OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Construction is underway on the $10 million Sludge Processing Mock Test Facility, which will play a vital role in maturing technologies needed to begin processing Oak Ridge’s 500,000-gallon inventory of transuranic sludge waste.
Transuranic waste contains elements heavier than uranium, hence the name “trans,” or “beyond” uranium. Oak Ridge’s inventory of that waste was generated and stored onsite from years of defense-related research, conducted primarily at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) has been working since 2003 to process, repackage, and ship Oak Ridge’s inventory of contact-handled and remote-handled transuranic debris waste for permanent disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico. With that processing scheduled for completion in 2022, OREM is now working to address the site’s inventory of transuranic sludge waste.
Crews have already placed footers and poured the foundation for the mock test facility. They took another major step forward last week when they transported a 50,000-gallon tank to the worksite that will be used during testing.
OREM will test six critical technology elements to gather the data necessary to complete the final design and construction of the Sludge Processing Facility later this decade. Two of those technologies will be tested at the mock test facility, which is now under construction.
Engineers at the mock test facility will focus on testing pump technologies and instrumentation measurement technologies. Advanced pump technologies are needed to pull the sludge wastes out of their storage tanks for processing. The instrumentation measurement technologies will inform operators what material is moving through the pumps, including its contents and density, to assist with processing needs.
“There is a lot of preparation and groundwork required before we can begin addressing our inventory of transuranic sludge waste, but we are moving closer to that goal with the construction of this crucial testing facility,” ORNL Portfolio Federal Project Manager Nathan Felosi said.
Site preparation began for the Sludge Processing Mock Test Facility in January 2020, and construction is slated for completion in October 2021. OREM anticipates approximately two years of testing to gather the data needed to determine the best designs and approaches for the Sludge Processing Facility’s final design.