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SRS officials detail future nuclear waste storage plans.

Under federal budget pressure, Savannah River Site is facing stiff time constraints to safely dispose of highly-radioactive nuclear waste before its aging facilities reach the end of their life spans.

Senior managers of spent nuclear fuel processing and storage at Savannah River Site gave updates on several facilities and programs to the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, an independent research and review agency that met recently in Augusta. The board, which reviews U.S. Department of Energy programs, reports conclusions and recommendations to Congress and the secretary of energy.

Because the site's L-Basin will be required to store spent nuclear fuel longer than previous projections, detailed inspections and maintenance programs are in place to ensure the facility's safety for another half-century, said David Rose, a spent fuel project engineer with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.

"The basin is expected to maintain its structural stability for at least another 50 years," Rose said. L-Basin, which was first used in 1954, will be needed until at least 2030, Rose said. The facility's concrete walls and floors are periodically inspected for cracking and water quality is tested to minimize fuel corrosion, which is also monitored, he said.

The H-Canyon facility, the only hardened nuclear chemical separations plant in the nation, also needs upgrades to support continued operations, said senior technical advisor Allen Gunter. Upgrading a substation, transformers, roofs and an exhaust fan are included on the site's priority list for improvements.

"Maintaining our infrastructure is a challenge, based on the budgets," Gunter said.

Also at the meeting, site workers discussed the need for additional space to store processed waste because of a delay opening a permanent federal repository. Two buildings that store canisters from the Defense Waste Processing Facility are nearly full, and a third building costing $130 million won't be added, said Brenda Green, of Savannah River Remediation.

Instead, canisters filled with waste that is mixed with glass will be double-stacked in the first glass waste storage building, Green said. Slight modifications will be made so canisters can be stacked and the capacity doubled to 4,508 canisters.

Canister production will exceed existing storage space in fiscal year 2019, Green said. Of an estimated 8,582 canisters that will be produced, 3,877 are complete.

Source: Meg Mirshak, The Augusta Chronicle

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Publication:Nuclear Waste News
Date:Nov 7, 2014
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