Hanford’s cesium removal system begins waste treatment operations

February 4, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
WRPS operations engineer Steven Porter, left, and nuclear chemical operator Brent Walker monitor the TSCR System in the control room as the system is put in operations mode. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy announced on Wednesday that the first large-scale treatment of radioactive and chemical waste from underground tanks at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash., has begun with the start of operations of the Tank-Side Cesium Removal (TSCR) System.

The newly operational TSCR System removes radioactive cesium and solids from the tank waste. The treated waste will be fed directly to the nearby Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) for vitrification when the plant comes on line next year.

DFLAW: In a message of congratulations to the Hanford workforce, William “Ike” White, senior advisor to the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), called the TSCR System a “cornerstone” of the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) program.

“It’s a capability that will transform the Hanford Site and benefit the entirety of the EM program,” White said. “I’m optimistic about what Hanford will achieve this year as we work toward around-the-clock operations to treat tank waste.”

The DFLAW program is an assembly of several highly interdependent projects and infrastructure that will operate together to vitrify and dispose of millions of gallons of low-activity tank waste once operational. The DOE said that the TSCR System is a key part of that program.

Years in the making: Hanford tank operations contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), working with EM staff, other site contractors, and regulatory agencies, built and installed the cesium removal system next to large underground storage tanks. Those tanks, called the AP tank farm, are located near the center of the Hanford Site, which is less than a quarter mile from the WTP, also known as the Vit Plant. The cesium removal technology is nearly identical to a system operating at the DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

John Eschenberg, president and chief executive officer of WRPS, said the launch of the TSCR System operations was nearly three years in the making. “I’m extremely proud of our team, the dedicated workforce who delivered this project on time and on budget during some challenging times over the last 18 months,” he said.

The approximately 56 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in 177 underground tanks at the Hanford Site represents one of the DOE’s largest environmental risks and most complex challenges. The tank waste is a result of nearly five decades of plutonium production that supported national security missions and helped end World War II.

An animated video showing how the cesium removal system fits into the DFLAW program at Hanford can be viewed here.

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