The Interim Salt Waste Disposition Process at the Savannah River Site surpassed the 1-million gallon per year mark in salt waste processing for a second time in its five-year history.


The record processing mark, met recently, sets the stage for the Interim Salt Waste Disposition Process to continue to support salt processing program objectives beyond its first five years of operations, which began in April 2008.


Terrel Spears, assistant manager for the Waste Disposition Project, U.S. Department of Energy-Savannah River Operations Office, called the achievement further evidence that salt disposition processes operated by Savannah River Remediation, SRS’s liquid waste contractor, are working.


“Processing salt waste is essential for us and our mission to operationally close waste tanks and reduce risk,” Spears said. “Salt processing technologies being utilized by SRR have proven very effective in removing the radioactive constituents from salt waste.”


The radioactive constituents removed through the Interim Salt Waste Disposition Process include cesium, plutonium and strontium. These radionuclides are transferred to the Defense Waste Processing Facility, where they are mixed with molten glass and placed in stainless steel canisters awaiting permanent storage.


The remaining low-level salt solution is converted into a grout-cement mixture at the Saltstone facilities and pumped into concrete disposal units for permanent disposal.


According to Stuart MacVean, Savannah River Remediation interim president and project manager, the Interim Salt Waste Disposition Process is expected to surpass the fiscal year record set in 2011.


“The ISDP will be in a planned outage later this year so we can implement new technology called the ‘next generation solvent,’ which will enhance the processes’ ability to extract cesium,” MacVean said. “I expect to reach production targets prior to entering the outage.”


There are approximately 36 million gallons of waste being stored in underground waste tanks at SRS. The waste is a by-product of the nation’s Cold War weapons production program. About 90 percent, or 33 million gallons, is liquid salt waste.


Processing and disposing of the waste is essential for SRR to complete its mission of operationally closing the waste tanks. Waste in the tanks has been labeled as the single-greatest environmental risk in the state by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.