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Full radioactive operations to begin at Salt Waste Processing Facility at SRS

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Full radioactive operations at the Salt Waste Processing Facility at the Savannah River Site are set to begin, as testing at the one-of-a-kind plant recently wrapped without incident, according to the Department of Energy.

Parsons will be in charge of the facility for one year, starting this month. The Virginia-based firm was nearly two decades ago selected to design, build, commission and, in the short term, operate the SWPF, a major cog in the local nuclear-waste processing machine.

The Salt Waste Processing Facility has already handled more than 320,000 gallons of nuclear waste at the Savannah River Site; the first batch, thousands of gallons siphoned from the H Tank Farm, was sent to the plant late last year. Up to 6 million gallons of radioactive waste – a significant environmental threat – could be processed in its first year up and running.

“The successful completion of hot commissioning testing and commencement of unrestricted operations at SWPF is a testament to the commitment and dedication of the Department of Energy and Parsons teams in constructing, testing and now operating this crucial, first-of-a-kind facility,” said Mike Pittman, the SWPF project manager and vice president of nuclear operations at Parsons.

With the Salt Waste Processing Facility online, almost all of the salt waste at the Savannah River Site is expected to be processed by 2030. Salt waste occupies a majority of tank space at SRS, where plutonium for nuclear weapons was once produced.

“The start of operations enables DOE to now close waste tanks at an unprecedented rate,” Savannah River Site manager Michael Budney said in a statement Tuesday.

Safely and promptly addressing tank waste – at the Savannah River Site and at the Hanford site in Washington, for example – is among the Energy Department’s most significant hurdles. The department's overall environmental liabilities total hundreds of billions of dollars.

“Integrating SWPF into the Savannah River Site liquid-waste remediation program represents a significant acceleration in the elimination of a very challenging environmental risk to the region,” Pittman said.

Construction of the Salt Waste Processing Facility finished in 2016. A ribbon was cut at the facility in September 2020. The ceremony was attended by a slate of Energy Department and elected officials.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the Energy Department, its NNSA, and government and politics, in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin.

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