Glass added to heated Hanford Vit Plant melter

August 9, 2023, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
A 300-pound bag of frit is in position to be poured into the melter at Hanford’s LAW Facility. (Photo: Bechtel National)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management announced that the first batches of glass-forming beads, called frit, were poured last week into a melter at the Hanford Site’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP), also known as the Vit Plant. The melter, which has been heated to 2,100ºF, will be used to immobilize Hanford’s radioactive and chemical tank waste, turning it into a stable glass form through vitrification.

“This is a proud time for our Hanford team as we have established a molten glass pool in our first melter,” said Hanford Site manager Brian Vance. “It’s a tremendous success made possible through the entire team’s dedication to safely progressing our important cleanup mission.”

After correcting power anomalies that paused heating late last year, Hanford workers reinitiated the heating of the melter on June 24. Heating was slowly ramped up until the melter reached its operational temperature of 2,100ºF the week of July 21. The 300-ton melter is one of two located in the Vit Plant’s Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility, which will treat the waste as part of the DOE’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste program at the Washington state site.

The process: As of August 8, more than 19,000 pounds of frit have been poured into the melter. Approximately another 20,000 pounds will be slowly added over the coming weeks to create a molten glass pool about 31 inches in depth.

When plant hot operations begin, treated waste will be fed to the melter to be mixed with the molten glass and then poured into specially designed stainless-steel containers. The containers will then be moved a short distance to the Hanford Site’s Integrated Disposal Facility for disposal.

The DOE plans to complete hot commissioning of the LAW Facility and begin production-scale vitrification of Hanford’s tank waste in 2025. Information on the commissioning process is available on the Journey to Melter Heatup website.

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