SRS officials call closing of nuclear waste tanks 'ground breaki - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

SRS officials call closing of nuclear waste tanks 'ground breaking, historic'

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JACKSON, SC (WFXG) -

Savannah River Site officials and politicians called Monday a historic day for South Carolina.

For the first time in 15 years, 2 nuclear waste tanks have been closed in the United States; both of those tanks are at SRS.

During the past 6 months there have been 6 cement trucks running 10 hours a day, pumping 3.3 million gallons of a thin cement paste called grout into SRS tanks 18 and 19.

Grouting tanks is a new method used to clean and close highly radioactive nuclear waste tanks.

"By doing it this way we've saved almost $16 billion," said South Carolina US Senator Lindsey Graham.

Not only will the new cleanup method save taxpayers billions of dollars over the next few years, it also reduces the threat of radiation.

"By closing these two hazardous waste tanks you've helped reduced the single greatest environmental risk in the state of South Carolina," said SCDHEC Director, Catherine Templeton.

But there is still a lot of work ahead. SRS officials say there are still 47 tanks with 37 million gallons of highly radioactive waste; but they are on track to have those tanks cleaned and closed soon too.

Savannah River Site officials say the remaining nuclear tanks will be cleaned, grouted and buried underneath 17 feet of dirt in 20 years.

SRS officials estimate once the cleanup is complete, for a thousand years, anyone living in the area where the tanks used to sit will receive less than 5% of the radiation the average U.S. resident receives in a year.

Senator Lindsey Graham pushed legislation through the Senate in 2004 to make the cleanup process possible and he says he is taking the SRS success story to the nation's capitol.

"I hope to be able to go back to Washington and convince other sites that have Cold War legacy material to follow the path that we have charted. This is a ground breaking, historic day," said Graham.

It's also a day Graham believes will impact the nuclear industry and nuclear cleanup across the country.

SRS officials say they expect the next two tanks to be closed by December 2013.

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