Aiken, S.C. – Radioactive tank remediation at the Department of Energy Savannah River Site will cost forty percent more than originally estimated and take years longer than contractors and DOE officials estimated. Two huge tank farms, many filled with highly radioactive waste poured into the tanks beginning in the 1950s, made SRS an EPA Superfund site. The waste came from building thermonuclear weapons. At SRS they separated the plutonium and created tritium gas to boost the atomic bombs into hydrogen bombs. All this liquid helps make SRS the most radioactive and dangerous site in the United States.
The Government Accountability Office issued a report that raises real doubts about the time and cost of trying to empty some of the most radioactive waste tanks on earth. The Savannah River Site’s tank farms feature dozens of million gallon tanks that leak highly radioactive waste as well as contain tens of millions of gallons of a very toxic chemical stew. The report makes clear that glass vitrification, the process used to store waste in glass, and a new salt waste storage facility are all behind schedule and in trouble.
The Obama administration added more than $1.6 billion to the SRS budget in Stimulus Act funds for clean-up, but the staggering cost of what contractors are charging to mitigate the liquid waste at the site has been complicated by the fact that the National Nuclear Security Administration is and continues to plan to run additional high-level waste streams through the huge and crumbling H Canyon. For example, several tons of plutonium that cannot be processed into a new kind of reactor fuel are scheduled to be run through H-Canyon and through the tanks. A top DOE tank manager pointed out on a recent visit “that everything we use to get the stuff out of the tanks becomes radioactive waste. This is a very tough thing to figure out.”
You can read the GAO report at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-816