Details offered this week to the Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board on how the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant incident is affecting Savannah River Site waste shipments were slim; however, Site officials assured board members that the waste is being safely stored for now.
The board, or the CAB, held its bimonthly board meeting on Monday and Tuesday in Savannah. Discussions included the latest updates on the pilot plant, or WIPP, in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
SRS has been routinely sending shipments of transuranic waste to the WIPP. However, a radiation exposure incident in February led to the closing of the WIPP and most recently, reports surfaced that the plant would be closed for up to three years.
The news prompted CAB members, including Rose Hayes, to inquire about the status.
“I made the point that SRS has a lot of materials stored up and has never been studied for, or tested for, radioactive materials because it’s not a storage site; it is a cleanup site,” Hayes said.
The waste, also called TRU waste, includes solid waste consisting of clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris and other items contaminated with plutonium.
Bert Crapse, the solid waste program manager for DOE-SR, gave a presentation on the history and purpose of the TRU waste program and added that while information is scarce, the waste is safely stored for now.
“SRS has completed all field activities and will have all its legacy TRU waste certified and ready to ship later this year,” Crapse wrote in a PowerPoint presentation. “Waste will be safely stored at SRS until it can be shipped to WIPP. DOE will continue to keep the CAB informed on the WIPP recovery.”
Hayes added that she has always felt SRS is a safe place for the treatment of waste. Her issue, she said, is that SRS is not intended for storage.
“We have some great, skillful engineers out at the Site so I’ve never a questioned the safety aspect or expertise,” she said. “My concern is that SRS is not a storage site, and it always seems like the government is failing to keep its promise not to store nuclear materials at the Site.”
The next full board CAB meeting is scheduled for July 21 and 22 in Augusta.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.