The Savannah River Site has confirmed its efforts to maintain radionuclide leaks caused by cracking in a vault on Site.
Vault 4 was previously used for the disposal of nuclear waste from high-level waste tanks. As of now, the vault is no longer being used to receive radioactive salt waste.
Information on the leakage was uncovered after Tom Clements, a member of Friends of the Earth, filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Aug. 6.
The Department of Energy's Savannah River Site identified the leakage in February. Department officials stated the problem stems from cracks in the roof of the vault. On July 31, SRS submitted a letter to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control outlining the issue and the Site's repair efforts.
These efforts include pouring a new concrete cap on the degraded sections of vault and the application of a sealant to those leaking sections.
“While SRS acted responsibly in identifying the degradation in the vault and in addressing the problems, there is concern about long-term stability of the structure and potential future radionuclide leakage,” said Clements in a press release.
In addition, DOE has stated that it has increased monitoring of the vault roof and will aggressively make necessary repairs to lessen potential leakage in the future. The department is also looking to modernize vault designs to increase safety levels.
“A more permanent elastic coating is targeted for installation on Vault 4 disposal unit in 2014, which will eliminate rainwater infiltration and reduce the potential for low-level radioactive contamination on the vault exterior,” stated Savannah River Remediation, the Site's liquid waste contractor.
Even with efforts to manage the leaks, SRS has stated that the radionuclide leaks are below DOE regulatory standards.
Site representatives further stated the leakage from the cracks are due to the high amounts of local rainfall since February.
“The vaults have been and continue to be inspected on a routine basis during all operations,” Savannah River Remediation added. “Additionally, the vault is inspected monthly by SCDHEC regulators.”
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard news team and joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a journalism degree in May 2012.