Sandusky, Ohio United States
Hazardous Waste, Solid waste
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
From 1962 to 1973, NASA operated a nuclear test reactor at the Glenn Research Center, Plum Brook Station. As part of the reactor decommissioning program, soils impacted with radioactivity from normal operations had to be excavated and assayed. Soil with residual radioactivity in excess of safe concentrations would be shipped out for permanent disposal and clean soil returned to the local ecosystem.
Triple Bottom Line
Economic: More than two years and $30 million were saved with use of Orion ScanSortSM, a conveyor-based soil handling system that combines advanced technology with MACTEC-proprietary software to rapidly and accurately assay radiologically impacted soils for discrete sorting. ScanSort surveys and monitors excavated material at high throughput rates, rapidly sorting soil into clean and contaminated piles. ScanSort processing is safer, more accurate, more complete, and much faster than conventional methods. In just nine months, ScanSort scanned and sorted the nearly 200 million pounds of suspect soil at Plum Brook.
Environmental: ScanSort's precise sorting efficiently and reliably segregates radiologically impacted soils, dramatically reducing waste volumes to an absolute minimum. On the Plum Brook project, 99 percent of the soil was shown to be safe and was returned to the site, resulting in avoided transportation risks, fossil fuel consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transport of ~200 million pounds of waste over 2,000 miles. This process also avoided the need for importing clean soil to replace the soil thought to be radiologically contaminated based on less accurate or incomplete assay processes.
Social: While cost savings were in the tens of millions of dollars, the neighboring community benefitted from knowing that scanned soil material put back into the ecosystem was even cleaner than required by decommissioning protocols. Conventional remediation processes are inherently slow; however, ScanSort processing was completed in nine months, more than two years ahead of the decommissioning schedule estimated for this phase of the project.
Sarah Hansen, Director of Sustainability
MACTEC Engineering and Consulting, Inc.