AIKEN, S.C. – The Savannah River Site (SRS) has secured a reliable supply of nuclear-grade parts for its facilities through novel approaches with vendors and streamlined processes being modeled at other DOE sites.
“Safety and quality are the foundation of everything we do at the Savannah River Site, allowing us to drive down costs and deliver on aggressive performance goals,” said Stuart MacVean, president of SRS management and operations contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.
Efficiently securing and qualifying nuclear-grade parts has helped the site improve infrastructure and dramatically reduce the maintenance backlog over the last year, MacVean said.
“We’ve put a tremendous amount of focus and effort into improving how we certify the pedigree of the parts and components we need to support the vital missions at SRS,” MacVean said. “As a result, we’ve been able more rapidly upgrade and maintain our site infrastructure.”
Plenty of suppliers were available to provide qualified parts during the peak of U.S. commercial nuclear construction in the 1970s and 1980s. But the need for new nuclear construction has waned over the years, and the number of nuclear-qualified suppliers has dwindled. This has forced the few new nuclear construction projects and facilities in need of replacement parts — including those managed by SRNS — to qualify many of the parts they need individually.
This qualification process, known as commercial grade dedication (CGD), identifies the critical characteristics of each item — such as parts in a backup generator or electric switches — and verifies the acceptability through inspections, tests, or analyses.
SRNS has worked to streamline the procurement of engineered materials and the qualification of nuclear safety-related components by forming partnerships with vendors and centralizing its efforts. A 14-member staff now manages the CGD process.
“The results have been significant,” said Earvin Henderson, head of the SRNS Materials Acquisition Engineering group. “We went from completing 21 CGDs in the last year to 163 this year. We’ve worked through the backlog that had built up and have really put in place an efficient process that can be a model for other sites.”
In its partnership with vendor Caterpillar, which supplies replacement parts for safety-related engines, SRNS has access to a quality program and production facilities, allowing the contractor to survey and take credit for Caterpillar’s quality processes.
“That was huge for us because it nearly eliminates the testing and inspections we need to do here at SRNS to complete the dedication processes,” Henderson said. “It’s not something Caterpillar has done anywhere else and while it took a lot of time and effort to work through the process, it’s really making an impact.”
SRNS worked with two nuclear material suppliers to procure piping, fittings, steel, and related shapes. SRNS procured these items without completing CGD packages after auditing the companies and accepting their nuclear quality programs.
“Proactively working with vendors at a more strategic level is a much better way to do business than focusing on qualifying each part or component one by one,” Henderson said. “That is where we are going to put our focus going forward — making sure we are as efficient and effective as possible.”
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