Oak Ridge sludge-processing facility to cost $100M+

The work is still in a preliminary stage, but the Sludge Processing Faciity Buildout project at the Department of Energy’s Transuranic Waste Processing Center in Oak Ridge is expected to cost more than $100 million, a spokesman said this week.

Mike Koentop, executive officer of DOE’s Environmental Management Office in Oak Ridge, said the “early estimates” suggest that the cost for design and construction of the facility will exceed $100M.

DOE earlier this fall issued a stop-work order to Wastren Advantage Inc., which had been handling the sludge project’s planning as part of its overall management of the Transuranic Waste Processing Center. The federal agency asked WAI to focus solely on its other waste-processing work already under way and met recently with the contractor to discuss WAI’s plans for addressing some of the DOE concerns.

Meanwhile, DOE has decided to seek a separate contract to design and build the sludge-processing facility at the Oak Ridge site.

The sludge project has been described as a “major modification” to DOE’s existing Transuranic Waste Processing Center off Highway 95 west of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The project is intended to transfer about 2,000 cubic meters of sludge and supernate from the Melton Valley Storage Tanks to a new annex for waste characterization and solidification.

“The solidified sludge will be disposed as low-level waste at the Nevada National Security Site,” the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board said in correspondence with the Department of Energy regarding the project.

The defense board earlier this month said it did not see any problems big enough to stop the design of the facility from moving to the next stage, but DNFSB Chairman Peter Winokur indicated there were a number of safety-related risks that the board wanted to see addressed.

Asked why the radioactive sludges removed from the Melton Valley Tanks will qualify as low-level and be shipped to Nevada rather than TRU waste and be transported to New Mexico for disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Koentop said:

“After solidification, the concentration of transuranic radionuclides are expected to be less than 100 nanocuries per gram, the level that defines TRU waste,” he said.

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.