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Savannah River Site Retires Coal-Fired D-Area Powerhouse after Nearly 60 Years of Service

May 1, 2012 - 12:00pm

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SRNS Maintenance Supervisor Steve Cooper, left to right, Control Room Operator Robert Dicks, and Deputy Operations Manager Ren 
Hatfield stand near a boiler unit of the DArea powerhouse. The three workers have a combined experience of 83 years at the facility.

SRNS Maintenance Supervisor Steve Cooper, left to right, Control Room Operator Robert Dicks, and Deputy Operations Manager Ren Hatfield stand near a boiler unit of the DArea powerhouse. The three workers have a combined experience of 83 years at the facility.

AIKEN, S.C. – The Savannah River Site (SRS) has shut down the massive, coal-powered D-Area powerhouse as the site turns to new, clean and highly efficient power generation technology.

“The recent startup of three new wood-chip burning (biomass) steam plants at SRS means we no longer need this facility. But I humbly thank the mechanics and operators whose skill, dedication, and creativity kept this facility operating for nearly 60 years,” DOE-Savannah River Assistant Manager for Infrastructure and Environmental Stewardship Karen Guevara said.

In the late 1950s, nine powerhouses and steam plants were operating across the 310-square-mile nuclear reservation. All were small compared to the mammoth D-Area facility whose four giant boilers required 35 to 45 million gallons of water each day from nearby Savannah River. At one time, the five-story, 280-square-foot D-Area powerhouse was capable of generating 75 million watts of power, enough electricity to support Aiken.

The steam produced within D Area was used for a variety of SRS industrial and process related needs. At the powerhouse’s peak operation, three of the facility’s four boiler units, each more than 100 feet tall, individually produced about 350,000 pounds of steam per hour.

Dwayne Wilson, president and CEO of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), the SRS management and operations contractor, detailed the financial and environmental benefits from the D-Area powerhouse shutdown. SRS will no longer need to purchase about 160,000 tons of coal each year for the facility’s operation, and annual carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by about 100,000 tons, he said.

Wilson said SRNS employees are committed to creating safe, innovative and effective solutions for SRS, the nation and world through Enterprise.SRS. In that initiative, SRS will utilize its nuclear materials workforce, knowledge and assets to help the nation address critical missions in the key areas of environmental stewardship, clean energy and national security.

“We offer knowledge and expertise to make the future of our site and country secure, energy independent and environmentally responsible,” Wilson said. “The safe deactivation of this once vital support facility is another step in that direction.”

For 59 years, D Area was operated by three generations of largely local employees who supplied reliable power and steam to SRS facilities with few outages.

“I can remember being hired on at the plant site back in the 1980s as a coal handler in D Area,” SRNS Utility and Services Operations Manager Wayne Gleaton said. “First thing I said was, ‘I didn’t know SRS had a coal mine.’ My supervisor laughed and said, ‘We don’t. You won’t be digging coal. You’ll be unloading coal from railroad cars.”

A D Area employee for more than 20 years, Brad Harrelson has always been impressed by his co-workers who go the extra mile to keep the plant running.

"I'm leaving behind many good friends and taking with me many fond memories," Harrelson said.

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