The Energy Department’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina would look for ways to accelerate shipments of transuranic waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico under a proposal being studied by a local advisory board.
The Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board is expected to vote on making the recommendation to DOE during its July 23-24 meeting. The recommendation, from board Waste Management Committee Chairwoman Dawn Gillas, would not be binding on the federal agency.
The recommendation says emphasis should be placed on moving legacy TRU waste, packaged prior to February 2014, to the DOE disposal site as soon as possible. An underground radiological accident that month kept WIPP offline for about three years. The recommendation doesn’t delve into specifics of how to speed up shipments.
Roughly 650 cubic meters of this type of this waste are stored in containers of various sizes at SRS, probably the equivalent of about 115 shipments, a DOE spokesperson said by email. The site has also produced seven shipments’ worth of additional waste since February 2014.
Savannah River sent off nine shipments of TRU waste last year after WIPP resumed accepting off-site waste in April 2017, the spokesperson said. No shipments have gone to WIPP from SRS so far in 2018.
“Previously packaged TRU waste is undergoing a rigorous review to ensure the waste as packaged meets the revised waste acceptance criteria” for WIPP, which were tightened after the 2014 radiation release, the spokesperson said. Good progress is being made, but there is also significant pent-up demand across the DOE weapons complex for waste disposal at WIPP.
Meanwhile, the Savannah River Site is downblending 6 metric tons of surplus nuclear weapon-usable plutonium for eventual shipment, as TRU waste, to WIPP. The downblending operation began in September 2016, was then suspended in October 2017 for certain container exams, and restarted in mid-March.