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SRS updates: $75M for law firms, soil cleanup, college deal and more

The Savannah River Site covers 198,046 acres, including parts<br />of Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale counties in South Carolina.
The Savannah River Site covers 198,046 acres, including parts<br />of Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale counties in South Carolina.(WRDW)
Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 2:32 PM EDT
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A judge is allowing two law firms to collect $75 million from the state of South Carolina for helping negotiate a settlement with the federal government over nuclear material left at the Savannah River Site.

But a lawyer who sued over the payment says an appeal is planned.

A fair government foundation sued over the settlement, saying it was astronomical.

Circuit Judge Alison Renee Lee said state law allows the attorney general to pay any costs for legal work from settlement money, according to The Associated Press.

South Carolina and the federal government agreed to the $600 million to remove plutonium from the site.

With a workforce of 11,000 and spanning 310 square miles in Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell counties, SRS deals with radioactive materials related to nuclear weapons.

SRS closes soil cleanup system, saving $264,000 a year

From left, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions mechanic Todd Cockrell, Engineer John Bradley and Project Manager Joao Cardoso-Neto plan the removal and dismantlement of a high-vacuum soil vapor extraction unit at the Savannah River Site.
From left, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions mechanic Todd Cockrell, Engineer John Bradley and Project Manager Joao Cardoso-Neto plan the removal and dismantlement of a high-vacuum soil vapor extraction unit at the Savannah River Site.(WRDW)

A 12-year cleanup campaign conducted by at the Savannah River Site has ended successfully, removing more than 5,000 pounds of chemical solvents from soil and leading to an annual cost savings of $264,000.

Remediation of the M-Area Inactive Process Sewer Line Operable Unit was completed following a review of recent comprehensive soil sampling results under an agreement with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

“I was pleasantly surprised when we reviewed the latest soil sampling data and pleased to see the solvent levels were much lower than I had expected, far below regulatory requirements,” said John Bradley, an engineer at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the site’s management and operations contractor.

Bradley said the majority of the solvents were removed through the first phase of the project using a high-vacuum soil vapor extraction system requiring large electric pumps, support facilities and monitoring equipment. With discontinued system operation and maintenance, SRS will realize an annual savings of $264,000.

“We met all of our cleanup requirements for this highly successful project, another important step towards remediating the environment at SRS,” Bradley said.

The solvents were used during the Cold War to degrease manufactured metal components, including nuclear reactor fuel.

Contractor renews agreement with Denmark Technical College

From left: Denmark Technical College President and CEO Dr. Willie Todd gives SRR Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Project Manager Mark Schmitz and SRR President and Project Manager Phil Breidenbach a tour of a student lab.
From left: Denmark Technical College President and CEO Dr. Willie Todd gives SRR Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Project Manager Mark Schmitz and SRR President and Project Manager Phil Breidenbach a tour of a student lab.(WRDW)

Savannah River Remediation, the liquid waste contractor at the Savannah River Site, is strengthening its community ties in the region by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Denmark Technical College.

The document is designed to help strengthen education programs for students at Denmark Technical College, one of the state’s historically Black colleges and universities. The agreement provides for continued collaboration on the school’s science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics curriculum.

SRR President and Project Manager Phil Breidenbach joined with school President and CEO Dr. Willie Todd, Jr. in signing the memorandum.

“Technical colleges like Denmark Technical College offer a powerful education for students interested in pursuing exciting, hands on technical careers,” Breidenbach said. “By partnering with Dr. Todd and his college, we believe we can help prepare those students for the challenges they will face when they enter the workforce at places like the Savannah River Site.”

Under the memorandum, the college will collaborate with SRR to improve the school’s STEAM offerings, work to improve college-to-work programs for veterans and identify students for potential internships – as well as continue to look for students who could fill potential jobs with SRR.

COVID-19 figures released

As of Friday, the Savannah River Site had seen a confirmed total of 591 cases of COVID-19 among its workforce.

That’s an increase of 22 cases from the 545 that were reported last Friday.

Of the 591 cases, 550 people have recovered and been cleared to return to work, according to spokeswoman Amy R. Boyette.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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