DOE looks to dispose of Hanford tank waste as LLW

November 9, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
Crews pump waste from Hanford’s single-shell tanks to more stable double-shell tanks. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy is considering solidifying 2,000 gallons of Hanford’s tank waste and disposing of it as low-level radioactive waste at an off-site facility. A virtual public meeting on the proposed disposal plan is scheduled for November 18.

Disposal of the tank waste as LLW is part of the DOE’s Test Bed Initiative, under which a portion of liquid waste from tank SY-101 at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash., will be pretreated to remove most key radionuclides, shipped off-site to be grouted into a solid, then disposed of at either EnergySolutions’ LLW facility near Clive, Utah, or Waste Control Specialists’ federal waste facility in Andrews County, Texas.

Hanford contains nearly 56 million gallons of mixed radioactive and chemical waste, stored in 177 underground tanks, from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel for defense-related activities.

The proposal: On November 5, the DOE published in the Federal Register the availability of the Draft Waste Incidental to Reprocessing Evaluation for the Test Bed Initiative Demonstration, which demonstrates that waste will be incidental to reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, will not be high-level radioactive waste, and may be managed as LLW.

In December 2017, the DOE completed a proof-of-concept demonstration using three gallons of Hanford tank waste. The waste was successfully pretreated, transported to Perma-Fix Environmental Services Northwest, adjacent to the Hanford Site, for solidification, and disposed of as treated LLW at Waste Control Specialists’ Texas facility.

Public input: In addition to the public meeting, the DOE has opened a 90-day comment period, ending on February 2, on the draft WIR evaluation. The DOE said it will prepare a final WIR evaluation after consultation with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and consideration of comments received during the public comment period.

Submitting comments: Written comments can be mailed to Jennifer Colborn, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of River Protection, 2440 Stevens Drive, Richland, WA 99354. Comments may also be filed by email to

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