Michael Budney, SCGNAC meeting, Columbia

Savannah River Site manager Michael Budney smiles Thursday during a presentation before the S.C. Governor's Nuclear Advisory Council in Columbia.

A Savannah River Site facility that operated years beyond expectations and helped process millions of gallons of radioactive waste has served SRS well and proved to be a bit of a pioneer, site manager Michael Budney said Thursday at a meeting of the S.C. Governor's Nuclear Advisory Council.

"So a very successful project," Budney said of the Actinide Removal Process (ARP) and Modular Caustic Side Solvent Extraction Unit (MCU), later giving a nod to the Salt Waste Processing Facility, a related project. "So it worked very well."

ARP/MCU – a cleanup venture with a long and complex name, Budney seemingly acknowledged – enabled the U.S. Department of Energy's nuclear cleanup office to process 7.4 million gallons of nuclear waste. It also enabled the closure of six high-level waste tanks at the Savannah River Site, and set the stage for the SWPF, an in-the-works plant designed to handle millions of gallons of waste every year.

Budney on Thursday described ARP/MCU as a forerunner.

He's not the only one with kind words for project, which began work in 2008.

The president of liquid-waste contractor Savannah River Remediation, Tom Foster, has previously said ARP/MCU "far exceeded everyone's expectations."

In a separate 2018 statement, Foster congratulated engineers and other staff for having "done an incredible job spanning 10 years of successful operations and innovations."

William "Ike" White, the new leader of the Energy Department's cleanup wing, in August visited the Savannah River Site to, among other things, recognize ARP/MCU's myriad successes.

In a photo published on SRS social media, White can be seen speaking to a crowd with a banner on the wall that reads, "ARP/MCU End of an era and a job well done!" In another photo posted to social media, White is seen alongside Budney and SRS deputy manager Thomas Johnson Jr, who was also at the Thursday advisory council meeting.

The Savannah River Site is an active cleanup installation overseen by the DOE Office of Environmental Management.

Millions of gallons of nuclear waste remain on-site in aging underground tanks.

The waste has previously been described as South Carolina's single largest environmental threat, and state and federal lawmakers are eager to see progress. Processing it is both complicated and time consuming.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and government in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin