Hanford melter “heatup” explained on new website

April 29, 2021, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions

As the workers at Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) move closer to starting up the first of two melters inside the plant’s Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility, plant contractor Bechtel National has launched the Journey to Melter Heatup website that explains the WTP commissioning process, including critical activities such as the loss-of-power test and the melter heatup process.

Located at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site near Richland, Wash., the LAW facility is gearing up to treat low-activity tank waste stored at the site. The facility’s two 300-ton nuclear waste melters will heat the tank waste and glass-forming materials to 2100°F, vitrifying the waste for safe disposal.

The loss-of-power test will demonstrate that plant operators are able to protect the melter by putting the LAW facility into a safe condition and restoring power before any damage to the melter occurs.

The details: The website includes the following information:

  • The activities that must be completed to enable melter heatup, such as installing key equipment and tuning the exhaust system.
  • Common melter heatup terminology definitions.
  • Key facts, such as how many days it takes to bring the melter up to target temperature.
  • The latest news on progress toward heatup.

The initial heatup of the melter takes about 22 days, followed by several days of testing with the addition of glass startup materials that melt at low temperatures, and then another 30 days of feeding in glass-forming material.

Melter heatup is a major milestone in the process toward starting Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) treatment by the end of 2023. DFLAW is a system of interdependent projects and infrastructure improvements that must operate together to vitrify Hanford’s low-activity waste.


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