Savannah River Site

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SRS History Highlights

The Savannah River Site was constructed during the early 1950s to produce the basic materials used in the fabrication of nuclear weapons, primarily tritium and plutonium-239, in support of our nation's defense programs. Five reactors were built to produce these materials. Also built were a number of support facilities including two chemical separations plants, a heavy water extraction plant, a nuclear fuel and target fabrication facility, a tritium extraction facility and waste management facilities.

If you wish to view an in-depth history (1950-2000), please explore SRS at Fifty, our 50th anniversary book.

Browse by Era: 1950s1960s1970s1980s1990s 2000s2010s

Letter from President Truman to duPont

•President Truman sends a formal letter to DuPont, specifically requesting their expertise for the design and construction of a new atomic project.
• Decision made to build nuclear facility in South Carolina, later to be called the "Savannah River Plant" (SRP).

Savannah River Ecology Laboratory begins ecological studies of SRP plants and animals.
• Construction began at the Plant.

Moving a house to make room for SRP1952:
Production of heavy water for site reactors begins in Heavy Water Rework Facility.

R Reactor, the first production reactor, goes critical.

New hires ready to begin work1954:H Canyon under construction
P Reactor, L Reactor, K Reactor go critical.
• The first irradiated fuel is discharged.
• F-Canyon, a chemical separation facility, begins radioactive operations.

C Reactor goes critical.
• The first plutonium shipment leaves the Site.
• H Canyon, a chemical separation facility, begins radioactive operations.
• Permanent tritium facilities operational and first shipment of tritium to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).

Construction of the basic plant is complete.
Neutrino confirmed at P Reactor.


Heavy Water Rework Facility

• Heavy Water Components Test Reactor (HWCTR) goes into operations testing the heavy water system for use with civilian power reactors.
Heavy Water Components Test Reactor (HWCTR)

Receiving Basin for Off-Site Fuels receives first shipment of off-site spent nuclear fuel.
Curium 244 produced as a heat source for space exploration. This was the first full scale conversion of an SRP reactor load to nonweapons materials.

R-Reactor and HWCTR are shut down.

Californium-252, the heaviest isotope produced at SRP, is separated as aCalifornium atom
byproduct of the curium program.SRP reactor building

L Reactor shut down for upgrades.

Californium-252 is made in a separate production program


Reator control room1971:
K-Reactor becomes the first production reactor automatically controlled by computer.

SRP is designated as the first National Environmental Research Park.Archaeologist Glen Hanson interprets an excavated prehistoric site

Inspecting fuel elements
Plutonium Fuel Fabrication (PUFF) Facility Startup.

Savannah River Archaeological Program (SRARP) established onsite to perform data analysis of prehistoric and historic sites on SRP land.


SRP begins environmental cleanup program.
• M-Area Settling Basin cleanup begins under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Heavy Water Rework Facility closed.

Wackenhut Services Incorporated (WSI) begins providing security support services at SRP1983:
Ground is broken for construction of the Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF).
Wackenhut Services Incorporated (WSI) begins providing security support services at SRP.

HB-Line begins producing plutonium-238 for NASA's deep-space exploration program.
L-Reactor restarted and C-Reactor shut down.
A full-scale groundwater remediation system constructed in M-Area.

SRP produced fuel for the Cassini mission1986:
Construction of Saltstone begins.
Construction of the Replacement Tritium Facility begins.

DuPont notifies DOE that it will not continue to operate and manage SRP.
Effluent Treatment Project (ETP) construction begins

K, L and P Reactors were shut down.
• Effluent Treatment Facility begins operations to treat low-level radioactive wastewater from F and H Area Separations facilities.

SRP is officially included on the National Priority List and becomes regulated by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).DuPont and Westinghouse logos
Westinghouse Savannah River Company assumes management and operation of SRP facilities.
Name of the Site changed from Savannah River Plant (SRP) to Savannah River Site (SRS).


Construction of a cooling tower for K-Reactor begins.
• Saltstone operations begin.

Mixed Waste Management Facility: first SRS facility closed and certified under the provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
• M-Area Settling Basin closure completed.
• The Cold War ends and production of nuclear materials for weapons at SRS stops

K Reactor1992:
K-Reactor operated briefly for last time and connected to cooling tower.
• Secretary of Energy announces phase out of all uranium processing.
• Non-radioactive operations begin at the Replacement Tritium Facility.

K-Reactor placed in cold-standby condition as Nation's tritium source.
• Non-radioactive test runs of the Defense Waste Processing Facility begin.
• Construction begins on Consolidated Incineration Facility.
• Tritium introduced into the Replacement Tritium Facility and radioactive operations begins.
• Workforce Transition and Community Assistance begins at SRS.SRS Citizens Advisory Board

Defense Waste Processing Facility1994:
SRS Citizens Advisory Board was established.
Replacement Tritium Facility startup.

The Defense Waste Processing Facility introduces radioactive material into the vitrification process.
• K-Reactor placed in shutdown condition.
• F-Canyon restarts and begins stabilizing nuclear materials at SRS.

First high-level radioactive waste tanks closed (#17 & #20).
Cold War Historic Preservation Program begins


SRS celebrates 50th anniversary

K-Reactor building converted to K Area Materials Storage Facility.
• Record of Decision announced, selecting SRS as the site of new plutonium missions:
  • MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility
  • Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility
  • Plutonium Immobilization Facility

Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF) construction2002:
F Canyon and FB Line facilities completed their last production run to process legacy materials.

• Last depleted uranium metal shipped to Envirocare of Utah.
• Receiving Basin for Offsite Fuels prepares for closure.
• Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF) construction begins.

SRS' Savannah River Technology Center (SRTC) designated as a national laboratory, Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL).

SRS' Savannah River Technology Center (SRTC) designated as a national laboratory, Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL)2005:
Blended low-enriched uranium from SRS used by Tennessee Valley Authority reactor to generate electricity.
• Tritium Facilities Modernization & Consolidation Project completed start-up.

SRNL designated as the Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management’s "Corporate Laboratory."
• Aiken County’s new Center for Hydrogen Research opened its doors.
• F-Area deactivation work complete.
Tritium Extraction Facility (TEF) opens• T-Area closure complete.

Tritium Extraction Facility (TEF) opens.
MOX Facility construction begins. SRNS & SRR logos

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) awarded contract for Maintenance & Operation of SRS.
Savannah River Remediation (SRR) awarded contract for the Liquid Waste Operations of SRS.
Historical markers were placed in P and R Areas commemorating the role both reactors played towards winning the Cold War.
Construction on the Waste Solidification Building (WSB) begins.

Aiken Standard front page ARRA story
SRS began The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) project representing a $1.6 billion investment in SRS. This project, expected to run through fiscal year 2011, will result in the accelerated cleanup of nuclear waste at SRS and a significant reduction in the site footprint. In 2009 alone, more than 1,500 new workers were hired and over 800 jobs retained, thanks to ARRA funding.
SRS construction employees reached 23 million hours (11 consecutive years) without a lost time injury case.


M Area closure complete

P&R Areas closure complete

DOE  DOE-EM  DOE-SR  NNSA   ARRA   FSSR   SRNL SREL   SRNS   SRR   MOX Services  Centerra–SRS  Parsons

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