South Carolina switches to drones for nuclear waste site inspections

Forced to think out of the box and come up with a safer way to demonstrate the integrity of remediated nuclear waste sites during the COVID-19 pandemic, a South Carolina contractor is now turning to drone-based aerial inspections.

From 1953 to 1988, the Savannah River Site (SRS) – a 310-square-mile area located near Aiken, South Carolina, on the Savannah River – produced about 36 metric tons of plutonium for the US government’s nuclear missions. Today, the US Department of Energy-owned site is home to white-tailed deer, turkeys, eagles, alligators, multiple snake species, amphibians, songbirds, as well as the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

The site’s management and operations are entrusted with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) – a company that has traditionally been sending ground teams to walk the cleanup sites and inspect the structural integrity of the protective covers at waste facilities.

But with more than 100 acres of combined waste land,…