skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Research in Support of Remediation Activities at the Savannah River Site

Abstract

The USDOE Savannah River Site (SRS), an 803-km{sup 2} (310-mile{sup 2}) facility located south of Aiken, SC on the upper Atlantic Coastal Plain and bounded to the west by the Savannah River, was established in the 1950s for the production and refinement of nuclear materials. To fulfill this mission during the past 50 years SRS has operated five nuclear reactors, two large chemical separation areas, waste disposal facilities (landfills, waste ponds, waste tanks, and waste stabilization), and a large number of research and logistics support facilities. Contaminants of concern (COC) resulting from site operations include chlorinated solvents, radionuclides, metals, and metalloids, often found as complex mixtures that greatly complicate remediation efforts when compared with civilian industries. The objective of this article is to provide a description of the lithology and hydrostratigraphy of the SRS, as well as a brief history of site operations and research activities as a preface to the current special section of Vadose Zone Journal (VZJ) dedicated to SRS, focusing mainly on issues that are unique to the USDOE complex. Contributions to the special section reflect a diverse range of topics, from hydrologic tracer experiments conducted both within the vadose and saturated zones to studies specifically aimedmore » at identifying geochemical processes controlling the migration and partitioning of specific contaminants (e.g., TCE, {sup 137}Cs, U, and Pu) in SRS subsurface environments. Addressing the diverse environmental challenges of the SRS provides a unique opportunity to conduct both fundamental and applied research across a range of experimental scales. Hence, the SRS has been a pioneering force in several areas of environmental research and remediation, often through active interdisciplinary collaboration with researchers from other USDOE facilities, academic and federal institutions, and commercial entities.« less

Authors:
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL), Aiken, SC
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
908669
Report Number(s):
SREL-3038
TRN: US0703726
DOE Contract Number:
DE-FC09-07SR22506
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Vadose Zone Journal; Journal Volume: 6
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
11 NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE AND FUEL MATERIALS; SAVANNAH RIVER PLANT; LITHOLOGY; REMEDIAL ACTION; STRATIGRAPHY; HYDROLOGY; ENVIRONMENTAL TRANSPORT; ORGANIC SOLVENTS; CESIUM; URANIUM; PLUTONIUM

