Savannah River Remediation (SRR), an AECOM-led team, is responsible for closing the underground high-level radioactive liquid waste storage tanks at the Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken, South Carolina, U.S. The waste resulted from more than 50 years of Cold War production of nuclear weapons materials. That production created more than 37 million gallons of high-level liquid waste (HLW) stored in 51 single- and double-shell tanks.
The cornerstone of SRR’s activities is operating the Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF), the largest radioactive waste glassification plant in the world. More than 4,000 canisters of vitrified waste have been produced, suitable for long-term storage and ultimate disposal. In fact, AECOM is the only company in the world currently operating waste vitrification facilities (in the US and UK) and participating in the construction of a DWPF sister facility at DOE’s Hanford Site. Other major operations include separating the most radioactive waste, destined for vitrification, from very low-level radioactive liquid that constitutes the majority of the waste tank volume. That liquid is decontaminated, mixed with cement, and pumped into huge concrete disposal units for permanent disposal onsite. More than 28 million gallons of decontaminated salt solution from the tanks has been solidified.
The ultimate goal is emptying and grouting the old storage tanks and support systems, and SRR, with its heritage companies, is the first company in the world to operationally close high-level waste tanks. SRR recently closed the 9th HLW tank, steadily reducing the most significant environmental risk for the State of South Carolina. It is now installing Melter 3 at DWPF, after extending the life of Melter 2 from 2 years to 14. It also conceived and implemented double-stacking of canisters in the first storage building, saving $100M in new storage building construction. It has also completed construction of a 32-million-gallon salt disposal unit, the largest of its kind in the world and representing a savings of nearly $100M in construction of multiple vaults of the same capacity.
SRR is currently and historically one of the safest high-risk, high-hazard industrial contractors in the world. AECOM’s legacy company at SRS won the first-ever DOE Voluntary Protection Program Star for safety as a major DOE Cold War strategic materials production site and has continued to be recertified for that honor every year since inception. In 2017, SRR was among six AECOM LLC’s that won a top safety award in its class from the National Safety Council.