October 21, 2014

Two former radioactive waste tanks closed at Savannah River Site

File Photo

SRR crews prepare to begin grouting Tanks 5 and 6 in an image provided by the contractor earlier this year (FILE)

Two liquid radioactive waste tanks at a former nuclear weapons complex near Aiken were operationally closed last week, two years ahead of a deadline set by environmental regulators.

The Department of Energy announced high-level liquid waste left over at the Savannah River Site has been completely removed from Tanks 5 and 6. The Energy Department has relied on contractor Savannah River Remediation to handle the project.

The two tanks held about 730,000 gallons each of Cold War radioactive waste. The enormous basins were then sealed with 1.8 million gallons of grout, according to SRR spokesman Dean Campbell.

So far, 6 tanks have been cleaned at the site, but 45 more remain. The Energy Department finished two tanks in 1997 and two more in 2011.

Campbell said it is a long process, “To close waste tanks at the site takes years per tank. It is a very big task to undertake,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “It’s very high-hazard work with very radioactive waste and everything must be done by remote.”

An agreement between South Carolina, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department required Tanks 5 and 6 to be closed by December 2015.