DOE extends comment period on Hanford LAW document

The Department of Energy has extended until November 27 the public comment period on the Draft Waste Incidental to Reprocessing Evaluation for Vitrified Low-Activity Waste Disposed Onsite at the Hanford Site, Washington, which supports the DOE’s decision to dispose of vitrified low-level radioactive waste at an on-site disposal facility at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash. Notice of the comment extension was published in the September 22 Federal Register.

The DOE initially made the draft waste incidental to reprocessing (WIR) evaluation available in the May 26 Federal Register, opening a 120-day comment period. The DOE said it is extending the comment period an additional 60 days in response to requests.

Hanford nears another cleanup goal

Hanford’s largest groundwater treatment plant, the 200 West Pump and Treat Facility, removes tons of chemical and radioactive contaminants from more than 2 billion gallons of groundwater each year. Photo: DOE/OEM

Fiscal year 2020 marks the sixth consecutive year that the Hanford Site, in southeastern Washington State, has treated more than 2 billion gallons of groundwater to remove contamination from decades of past operations to produce plutonium for the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

The goal this fiscal year, which ends September 30, is to treat at least 2.4 billion gallons, the Department of Energy reported on September 8.

DOE marks 75th anniversary of Trinity Test by highlighting cleanup progress

On July 16, 1945, the research and development efforts of the nation’s once-secret Manhattan Project were realized when the detonation of the world’s first atomic device occurred in Alamogordo, N.M., more than 200 miles south of Los Alamos, in what was code-named the Trinity Test—a name inspired by the poems of John Donne.

On the 75th anniversary of this landmark event, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is highlighting the cleanup, long-term management, and historical significance of the Manhattan Project sites—Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash.—that were conceived, built, and operated in secrecy as they supported weapons development during World War II.

Hanford workers prep for at-risk structures grouting

The DOE's OEM and contractor CHPRC are testing a conveyance system that will pump engineered grout through more than 1,500 feet of pipe to three underground at-risk structures at the Hanford Site. (Credit: OEM)

As the Hanford Site continues a phased remobilization of site operations, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management and its contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) recently began designing and constructing a full-scale, off-site mock-up to support the stabilization of three underground structures with engineered grout, the DOE announced on July 7.

Located near the former Plutonium Finishing Plant, the structures—the 216-Z-2 Crib, 216-Z-9 Crib, and 241-Z-361 Settling Tank—received liquid waste during Hanford’s plutonium production operations and contain residual radioactive and chemical contamination. A 2019 report indicates that the structures are at risk of age-related failure.

DOE awards $13-billion tank closure contract

The Department of Energy has awarded a $13-billion tank closure contract for services at its Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash. The 10-year contract was awarded on May 14 to Hanford Works Restoration, a joint venture of BWXT Technologies and Fluor Corporation that also includes DBD and INTERA, two preselected small businesses that provide specialized modeling and regulatory expertise, respectively.

Hanford Works Restoration will take over from Hanford’s current tank waste contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), whose contract expires at the end of September. The WRPS contract includes a clause that allows the DOE to end the contract earlier to align with a 60-day transition to the new contract.

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.