A major infrastructure replacement at the Savannah River Site’s Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF) is inching toward completion, though the Department of Energy is hesitant to state when that might occur.
The agency first reported in April that Parsons, the contractor that constructed the facility and is preparing it for operations, would need to replace 460 valves at the SWPF. That followed the malfunction of the positioner, which controls valves that themselves control a wide array of functions at SWPF.
The manufacturer informed Parsons that it no longer offers support for that type of positioner, meaning all the valves would have to be replaced. No other details were provided on why the manufacturer no longer supports the technology, or the cost of the replacements.
The valves were sent to SRS near Aiken, S.C. in multiple shipments, with the last arriving in late July. To date, just over 400 valves have been installed, according to a DOE spokesperson. The official would not say when installations will be completed.
The $2.3 billion Salt Waste Processing Facility is expected to be a key part of the liquid waste processing mission at the South Carolina facility. The site houses roughly 35 million gallons of highly radioactive liquid waste that is a byproduct of Cold War nuclear weapons production. About 90 percent of that is salt waste, which is currently treated using a pilot process by separating the salt waste components from other materials and sending the treated salt waste to a permanent on-site disposal unit. The SWPF will function in the same manner, but at a higher capacity.
Parsons completed construction in June 2016. The Energy Department at the time anticipated startup in December 2018, which was expected to allow enough time for testing and commissioning. That would be more than two years ahead of the project baseline date of January 2021. However, the valve issue and other complications have undercut the 2018 goal.