EM workers at the Savannah River Site recently began transferring dissolved spent nuclear fuel to a waste processing facility two years early, freeing tank space at a chemical separations facility and reducing the inventory of the fuel in a basin at the site.
The spent nuclear fuel from the Sodium Reactor Experiment has been stored at the H Canyon Chemical Separations Facility since 2012, awaiting transfer to the Defense Waste Processing Facility, which had been planned for 2022.
The material contained high levels of thorium that could not be processed into low enriched uranium like other spent nuclear fuel processed in H Canyon. The Sodium Reactor Experiment is a former nuclear power plant in California.
“The need for H Canyon space for future missions presented an opportunity for H Canyon to work with the SRS liquid waste contractor, Savannah River Remediation, to manage a discard of the Sodium Reactor Experiment material two years early,” said Eloy Saldivar, H Canyon project manager for SRS management and operations contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.
The only operating radioactive waste vitrification plant in the U.S., DWPF converts radioactive liquid waste stored at SRS into a solid glass form suitable for interim storage and eventual offsite geological disposal.
“We have sent 11,300 gallons of Sodium Reactor Experiment material to DWPF for processing so far,” said H Canyon process engineer Jaclyn Fitzpatrick. “We plan to complete the final transfer of 3,700 gallons early this year, which will allow the tanks that previously stored the material to be repurposed. This will open about 18,000 gallons of space in H Canyon to use for future missions, when combined with approximately 3,000 gallons of space that wasn’t being utilized.”
Spent nuclear fuel is received and stored safely underwater in the L Area Disassembly Basin until H Canyon is ready to process the material.
“L Basin is nearing its storage capacity, so freeing up room allows us to process more material in H Canyon. This helps accelerate the reduction of the current L Basin inventory,” Fitzpatrick said.
“SRS is home to many different facilities performing a variety of nuclear material management and environmental cleanup missions,” Saldivar said. “The integration between these facilities is an important part of how SRS is helping to make the world safer.”