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Aiken, South Carolina

Salt Waste Processing Facility - Phase II

Processing Radioactive Liquid Waste


For more than 25 years, Parsons has supported the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) at its Savannah River Site (SRS), located 12 miles south of Aiken, South Carolina, on the Savannah River. The site, originally constructed in the 1950s by the Atomic Energy Commission, had produced the basic materials required to fabricate nuclear weapons (primarily tritium and plutonium-239) in support of our nation’s defense programs.

Salt Waste Processing Facility

Air Pulse Agitation (APA) Demonstration System

By the end of the Cold War, the SRS changed its focus to environmental restoration and remediation. In 2004, recognizing Parsons’ strong reputation for constructing unique facilities with advanced technology processes, the DOE selected Parsons to design, build, commission, and operate for 1 year the Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF), which will eventually process 36 million gallons of radioactive salt waste stored onsite in large underground tanks at the SRS.

During Phase I of this contract, Parsons developed a facility and processing layout for the SWPF. After we completed the comprehensive Phase I conceptual design—ahead of schedule and under budget—the DOE awarded us a follow-on contract in 2003 for Phase II of the SWPF, which includes preliminary and final design; procurement, construction, commissioning; and 1 year of onsite operations. A major factor in the Phase II award was our initiative in developing a pilot-scale test of the caustic-side solvent extraction (CSSX) system. Parsons fabricated the pilot test equipment for the SWPF at our Technology Development and Fabrication Complex in Pasco, Washington, and then conducted test operations in Barnwell, South Carolina, under the observation of representatives from the SRS, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the South Carolina Governor’s Advisory Council.

To obtain the data necessary for the design of this one-of-a-kind facility, the Parsons team developed two specific programs:

  • Engineering Development and Demonstration Test Program
  • Reliability and Maintainability Evaluation Program

These two programs demonstrated and validated the design, and they will verify the operability, reliability, and maintainability of pertinent SWPF structures, systems, and components, as well as reduce the project’s technical risk and the time required for facility commissioning and startup. The tests associated with these programs provided the necessary mockups of key systems so that operations and maintenance (O&M) procedures could be developed early in the project and used to train the O&M personnel.

Parsons and its project team completed tests of the system mockups and analyzed the data yielded by the testing programs. Nine additional tests of the SWPF equipment and systems were conducted within the next 24 months at the Parsons Technology Center in Aiken. The new facility houses both reliability and maintainability evaluation testing and full-scale mockups for long-term testing and training of SWPF O&M personnel.

Facility construction was completed with DOE validation in May 2016. Startup, testing, and personnel training will take another 30 months. SWPF is planning to be ready to start up operations by late 2018.

Team standing behind the ribbon ready to cut

Ribbon-cutting ceremony for Parsons Technology Center in Aiken, SC, January 14, 2008.

Because safety is one of our core values, we implemented an integrated safety management system at the SWPF to evaluate and mitigate the safety risks. Our safety management system was approved by the DOE. In August 2007, the SWPF team completed 1 million manhours without a lost-time incident.

When operational, the SWPF will separate the highly radioactive cesium and actinides from the salt solution using CSSX and monosodium titanate absorption/filtration, respectively. After completing the initial separation process, the concentrated cesium and actinide waste will be sent to the nearby Defense Waste Processing Facility where it will be immobilized in a glass matrix and stored in vaults until it can be placed in a geological repository. The decontaminated salt solution will be mixed with grout at the nearby Saltstone Facility for disposal onsite.

The SWPF mission is successfully processing liquid waste in support of its eventual disposition, ultimately reducing potential risks to the public, the environment, and the onsite workers.