Uncertainties with WTP persist, GAO says

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management has not followed best practices or DOE policy in pursuing alternatives for pretreating radioactive tank waste at the Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash., according to a report released on May 12 by the Government Accountability Office. The DOE has spent over $400 million since 2013 looking into alternatives to pretreating Hanford’s low-activity waste (LAW), yet the department has not properly defined a mission need or a life-cycle cost estimate for its preferred alternative, according to the report.

Contractor sought for new Hanford facilities

The DOE has issued an RFI for operation of the Direct Feed Low-Activity Waste Facilities at Hanford's Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. Photo: DOE

The startup of tank waste treatment activities at Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant took a step forward in April with the Department of Energy’s issuing a request for information for the operation of the WTP Direct Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) facilities. According to the DOE, the RFI solicits input, via capability statements, from potential contractors with the specialized capabilities necessary to meet all of the major elements of scope for the upcoming competitive procurement for the operation of WTP DFLAW facilities, which will treat and vitrify for disposal low-activity waste from underground storage tanks at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash.

National Academies issues final Hanford LAW report

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on February 21 released its fourth and final report on its review of possible approaches to treating low-­activity waste at the Hanford Site. The Department of Energy plans to vitrify approximately 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, which is currently under construction at Hanford. The waste will be separated into high-­level waste and low-­activity waste (LAW) streams before being turned into a solid glass form through vitrification. Not all of the LAW, however, will be vitrified, and the DOE has not determined a treatment method for the excess waste, called supplemental LAW (SLAW).

Aging facilities need better oversight, GAO says

A report released to the public on February 20 by the Government Accountability Office concluded that maintenance inspections at several contaminated excess facilities at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash., have not been comprehensive and that there are areas of some facilities that personnel infrequently or never enter, either physically or by remote means, to conduct inspections. The GAO reviewed surveillance and maintenance (S&M) requirements and activities at 18 of Hanford’s approximately 800 excess facilities that require cleanup and found that improvements to the site’s S&M program are needed.