Something unique involving the processing of radioactive salt waste is taking place at the Savannah River Site.

Savannah River Remediation, SRS’s liquid waste contractor, is celebrating five years of successfully disposing of salt waste from million-gallon underground storage tanks. The work means SRR is reducing the risk from the decades-old underground tanks that have been storing Cold War waste – the efforts a key component in the protection of human health and the environment.

Utilizing the latest technology, SRR continues to treat and dispose of an inventory of approximately 34 million gallons of radioactive salt waste through separate waste processing and dispositioning facilities, the Interim Salt Disposition Process facilities along with the Saltstone Facilities and Saltstone Disposal Units.

As SRR celebrates the processing of waste, they have also moved forward with new personnel. The Savannah River Operations Office announced last week the selection of Pamela A. Horning as federal project director in the Salt Waste Processing Facility Project Office.

As the new federal project director, Horning will provide executive leadership to project execution, contract management and oversight of all contractor and federal activities associated with the project’s planning and implementation.

Tony Polk, the project’s previous federal project director at the Salt Waste Processing Facility, recently accepted the position for director of programs in DOE-SR’s office of the assistant manager for Nuclear Material Stabilization Project.

Salt waste comprises about 90 percent of the waste volume in the tanks. Five years ago, the realm of operationally closing hazardous waste tanks began a new era at SRS with the inauguration of a new way to process salt waste.

Originally thought to be a salt processing system lasting up to three years, the salt disposition process continues to surpass earlier expectations and has positioned itself for continued operation as required by South Carolina permit, according to Dave Olson, SRR president and project manager.

“The salt processing facilities have surpassed expected operational results by processing more efficiently, at a higher throughput rate, and for a longer period than expected,” Olson said.

Placed into operations in April 2008, the SDP, which consists of two separations facilities – the Actinide Removal Process and the Modular Caustic Side Solvent Extraction Unit, removes nearly all radioactive isotopes from the salt waste and separates the salt waste into highly radioactive and decontaminated waste streams for dispositioning. The highly radioactive waste goes to the Defense Waste Processing Facility and the decontaminated waste goes to the Saltstone Facilities.

Terrel Spears, assistant manager for Waste Disposition Project, U.S. Department of Energy Savannah River Operations Office, stated the salt disposition process has performed very well over its life.

The SDP marked a record production year in Fiscal Year 2012 by processing over 704,000 gallons of salt waste, more than 4,000 gallons over its target number of 700,000 gallons. Since placed into operations in 2008, salt disposition has processed over 3.5 million gallons of salt waste.