SRS to decommission building used to produce fuel for space program

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AIKEN, South CarolinaEM is planned to decommission a building in Savannah River Site (SRS) containing residual plutonium once used to power deep space missions after workers finished disabling the facility.

Blast-proof and windowless, the former materials storage building known as Building 235-F has been inactive for over 25 years. A section of the two-story concrete building, known as the Plutonium Fuel Shaper Facility, was used to fabricate fuel spheres and pellets from plutonium-238 oxide to provide fuel. heat to power long-term deep space missions such as Galileo, Ulysses and Cassini.

“We are pleased to see another SRS facility close to decommissioning,” said Bert Crapse, DOE-Savannah River nuclear materials program manager. “This contributes to the Department of Energy’s mission of reducing the footprint at SRS and reducing risk to workers, the public and the environment.”

EM and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the site management and operations contractor, worked with the South Carolina Department of Environmental Control and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to finalize decommissioning plans for the building.

They decided to cement the process areas of the building and implement a durable pitched roof based on worker risk, human health protection, environmental impacts and cost. The sloped roof would prevent standing water on the roof, which is currently flat.

The multi-year decommissioning project is expected to begin in the fiscal year that begins in October. The work will be similar to the dismantling of the facilities of the old P and R reactors at SRS in 2011.

The decommissioning of 235-F, which began in 2019, prepared the facility for decommissioning, according to Jeff Hasty, project manager for building 235-F.

“Decommissioning will prepare the facility for long-term safe storage, which is an end state relatively free of non-radiological hazards, with acceptable radiological hazards and minimal ongoing monitoring and maintenance,” Hasty said.

Deactivation involved reconfiguring or shutting down ventilation systems; isolation from all utilities including water, steam and electricity; the removal of contamination or the use of a permanent coating, called a fixer, which prevents contamination from spreading outside the process enclosures; and disposal of non-radiological hazardous materials, such as lead, oils and process water.

“This shutdown will significantly reduce the cost of monitoring and maintaining Building 235-F while in safe storage,” Hasty said.

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