Citation Formats

Seaman, J.C., B.B. Looney and M.K. Harris. Research in Support of Remediation Activities at the Savannah River Site. United States: N. p., 2007. Web. doi:10.2136/vzj2007.0044.
Seaman, J.C., B.B. Looney and M.K. Harris. Research in Support of Remediation Activities at the Savannah River Site. United States. doi:10.2136/vzj2007.0044.
Seaman, J.C., B.B. Looney and M.K. Harris. Mon . "Research in Support of Remediation Activities at the Savannah River Site". United States. doi:10.2136/vzj2007.0044.
@article{osti_908669,
title = {Research in Support of Remediation Activities at the Savannah River Site},
author = {Seaman, J.C., B.B. Looney and M.K. Harris},
abstractNote = {The USDOE Savannah River Site (SRS), an 803-km{sup 2} (310-mile{sup 2}) facility located south of Aiken, SC on the upper Atlantic Coastal Plain and bounded to the west by the Savannah River, was established in the 1950s for the production and refinement of nuclear materials. To fulfill this mission during the past 50 years SRS has operated five nuclear reactors, two large chemical separation areas, waste disposal facilities (landfills, waste ponds, waste tanks, and waste stabilization), and a large number of research and logistics support facilities. Contaminants of concern (COC) resulting from site operations include chlorinated solvents, radionuclides, metals, and metalloids, often found as complex mixtures that greatly complicate remediation efforts when compared with civilian industries. The objective of this article is to provide a description of the lithology and hydrostratigraphy of the SRS, as well as a brief history of site operations and research activities as a preface to the current special section of Vadose Zone Journal (VZJ) dedicated to SRS, focusing mainly on issues that are unique to the USDOE complex. Contributions to the special section reflect a diverse range of topics, from hydrologic tracer experiments conducted both within the vadose and saturated zones to studies specifically aimed at identifying geochemical processes controlling the migration and partitioning of specific contaminants (e.g., TCE, {sup 137}Cs, U, and Pu) in SRS subsurface environments. Addressing the diverse environmental challenges of the SRS provides a unique opportunity to conduct both fundamental and applied research across a range of experimental scales. Hence, the SRS has been a pioneering force in several areas of environmental research and remediation, often through active interdisciplinary collaboration with researchers from other USDOE facilities, academic and federal institutions, and commercial entities.},
doi = {10.2136/vzj2007.0044},
journal = {Vadose Zone Journal},
number = ,
volume = 6,
place = {United States},
year = {Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 2007},
month = {Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 2007}
}
  • A graded approach to flow and transport modeling has been used as a cost effective solution to evaluating potential groundwater risk in support of Deactivation and Decommissioning activities at the United States Department of Energy's Savannah River Site. This approach incorporates both simple spreadsheet calculations and complex numerical modeling to evaluate the threat to human health posed by contaminants leaching from decommissioned concrete building slabs. Simple spread sheet calculations were used to produce generic slab concentration limits for a suite of radiological and non-radiological contaminants for a chemical separations area at Savannah River Site. These limits, which are based uponmore » the United States Environmental Protection Agency Soil Screening guidance, were used to eliminate most building slabs from further risk assessment. Of the more than 58 facilities located in the area, to date only one slab has been found to have a contaminant concentration in excess of the area specific slab limit. For this slab, a more rigorous numerical modeling effort was undertaken reducing the conservatisms inherent in the spreadsheet calculations. Using the more sophisticated numerical model, it was possible to show that the remaining contaminant of concern would not likely impact groundwater above drinking water standards.« less
  • Past nuclear activities at SRS have resulted in low level contamination in various wetlands. The wetlands and reservoirs serve a major wintering ground for migratory waterfowl. American coots have the highest level of cesium accumulation among the birds. The concentration has decreased exponentially with a four year half-life. The current levels pose no threat to human consumption.
  • The remediation of the Burial Ground Complex at the Savannah River Plant is described. Geosynthetic cap closure is discussed.
  • Visual Examination (VE) gloveboxes are used to remediate transuranic waste (TRU) drums at three separate facilities at the Savannah River Site. Noncompliant items are removed before the drums undergo further characterization in preparation for shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Maintaining the flow of drums through the remediation process is critical to the program's seven-days-per-week operation. Conservative assumptions are used to ensure that glovebox contamination from this continual operation is below acceptable limits. Holdup measurements using cooled HPGe spectrometers are performed in order to confirm that these assumptions are conservative. {sup 239}Pu is the main nuclide of interest;more » however, {sup 241}Pu, equilibrium {sup 237}Np/{sup 233}Pa and {sup 238}Pu (if detected) are typically assayed. At the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) facility {sup 243,244,245}Cm are also generally observed and are always reported at either finite levels or at limits of detection. A complete assay at each of the three facilities includes a measure of TRU content in the gloveboxes and HEPA filters in the glovebox exhaust. This paper includes a description of the {gamma}-PHA acquisitions, of the modeling, and of the calculations of nuclide content. Because each of the remediation facilities is unique and ergonomically unfavorable to {gamma}-ray acquisitions, we have constructed custom detector support devices specific to each set of acquisitions. This paper includes a description and photographs of these custom devices. The description of modeling and calculations include determination and application of container and matrix photon energy dependent absorption factors and also determination and application of geometry factors relative to our detector calibration geometry. The paper also includes a discussion of our measurements accuracy using off-line assays of two SRNL HEPA filters. The comparison includes assay of the filters inside of 55-gallon drums using the SRNL Q{sup 2} assay system and separately using off-line assay with an acquisition configuration unique from the original in-situ acquisitions.« less
  • The Savannah River site (SRS) has been chosen as the site to host the accelerator production of tritium (APT). This facility, which will produce tritium for national defense purposes, is a natural extension of the site`s original mission. All of the tritium for U.S. weapons needs has been produced at SRS in the heavy water reactors (now shut down) that operated until 1988. Much of the tritium-handling infrastructure still exists at SRS, and the tritium recycling and purification facilities are new and fully operational. This paper summarizes the reasons for the choice of the site and describes some of themore » early SRS efforts to learn the new technology, to weave into it a strong operations/production ethic, and to prepare the site to host the APT.« less