Hanford crews become qualified as VIT plant operators

December 13, 2021, 6:59AMRadwaste Solutions
Nicholas Callihan, left, and Julissa Quinonez Chavez, front, complete training to become qualified as control room supervisor and utilities operator for the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. (Photo: DOE)

Four work crews have become qualified to operate the control room at the Hanford Site's Waste Treatment and Immobilization (VIT) Plant, which is targeted for operation in 2023.

When the VIT plant starts up, the operators will work in a control room located inside the site's Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility, where radioactive and chemical waste from tank farms will be vitrified for safe disposal as part of Hanford’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) program.

The initial team: The first control room crew to complete its final evaluations became qualified individually as melter operators, a process operator, a utility operator, a balance of facilities/analytical laboratory operator, and a control room supervisor. During the evaluations, instructors observed each individual in a simulator facility performing normal operations, as well as responding to abnormal and emergency conditions.

“The certification of the first crew of control room operators is the culmination of extensive training,” said Mat Irwin, DOE Office of River Protection deputy assistant manager for the plant. “It’s a truly important achievement on our path to tank waste treatment.”

All day, every day: Hanford work crews across the site are preparing for a shift to 24/7 operations when vitrification of tank waste begins in 2023 as part of the DFLAW program. According to the DOE, the program is a system of interdependent projects and infrastructure improvements that must operate together to vitrify the waste.

The job: During vitrification, waste treated at a tank farm to remove radioactive cesium and solids will be fed directly to the LAW Facility’s melters. The waste and glass-forming materials will be mixed, heated, and poured into specially designed stainless-steel containers. The containers will be transported a short distance to the site’s Integrated Disposal Facility for disposal.

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