Hanford pours first glass from Vit Plant melter

November 8, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
Workers monitor the pouring of melter glass from a control room in Hanford’s LAW Facility. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management said crews at its Hanford Site in Washington state have started pouring the first molten glass from a waste vitrification melter into a stainless steel container at the site’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, also known as the Vit Plant.

The glass, which contains no waste or chemical simulants, is being used to test the 300-ton melter and associated equipment at the plant’s Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility.

Workers monitored the pour from a control room as a stream of glass was released from the melter, as seen in this short video.

Making glass: After correcting power anomalies that paused the heating of the melter late last year, the DOE-EM Office of River Protection and contractor Bechtel National began adding approximately 40,000 pounds of solid glass-forming beads, called frit, into the heated melter in early August.

The melter is one of two at the Vit Plant’s LAW Facility that will be used to immobilize Hanford’s millions of gallons of radioactive and chemical waste, turning it into a stable glass form through vitrification.

The melted frit is poured in batches into stainless steel containers about 4 feet wide by 7.5 feet high, that are situated below the melter.

Next steps: According to DOE-EM, the first pour marks another important step in commissioning the plant as Hanford prepares to immobilize waste from Hanford’s large underground tanks in glass for safe disposal.

Workers are scheduled to start heating up the LAW Facility’s second melter in December, applying lessons learned from heating up the first melter. In 2024, cold (nonradiological) commissioning using simulated waste will commence, and hot commissioning using real waste is scheduled to begin in early 2025.

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