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Savannah River Site Celebrates Historic Closure of Radioactive Waste Tanks: Senior DOE Officials and South Carolina Congressional Leadership Gather to Commemorate Historic Cleanup Milestone

October 1, 2012 - 12:00pm

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U.S. Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Thomas D'Agostino, left, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Catherine Templeton and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) unveil a marker to commemorate the closing of waste tanks at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

U.S. Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Thomas D'Agostino, left, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Catherine Templeton and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) unveil a marker to commemorate the closing of waste tanks at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

More than 1,500 Savannah River Remediation employees gather to participate in the tank closure ceremony held at the Savannah River Site Oct. 1.

More than 1,500 Savannah River Remediation employees gather to participate in the tank closure ceremony held at the Savannah River Site Oct. 1.

U.S. Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Thomas D'Agostino, left, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Catherine Templeton and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) unveil a marker to commemorate the closing of waste tanks at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
More than 1,500 Savannah River Remediation employees gather to participate in the tank closure ceremony held at the Savannah River Site Oct. 1.

AIKEN, S.C. – Officials from the U.S. Department of Energy gathered with congressional and state leaders this month to celebrate the closure of two Cold War hazardous waste tanks at the Savannah River Site (SRS).

Closure of Tanks 18 and 19 signified the most substantial environmental risk reduction achievement for South Carolina since 1997, when DOE closed Tanks 17 and 20 at SRS. Those were the first underground radioactive waste storage tanks closed in the nation.

U.S. Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Thomas D’Agostino congratulated SRS employees for accomplishing the tank closure milestones safely and ahead of schedule. The closures were completed three months ahead of the Dec. 31, 2012, regulatory deadline.

“The historical significance of this site can never be duplicated and will always be remembered. Supporting efforts to win the Cold War was part of the SRS legacy and helped define our nation,” D’Agostino said. “DOE and this nation thank you for the years of dedicated efforts it took to get us to where we are today. You have performed your work safely and admirably and I am proud to share this important day with you.”

D’Agostino was joined by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), officials with the site’s liquid waste contractor, Savannah River Remediation (SRR), and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC). More than 1,500 employees with the SRS Liquid Waste Program attended the event as well.

Close to 3,000 Trucks Played Role in Milestone

Bulk grouting of Tanks 18 and 19 began in April 2012. Nearly 3,000 cement trucks delivered the more than 3.3 million gallons of specially formulated cement grout that was poured into the tanks. No job injuries or accidents were reported as part of the project.

“This is a great milestone for the site and DOE. Eight years ago, I authored a provision in the United States Senate permitting DOE to clean and close forty, one-million gallon tanks at the site. The measure passed by a single vote and was later signed into law by President Bush. The first two tanks are now clean and will be permanently closed.  It was a decision that was good for our environment and good for the taxpayer, saving billions. Today we celebrate a significant accomplishment and one that was a long time in the making.” Graham said.

SCDHEC Commissioner Catherine Templeton, DOE-Savannah River Operations Office Manager Dave Moody and SRR President and Project Manager Dave Olson joined D’Agostino and Graham for the unveiling of a special tank closure marker at the site’s F Tank Farm. An employee celebration followed. 

“Closing waste Tanks 18 and 19 has provided SRS a roadmap for safely expediting future tank closures and meeting our risk reduction commitments” Moody said. “We owe tremendous gratitude to Senator Graham for his tireless efforts, and to our regulators, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for their partnership in support of the Department’s cleanup goals.”

Eliminating the risk of legacy nuclear waste by closing tanks is a top priority for DOE. Addressing a celebratory audience of more than 800 people, Moody lauded the efforts of the liquid waste program workforce.

“It is your hard work and commitment that guaranteed this day possible. Today, we are celebrating you, the closure of two waste tanks and the opening of our future,” he said.

Closures Minimize Risk to Workers, Public and Environment

Olson said grouting the tanks minimizes the risk for workers, the public and the environment.

“With the operational closure of these tanks, we have witnessed one of the nation’s most substantial nuclear waste tank cleanup efforts and the most significant environmental risk reduction in South Carolina since 1997,” Olson said. “This is a success story, and I thank all SRR employees for a job well done.”

Tanks 18 and 19, each with a waste capacity of approximately 1.3 million gallons, were both constructed in 1958. Tank 18 becoming operational in 1959 as a waste receipt tank in the site’s nuclear weapons production process and remained in active service until 1986, when waste removal activities were initiated. Tank 19 was placed into operations in 1961. It also was used as a nuclear waste receipt tank and remained in service until 1980, when waste removal began.

An agreement by DOE, EPA and SCDHEC required the operational closure of Tanks 18 and 19 by December 2012. Both tanks underwent an extensive waste removal process that included bulk waste removal, specialized mechanical cleaning and work to isolate the tanks from all external systems. That process led to regulatory confirmation that the tanks were ready for stabilization and final closure.
 

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