DOE Central Characterization Project subcontractor Tyler Watson, left, and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions Operator Norman Sykes load a transuranic waste drum into a real-time radiography unit for characterization at the Solid Waste Management Facility at the Savannah River Site.
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions Operator Norman Sykes load a transuranic waste drum into a real-time radiography unit for characterization at the Solid Waste Management Facility at the Savannah River Site.

AIKEN, S.C.EM recently installed equipment at the Savannah River Site (SRS) that ensures continued safe shipment of transuranic (TRU) waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for disposal.

Crews at the Solid Waste Management Facility at SRS can now characterize and certify newly generated TRU waste with the addition of a real-time radiography unit, which uses an X-ray system to examine the contents of waste containers. The equipment was installed to meet updated requirements set by the National TRU Program that involve evaluating the containers for chemical compatibility and oxidizing chemicals.

WIPP has robust standards for waste containers permitted for disposal in its underground repository. The examination conducted as part of characterization activities at SRS verifies and validates that waste within each container matches documentation provided by SRS. The examination also allows operators to ensure the containers do not include items prohibited by WIPP without having to open them.

“Operation of this equipment, in conjunction with other TRU waste characterization equipment installed at the Solid Waste Management Facility last year, will allow new TRU waste generated from SRS operations to be certified to the new WIPP standards and ultimately shipped to WIPP,” said Kerri Crawford, Solid Waste Programs manager for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), the managing and operating contractor at SRS.

Remote operation allows for the characterization of a transuranic waste drum using a real-time radiography unit at the Solid Waste Management Facility at the Savannah River Site. Pictured is DOE Central Characterization Project subcontractor Tyler Watson.
Remote operation allows for the characterization of a transuranic waste drum using a real-time radiography unit at the Solid Waste Management Facility at the Savannah River Site. Pictured is DOE Central Characterization Project subcontractor Tyler Watson.

TRU waste, a byproduct of the nation’s nuclear defense program, consists of tools, rags, protective clothing, sludge, soil, and other materials contaminated with radioactive elements that have atomic numbers greater than uranium.

Owned by DOE’s Central Characterization Project (CCP), the real-time radiography unit was previously used by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before it was refurbished for use at SRS.

A transuranic waste drum is ready for characterization in the real-time radiography unit at the Solid Waste Management Facility at the Savannah River Site.
A transuranic waste drum is ready for characterization in the real-time radiography unit at the Solid Waste Management Facility at the Savannah River Site.

DOE established the CCP to standardize and provide efficiencies in the characterization and certification process at DOE waste generator sites. One of those efficiencies is the deployment of mobile loading units (MLUs) and associated teams to assist waste generator sites. MLUs contain the equipment needed to load waste containers into casks for shipment to WIPP, eliminating the need to develop a DOE-certified loading capacity at each waste generator site.

EM established the National TRU Program to oversee the process of preparing TRU waste from DOE waste generator sites to meet WIPP requirements. This process involves the characterization and packaging of waste at generator sites, followed by the transportation of the waste to WIPP.