Savannah River Remediation Principal Engineer Azadeh Samadi-Dezfouli, pictured in front of a salt waste blend tank, manages salt and sludge batch qualification activities and schedules at the Savannah River Site to ensure batch qualification and delivery are timely.
Principal Engineer Azadeh Samadi-Dezfouli, pictured in front of a salt waste blend tank, manages salt and sludge batch qualification activities and schedules at the Savannah River Site to ensure batch qualification and delivery are timely.

AIKEN, S.C.EM has reduced the amount of time to qualify a salt waste batch at the Savannah River Site (SRS), enabling a steady stream of the material to the Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF).

This past January, SWPF contractor Parsons Corp. began the first year of operating the facility, which is designed to process up to 9 million gallons of salt waste per year.

Processing 6 million gallons of SRS tank waste in 2021 is an EM priority. To support this priority, SRS liquid waste contractor Savannah River Remediation (SRR) collaborated with the Savannah River National Laboratory to improve processes to expedite the preparation and qualification of salt solution to support processing at these rates. These improvements led to qualifying the latest batch to feed SWPF, known as Salt Batch 3, in a record seven weeks compared to previous batches that took up to six months.

Compiling and qualifying a 1-million-gallon salt batch is a complex process. Improvements made throughout the batch qualification process included streamlining the required salt sample receipt, analysis, data review, and report. This led to expanded use of computer modeling and automated calculations using the sample analysis data, and development and deployment of an electronic approval process. Salt Batch 3 was also the first salt batch to be compiled and qualified in SRR’s newest salt waste blend tank, Tank 41.

SRR President and Project Manager Phil Breidenbach said he is confident in the abilities of SRR and Parsons to advance tank waste processing toward the goal of tank closure at SRS.

“The strong relationships formed over the common goal of eliminating radioactive liquid waste stored in aging waste tanks motivates the team to overcome challenges,” Breidenbach said. “We carefully evaluated the salt batch compilation and qualification procedures and made many changes to streamline the process.”

Once salt waste is received at SWPF, it is treated to remove the high-activity radionuclides. The high-activity stream is transferred to the Defense Waste Processing Facility, where it is converted into a glass form and poured into 10-foot-tall stainless steel canisters, where the glass solidifies. The decontaminated salt solution stream is transferred from SWPF to the Saltstone Production Facility for processing into saltstone and permanent disposal in Saltstone Disposal Units.

SWPF Project Manager Mike Pittman is pleased with the site coordination involved with SWPF, and proud his employees are stepping up to execute the cleanup mission safely.

“Parsons and SRR share a close relationship because we work toward the same goal of eliminating the legacy high-level tank waste to make our environment and community infinitely safer,” Pittman said. “I am proud our team has prevailed through complex construction and startup operations to get to the point of processing radioactive liquid waste.”

DOE-Savannah River Assistant Manager for Waste Disposition Jim Folk said not only does reducing the time to prepare and qualify a salt batch facilitate schedule improvements, but the use of innovative processes and electronic capabilities increases efficiency and safety.

“It takes many people performing many different tasks to prepare and qualify feed for SWPF processing,” Folk said. “At DOE, we are pleased when processes are streamlined by eliminating unnecessary steps, reducing the need for human interaction, and increasing confidence in the safe processing of the salt waste to support DOE’s mission.”