SAVANNAH RIVER SITE

Photo courtesy of Energy.gov

Photo courtesy of Energy.gov

 

HISTORY

During the 1950s, the Savannah River Site (SRS) began to produce materials used in nuclear weapons, primarily tritium and plutonium-239. Five reactors and support facilities were built to produce these nuclear materials. Irradiated materials were moved from the reactors to one of the two chemical separations plants. In these facilities, known as “canyons,” the irradiated fuel and target assemblies were chemically processed to separate useful products from waste. After refinement, nuclear materials were shipped to other DOE sites for final application.

CURRENT MISSIONS

Savannah River Site missions include: nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship, nuclear materials stewardship, and environmental stewardship.

PRIMARY FOCUSES

  • Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) – In 2006, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) designated SRNL as EM’s “corporate laboratory.” In this capacity, SRNL applies its unique expertise and applied technology capabilities to reduce technical uncertainties in order to assist sites across the DOE Complex in meeting cleanup requirements. SRNL currently supports the nation in three key areas: national and homeland security, energy security, and environmental management.

  • Tritium – SRS is the nation's only facility for extracting, recycling, purifying and reloading tritium.

  • Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication – The Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) was designed to convert surplus nuclear weapons-grade plutonium into safe, stable fuel for civilian nuclear power generation. The Secretary of Energy moved to terminated construction of the MOX facility in 2018. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) later recommended that the MOX facility be repurposed for plutonium pit production.

  • Canyon Operations – SRS's two primary separations facilities, called "canyons," are located in F and H Areas. F Canyon and H Canyon are where nuclear materials historically have been chemically recovered and purified. F Canyon has been deactivated, the H Canyon is the only remaining operational hardened nuclear chemical separations facility in the United States capable of largescale nuclear material processing.

  • Nuclear Materials Management – Operations at SRS's K Area Complex (KAC) provide an interim safe storage location for much of DOE's excess Pu.

  • Used Nuclear Fuel – Used nuclear fuel (UNF) from SRS’ production reactors, and from domestic and foreign research reactor programs, is currently stored at the L Area Complex (LAC), awaiting final disposition.   Since 1996, LAC has received over 10,000 UNF assemblies in approximately 500 casks from off-site sources.

  • Waste Management – The Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF) is processing the high-activity waste, encapsulating radioactive elements in borosilicate glass, a stable storage form. The Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF) provides high volume, highly efficient treatment capacity for longer term salt processing at SRS. Low-level salt waste from salt treatment processing is sent to the Saltstone Production Facility, where it is mixed with cement, ash and furnace slag and poured into permanent concrete vaults for safe disposal at the Saltstone Disposal Facility.

CLEANUP ISSUES

Nuclear material production at SRS produced unusable by-products, such as liquid radioactive waste, which was stored on-site in million gallon tanks. SRS has closed seven such tanks, a high priority for DOE. The 43 remaining high-level waste (HLW) tanks at SRS contain approximately 35 million gallons of waste and are in various stages of the waste removal, cleaning, and closure process.

Since approximately 2003, extensive cleanup and closure work has been completed at SRS under a concept known as Area Completion, which streamlines and accelerates the cleanup process. The SRS Area Completion Project (ACP) has removed excess facilities and remediated soil and groundwater in an integrated fashion, with the full support of DOE, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. ACP focuses on cleaning up contamination in the environment by treating or immobilizing the source of the contamination to mitigate transport through soil and groundwater and clean up or slow the movement of contamination that has already migrated from the source. More than 375 of SRS’ 515 waste units have been remediated, with more than 2,000 regulatory milestones safely met. Deployment of numerous cost-effective technologies expedites the cleanup process.

HOST LOCAL COMMUNITIES

The SRS complex covers 198,344 acres, or 310 square miles, encompassing parts of Aiken, Barnwell, and Allendale counties in South Carolina, bordering the Savannah River. SRS employs approximately 11,000 people.  A significant portion (approximately one third) of the SRS workforce also live in Georgia, mainly in Richmond and Columbia counties.

COMMUNITY PRIORITIES

  • Ensure SRS is a site with an enduring mission and not a closure site

  • Advocate for an adequate and stable SRS budget

  • Removal of waste from all liquid radioactive waste (HLW) tanks and closing all the tanks

  • Removal and offsite disposition of unwanted nuclear material and waste hazards

  • Continue nuclear materials stabilization and processing in the H-canyon and separations facilities

  • Continue support of nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship

  • Voice the critical need for improving the deteriorating infrastructure at SRS to ensure safe execution of Site missions

  • Support the construction of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative (AMC), an off-site innovation hub for manufacturing, fostering modern industrial practices, advancing new technologies and training the future manufacturing workforce with a focus on chemical and materials manufacturing

FY 2020 BUDGET


FY 2018 Enacted FY 2019 Enacted FY 2020 Request
1,312,314 1,387,657 1,463,132

(Defense Environmental Cleanup. Amounts in thousands of dollars. Click here for the latest site budget.)

FEDERAL AGENCIES

Federal agencies at SRS include:

  • The Department of Energy—Savannah River Operations Office (DOE-SR)

  • National Nuclear Security Administration—Savannah River Field Office (NNSA-SRFO)

  • National Nuclear Security Administration—Office of Fissile Materials Disposition

  • National Nuclear Security Administration—MOX Project Office (NNSA-MOX PMO)

  • US Forest Service—Savannah River (USFS)

PRIMARY CONTRACTORS

COMMUNITY REUSE ORGANIZATION

Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization (SRSCRO)

Mission: The mission of the SRS Community Reuse Organization is to facilitate economic development opportunities associated with Savannah River Site technology, capabilities and missions and to serve as an informed, unified community voice for the five-county, two-state SRSCRO Region.

ELECTED LEADERSHIP

Federal Government

State Government

Local Government

MEDIA CONTACT INFORMATION

  • DOE Office of External Affairs

    • Phone: 803-952-7697

  • Savannah River National Laboratory

    • Paul Erwin

      • Phone: 803-725-6497

  • Savannah River Nuclear Solutions

    • Barbara Smoak

      • Phone: 803-952-8060

    • DT Townsend

      • Phone: 803-952-7566

BY THE NUMBERS

  • Two of five SRS reactors have been deactivated and decommissioned.

  • 35M gallons of radioactive liquid waste are stored in 43 underground tanks.

  • 4,160 canisters of glassified radioactive waste produced at the Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF) since it began operations in 1996.

SITE NEWS

Updated August 2019.
Information in this profile is sourced from DOE, NNSA, and the site’s online resources.