Startup heaters installed in Hanford’s second waste melter

February 15, 2024, 12:04PMRadwaste Solutions
One of 18 startup heaters is installed in Hanford’s second melter, which will be used to vitrify liquid waste. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management announced that crews at the Hanford Site’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, also known as the Vit Plant, recently installed 18 temporary startup heaters in the second of two melters in the plant’s Low-Activity Waste Facility.

The heaters are installed through ports in the lid of the melter and will raise the melter’s operating temperature to 2,100°F—hot enough to sustain a pool of molten glass.

Once the operating temperature is achieved and a molten glass pool is established, crews will remove the startup heaters and replace them with bubblers, pieces of equipment that introduce air into the molten glass to circulate it and maintain an even temperature. Induction heating is used to maintain melter temperature after the startup heaters are removed.

Melter #1: After correcting power anomalies that delayed startup, Hanford heated the plant’s first melter in July of last year and poured the first test container of glass in December. Once operational, the two 300-ton melters will treat Hanford’s millions of gallons of radioactive and chemical tank waste as part of the DOE’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste program at the Washington state site.

Making glass: Hanford contractor Bechtel is designing, constructing, and commissioning the Vit Plant for DOE-EM’s Office of River Protection. When complete, the plant will process and stabilize the tank waste through vitrification, during which the waste will be mixed with glass-forming materials, incorporated into molten glass, and poured into stainless steel containers for safe disposal.

As one of its priorities for 2024, DOE-EM intends to complete the cold (nonradioactive) commissioning management assessment of the Vit Plant.

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