U.S. Energy Department management and operations contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) is using a variety of creative and what it believes are more efficient methods to dismantle and dispose of a 10,000 square foot building that once housed radioactive waste at the Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken.
That includes unusual methods like burying a railroad boxcar containing the steel from the building.
“I really appreciate how we’ve come together as a team, dedicated to doing things smarter, safer and better while finding ways to cut costs,” Solid Waste Operations Manager Don Turno told South Carolina Radio Network.
The boxcar is now loaded with material and dismantled steel supports that had been in the walls and roof of the demolished building known as Pad 16. SRNS decided to use the salvaged boxcar as an alternative to purchasing eight additional “sea land” containers, each costing nearly $4,000, to perform the same function.
In all, 18,500 square yards of wall and roofing material and 60,000 pounds of steel were removed for permanent disposal. “We’re not just working with our feet and hands, but our heads as well through use of our expertise in project management strategy,” Turno said.
Another process efficiency associated with this effort involved gathering and using excess wooden pallets from across SRS that had been classified as low-level waste due to their use in other nuclear projects. Using these slightly contaminated pallets made securing and placing the Pad 16 material into the box car for permanent disposition a more effective and faster process, Turno said.
The Pad 16 structure formerly stored hundreds of 55-gallon drums containing radioactive transuranic (TRU) waste, most of which is now at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a DOE disposal site in New Mexico. TRU waste consists of items normally found within an industrial setting that have become contaminated with radioisotopes that have a half-life greater than 20 years, such as plutonium. Tools, protective clothing, containers, rags and other debris would be typical examples.
The excess railroad boxcar and its Pad 16 contents have been classified as low-level waste and will be buried at SRS under current existing regulations.
The next phase of this project involves the pouring of a thick concrete cap to seal the flooring that remains at Pad 16. This will create a surface that is designed to force rainwater to naturally flow off the new structure. Approximately 450 cubic yards of concrete will be poured to create this protective cap.
The project is expected to be completed by July 31, which Turno said is six weeks ahead of the original schedule.