Valve replacement at the Savannah River Site’s Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF) is expected to wrap up this month, according to the Department of Energy.
Parsons, the DOE contractor building and initially operating the plant, in April discovered it would need to replace 460 valves after the apparatus that controls the valves malfunctioned. The valves are used to control a wide array of functions.
To date, Parsons has replaced about 420 valves. “We expect valve controller replacement to be complete in October,” a DOE spokesperson said by email.
The valve replacement has contributed to the delayed startup of SWPF, which will treat 90 percent of the remaining liquid waste stored underground tanks at the Savannah River Site. The waste, which totals about 35 million gallons, was generated by Cold War nuclear weapons production.
The Energy Department currently treats the salt waste using a pilot process that separates those components from other materials and sends the treated salt waste to a permanent on-site disposal unit. The Salt Waste Processing Facility will function in the same manner, but is intended to increase waste treatment from 1.5 million gallons per year to 6 million.
Parsons was hired in 2002 to carry out construction, design, testing, and startup of the facility by January 2021 at a total cost of $2.3 billion. It would then operate the SWPF for a year before turning the facility over to the site’s liquid waste management contractor.
The Energy Department had pressed for startup in December 2018 since construction was completed in June 2016, believing that would allot enough time for testing and commissioning. But the agency backed off that goal earlier this year, once the valve replacement issue emerged. The agency has said startup will come further into the current fiscal 2019 but has not given a firm date.