The management and operating contractor for the Savannah River Site is currently performing an evaluation following an incident at the Site’s Chemical Management Center where hazardous gases were vented out without an adequate hazard assessment.
In a letter obtained by the Aiken Standard, Tim Worrell, the quality assurance manager for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, explained the issue at the management center, or CMC. Worrell stated the incident took place in 761-6N, which is a facility within the CMC.
“At this point I think we can say that CMC vented hazardous gases in 761-6N without an adequate hazard assessment,” Worrell wrote. “This led to inadequate hazard controls being applied to the gas venting evolutions that have taken place at 731-6N for the last 5-6 years.”
The letter includes two other related issues, including a reference to 10 cylinders of propane and 193 cylinders of chem-o-lene gas – a non-toxic, non-poisonous, noninjurious fuel – that were burned off at another facility in the CMC.
Worrell added that the incident may call for treatment under the Resource and Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA.
After obtaining the letter, the Aiken Standard contacted SRNS about the issue. The contractor provided a written statement and explained they notified the proper channels immediately after recognizing the issue.
Currently, they are reevaluating the criteria for accepting gas cylinders to make sure they are in compliance with the RCRA. They added that they are unsure of what will come of the evaluation, but they anticipate no type of environmental harm.
“We anticipate no environmental harm or public health threat was caused by this incident. Chemical Management Center has stopped receiving the compressed gas cylinders and has ceased venting cylinders that are in the current inventory as a precautionary step,” SRNS wrote in a statement.
It added, “SRNS is committed to protecting the health and safety of our workers and the environment, and will complete the evaluation and ensure that we fully comply with all safety and regulatory requirements.”
The Site has suffered other recent safety lapses that have resulted in a call for safety changes by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. The board has requested a corrective action plan leading to sustained performance improvements.
Furthermore, the Energy Department instructed SRNS to evaluate errors affecting facility safety and has given the contractor until June 9 to develop a plan.
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.