equipment movements.

Workers place a solidified sludge liner into shielded storage. A spotter keeps a close eye on all lifts and heavy equipment movements.

Members of the EM and URS SPRU Project Team gather to celebrate the last shipment of solidified sludge liners today.
The final waste shipment from the SPRU Disposition Project leaves the site today.
Workers place a solidified sludge liner into shielded storage. A spotter keeps a close eye on all lifts and heavy equipment movements.

NISKAYUNA, N.Y. – EM’s Separations Process Research Unit (SPRU) Disposition Project completed a significant waste-treatment campaign today that involved the solidification of approximately 9,700 gallons of contaminated sludge and 14 shipments of the waste off-site for permanent disposal.

“The radioactive sludge constituted one of the highest risks at SPRU,” said Steven Feinberg, the EM manager of the project. “The successful solidification of the sludge marks major progress in our environmental cleanup project, and enables us to put our full attention on moving ahead with the active decontamination and demolition of unused buildings at the site.”

The shipment of this material removed the majority of the radioactivity at the SPRU facilities. EM is responsible for the decontamination, demolition and cleanup of the Cold War facility, with work being performed by contractor URS Corporation. SPRU is collocated with DOE’s Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory.

"The DOE SPRU Field Office staff and our contractor URS worked together closely to successfully complete the removal of the radioactive tank sludge in a safe and efficient manner. This accomplishment has eliminated a significant risk from the project. The team is to be congratulated for their professionalism and commitment in accomplishing this important objective," EM Consolidated Business Center Acting Director Ralph Holland said. "Our partnership with the Office of Naval Reactors, the SPRU landlord, significantly contributed to the success of this activity."

The sludge resulted from historic research into the chemical separation of plutonium, which was shut down in the early 1950s. The solidified sludge, in 28 shielded liners, is being disposed at a licensed, commercial low-level radioactive waste disposal facility in Andrews, Texas, which is owned and operated by Waste Control Specialists, LLC.

In addition to successfully completing the sludge solidification project, the SPRU Disposition Project achieved more than 2 ¾ years and more than 1.1 million work hours without a lost-time accident or injury.

“This record was accomplished while overcoming numerous obstacles associated with the high-hazard construction, decontamination and demolition work at the site,” noted Bobby Smith, project manager for URS at SPRU. “That included working at heights to construct the Sludge Processing Tent, install ventilation and sludge system components, decommission the old sludge processing system and safely operate the waste solidification system.”

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