Radioactive leak, other Savannah River Site concerns cited by report via The Aiken Standard

By thomas Gardiner

In a report dated Aug. 12, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board listed a number of issues at the Savannah River Site, including both major management and operations contract companies (Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and Savannah River Remediation).

The report noted concerns at both H Canyon and K Area, two primary activity areas for SRNS missions on site.

H Canyon is the nation’s only chemical separations facility for nuclear material; and K Area, sometimes referred to as the Fort Knox of nuclear material, is the storage area for plutonium, including approximately 7 metric tons that are subject to a non-proliferation and plutonium disposition agreement with Russia.

H Canyon recently completed a new receiving bay, called the truck well, to accept the controversial liquid radioactive waste from Chalk River in Ontario, Canada.

In the past few months, the H Canyon crew began cold operations to test the facility in preparation for its readiness assessment, which would be a needed green light to begin the shipments, known as target residue material, from Canada.
The target residue material has been the subject of public symposium and a lawsuit has been launched against the DOE in recent weeks. The lawsuit, filed by Beyond Nuclear and a coalition of environmental and nuclear watchdog groups, opposes the shipments.

The liquid waste is planned for shipment by truck via overland highways. Proposed routes include major river crossings like the Peace Bridge over the Niagara River from Canada into Buffalo.

The lawsuit said a spill into those waters could gravely endanger millions of people.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions said it could not answer questions about the truck well or the target residue material because of the ongoing litigation.

According to the report, while attempting to open a model cask, the crane stopped functioning properly. Subsequent reports dated Aug. 19 and 26, however, report the crane had a loose wire and has since been repaired.

According to those DNFSB reports, cold operations have resumed.

In K Area, an issue with sealing gaskets was found in criticality control overpacks.
SRR manages 43 active liquid waste tanks containing about 36 million gallons of the highly radioactive material.

As part of the processing operations, SRR uses evaporators to separate radioactive material from water to make the material easier to control.

According to the report, “Radiation measurements show significant source term in the 3H Evaporator cone. SRR is preparing to remove the lagging and insulation from the cone to help pinpoint the leak site.”

According to previous reports in the Aiken Standard, SRR officials said any leaks in the tanks were contained by the secondary containment systems or that liquid in the tanks had been removed to get the liquid level in the tank below the level of the leak.

It is unclear at this time what safety hazards this leak may pose to the environment or the workers on site.

Attempts to reach an SRR or DOE representative for comment were unsuccessful.

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