AIKEN, S.C. – EM and its liquid waste contractor at the Savannah River Site (SRS) have developed a system that improves protection for workers who handle and dispose of contaminated laboratory waste created at the site’s Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF) during the vitrification process.
Historically, the handling and transporting of the lab waste at DWPF was performed by hand, with workers wearing protective clothing. Installation of the new system eliminates the hands-on work performed in the past and greatly reduces the potential for worker exposure to higher levels of radiation. The modifications come as the Salt Waste Processing Facility came online Oct. 5. The facility will process radioactive materials at a rate eight times faster than recent waste treatment operations at SRS.
To create the new worker protections, staff from contractor Savannah River Remediation (SRR) installed remote-control equipment at the DWPF lab and made other renovations that will improve the lab’s waste handling and transporting systems.
SRR operates DWPF, where high-level radioactive waste is being turned into glass for safe, long-term disposal through the vitrification process.
The waste comes from the lab’s sampling and analytical cells, where technicians prepare samples for testing.
Sam Travaglini, an SRR system engineer, said the new system further demonstrates SRR’s dedication to its core values of safety and continuous improvement.
“This system incorporates engineered controls to enable workers to move higher dose rate items from a distance using remote manipulator arms,” Travaglini said. “With increased shielding and remote handling, we improve the level of protection for our workers.”
The waste is remotely placed into bags first and then scanned for radiation levels. A robotic arm will place the contaminated waste into a modified 55-gallon drum and, finally, into a larger container that can hold three drums. The container is then transported to an approved on-site disposal area.
Jim Folk, EM’s assistant manager for waste disposition at SRS, said the installation of remote-controlled equipment is another way that systems are being improved to increase safety.
“Protecting the health of our workers, the public, and the environment is always our top priority,” Folk said. “Making these changes will help keep workers even safer.”