AIKEN, S.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM’s) liquid waste contractor at Savannah River Site (SRS) has partnered with Claflin University to challenge the students to improve the method for removing and replacing radioactively contaminated equipment inside the Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF).
The partnership between contractor Savannah River Mission Completion (SRMC) and the Orangeburg, South Carolina, school further demonstrates the site’s dedication to supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and helping strengthen the school’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum.
The project provides students the opportunity to improve the method for removing and replacing the radioactively contaminated device called the strip effluent coalescer within the SWPF solvent recovery system.
The coalescer combines small droplets of solvent to form larger droplets, enabling their separation from the high-activity salt waste. Any proposed improvements would be intended to use fewer resources and reduce the potential for radiation exposure to workers during removal, transport and replacement of the equipment.
The current process involves the hands-on use of a specially designed transport cart and crane.
SRMC President and Program Manager Dave Olson says this education outreach effort is designed to enable the students to put their training to use by generating new ideas and new methods.
“One of our goals is for the students to consider all possibilities for making our processes safer and better inside SWPF,” Olson said. “We want to motivate students to solve real-world technical issues.”
Karina Liles, Claflin’s interim chair of mathematics and computer science, believes the students will work hard to develop a safe and practical alternative. This capstone project provides the students with an opportunity to develop alternatives to current processes used inside the SRS liquid waste system.
“Our students are up to the task, ready to tackle both technical and operational challenges,” Liles said. “Throughout their STEM training, our focus has been hands-on, problem-based learning. This real-world challenge presents them with a wonderful opportunity for growth, and we are grateful for the opportunity provided by this partnership with Savannah River Mission Completion.”
The capstone program is a part of SRMC’s education outreach that introduces various SRS operations to students, helping them grow real-world skillsets while opening another pipeline of potential employees to support SRS work.
The STEM project began with the fall semester and continues until May 2023.
Radioactive liquid waste is generated at SRS as byproducts from the processing of nuclear materials for national defense, research, medical programs and outer space missions. Totaling about 34 million gallons, the waste is stored in the remaining 43 underground carbon-steel waste tanks grouped into two tank farms at SRS. The SRS liquid waste program consists of high-hazard operations, which include complex engineering, procurement, construction, waste treatment, grouting, and disposal to operationally close the waste tanks.
To receive the latest news and updates about the Office of Environmental Management, submit your e-mail address.