H-Canyon at SRS poses ‘maintenance challenge,’ DOE cleanup chief says

April 16, 2019

The woman leading the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management believes the Savannah River Site’s H-Canyon “continues” to be “somewhat of a maintenance challenge.”

“We’re working through those issues,” Anne Marie White – who was confirmed as the assistant secretary for environmental management in March 2018 – added, noting an “independent project team” had been rolled out.

White’s H-Canyon comments came as a response to U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who questioned her last week during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. The hearing focused on President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget request.

Trump’s request, a goal-setting document for all intents and purposes, includes about $1.6 billion for Environmental Management work at SRS.

H-Canyon was constructed in the early 1950s and began operations in 1955.

The aging facility – 1,028 feet long, 122 feet wide and 71 feet tall – is the nation’s only up-and-running hardened nuclear chemical separations plant.

White last week described H-Canyon as an “extremely important facility to the United States” and as a “very precious resource.”

Wilson agreed, describing it as “just so critical for our country.”

H-Canyon roof repairs are scheduled for this summer, a DOE spokesperson said at the start of this year. With that said, “most” of the H-Canyon roof is in “good condition,” the spokesperson added at the time.

Wilson asked White about H-Canyon because he wanted to know if the “appropriate” investments – infrastructure and staffing, for example – were being made.

The longtime congressman later asked White if new technologies were being explored for H-Canyon. White said yes.

“We’ll have a lot to brief you on when that team gets done with its work,” White said.

Environmental Management, created in 1989, is tasked with remediating nuclear sites tied to decades of nuclear weapons work and government-sponsored nuclear energy research.

Environmental Management is the SRS landlord.