SRS plans to decommission space program fuel fabrication facility

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EM plans to decommission buildings at the Savannah River (SRS) site containing residual plutonium once used to power space missions after workers complete shutting down the facility.

The former materials storage building, known as Building 235-F, is explosion-proof, windowless, and has been unused for over 25 years. Part of the two-story concrete building known as the Plutonium Fuel Forming Facility will be used to produce plutonium 238 oxide fuel balls and pellets to provide heat for long-term space missions such as Galileo, Ulysses and Cassini.

Bert Crapse, program manager for the DOE-Savannah River Nuclear Materials Program, said: “This will help advance the Department of Energy’s mission to reduce the footprint of SRS and reduce risks to workers, the public and the environment.”

EM and site management and operations company Savannah River Nuclear Solutions worked with the South Carolina Department of Environmental Management and the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency finalizes plans for building decommissioning. They decided to grout the building process area and build a permanent pitched roof based on risks to workers, human health protection, environmental impact, and cost. A sloping roof prevents water from pooling on the currently flat roof.

According to Jeff Hasty, project manager for Building 235-F, his deactivation of 235-F, which began in 2019, has made the facility ready for decommissioning. “Inerting prepares the facility for safe long-term storage, an endpoint that is relatively free of non-radiation hazards, with acceptable radiation risks and minimal ongoing monitoring and maintenance.

The multi-year decommissioning project is scheduled to begin in the fiscal year beginning in October of this year. This work is similar to his decommissioning of SRS’s former P and R reactor facilities in 2011.

Deactivation included reconfiguring or shutting down the ventilation system. Separation of all utilities including water, steam and electricity. Removal of contamination or use of a permanent coating called a fixative that prevents contamination from spreading outside the process housing. Removal of non-radioactive substances such as lead, oil and process water.

“This closure will significantly reduce the cost of monitoring and maintaining Building 235-F while it remains safe,” Hasty said.

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