Office of Environmental Management

SRS Workers to Install Technology to Speed Tank Waste Removal

April 24, 2018

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Savannah River Remediation workers prep the process enclosure foundation for Tank Closure Cesium Removal at the Savannah River Site’s H Tank Farm.
Savannah River Remediation workers prep the process enclosure foundation for Tank Closure Cesium Removal at the Savannah River Site’s H Tank Farm.

AIKEN, S.C. – Crews are installing a new technology to remove radioactive waste from underground tanks at the Savannah River Site (SRS).

   The innovative technology, called Tank Closure Cesium Removal (TCCR), will remove cesium, a highly radioactive chemical element, from the Cold War legacy salt waste at SRS, accelerating waste removal and tank closure.

   The technology’s ion exchange process, within a self-shielded, self-contained column, pulls cesium from the waste, reducing risk to workers, the community, and the environment. Commercial vendors have demonstrated success using an ion exchange process to remove cesium from similar waste.

   The TCCR process modules are being deployed in the site’s H Tank Farm near Tanks 10 and 11. The waste from Tank 10 will pass through the process, including a pre-filter and multiple ion exchange columns. The waste stream is treated with an engineered resin inside the ion exchange column to take out the cesium. The cesium-rich resin and ion exchange column will then be sent to an interim safe storage area and maintained for future disposal. The decontaminated discharge will be directed to Tank 11 and eventually to the Saltstone Production Facility for disposal. 

   As a supplemental at-tank deployment, TCCR will have the capability to remove 100,000 curies — a measure of radioactivity — from the Tank 10 waste. It could accelerate tank closure at SRS by providing an additional capability to remove cesium from stored waste. High-level waste constituents such as cesium must be removed from the tanks before they can be operationally closed and removed from service. 

   Westinghouse Electric Company and Columbia Energy and Environmental Services completed the design, fabrication, assembly, and factory testing of TCCR equipment offsite. 

   SRS liquid waste contractor Savannah River Remediation (SRR) leads the onsite installation process. Site prep includes attachment of utilities, transfer lines, and monitoring communications to the delivered TCCR unit. SRR is conducting the safety analysis associated with the technology. The analysis ensures the process will operate in a safe, predictable manner that protects workers, the public, and the environment.

Workers begin installing the lower enclosure of the Tank Closure Cesium Removal module near Tanks 10 and 11 in H Tank Farm.
Workers begin installing the lower enclosure of the Tank Closure Cesium Removal module near Tanks 10 and 11 in H Tank Farm.

   EM’s Savannah River National Laboratory provided laboratory analysis, technical expertise, and years of technology research and development on the ion exchange and resin technology.

   Cesium’s hazardous and volatile characteristics makes it a top priority to be removed from tank waste, said Jim Folk, DOE-Savannah River Assistant Manager for Waste Disposition.

   “This new Tank Closure Cesium Removal method is primed to be a key opportunity to supplement our waste remediation capability,” Folk said. “If proven successful, it will provide an additional process to remove cesium, ultimately accelerating the pace of tank closure work.”

   After completing installation, testing, and readiness for startup, TCCR demonstration operations are expected to begin late 2018.

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