DOE completes cocooning of Hanford’s K East Reactor

October 31, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
DOE contractor CPCCo recently completed construction of a protective cocoon over the former K East Reactor building at Hanford. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced that construction of Hanford’s K East Reactor cocoon has been completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Cocooning of K East—enclosing it in a protective steel structure while the reactor’s radioactivity naturally decays—was one of EM’s key construction priorities for 2022.

“Abnormal condition” pauses Hanford melter heat-up

October 26, 2022, 3:25PMRadwaste Solutions
Workers install one of 18 startup heaters into Melter 1 of Hanford’s Low-Activity Waste Facility. (Photo: Bechtel National)

Heating of the first waste vitrification melter at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site was paused after operators identified an “abnormal condition with the startup heater power supplies,” the DOE’s Office of River Protection (ORP) said. Heat-up of the 300-ton melter, which will be used to vitrify Hanford’s low-level radioactive tank waste, was initiated on October 8.

Heat-up of Hanford’s first vit melter begins

October 12, 2022, 12:01PMRadwaste Solutions
A screenshot from a 3D animation showing the heat-up of Hanford’s melters. (Image: DOE)

Crews at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash., have begun heating up the first of two 300-ton melters that will be used to vitrify mixed low-level radioactive and chemical tank waste. According to the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), initiating and completing the heating of the melter is a critical step to commissioning Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP), which will treat and stabilize the site’s 56 million gallons of tank waste by immobilizing it in glass through the vitrification process.

DOE releases 5-year Hanford cleanup plan

October 11, 2022, 9:37AMRadwaste Solutions

By fiscal year 2027, Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) will ramp up toward producing 21 metric tons of low-level radioactive glass a day, according to the Department of Energy’s five-year plan for the site near Richland, Wash.

The plan, which was released on October 3 and opened for a 31-day public comment period, outlines what cleanup work will be initiated or completed at the Hanford Site during FYs 2023–2027.

Environmental Management: GAO Report Shows Mission Far From Complete

September 23, 2022, 3:01PMRadwaste SolutionsSarah Templeton
The Effluent Management Facility, part of the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant at the Hanford Site. (Photo: Bechtel National)

This spring, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an insightful report reviewing and summarizing the status and performance of the largest projects and operations within the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), which is responsible for the cleanup of hazardous and radioactive waste at sites and facilities that have been contaminated from decades of nuclear weapons production and nuclear energy research.

Atkins breaks ground on new technology center near Hanford Site

September 20, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions

Atkins Nuclear Secured Holding Corporation, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, celebrated the start of construction on its new, $20 million, state-of-the-art Atkins Technology Center (ATC) with a ground-breaking ceremony held on September 13 in Richland, Wash. Located near the Department of Energy’s Hanford nuclear reservation, the facility will be adjacent to the existing Atkins Engineering Laboratory.

Vit Plant delayed: Another defeat for cleaning up nuclear waste at Hanford

September 19, 2022, 12:37PMNuclear NewsJames Conca

The Hanford tanks, on which building began in 1943, were never supposed to hold waste for many decades. If grouting and disposal had occurred according to plans from the 1980s, this waste would already be in the ground and we would have saved almost $100 billion. (Photo: DOE)

At the end of June, a federal judge approved, with the agreement of the Washington State Department of Ecology, a request to push back the deadline 20 months for beginning nuclear waste treatment at the $17 billion Waste Treatment and Immobilization (Vit) Plant at the Hanford Site because of pandemic-related delays. The Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste program is the Department of Energy’s plan to start treating low-level radioactive waste first at the Vit Plant and then start treating high-level radioactive waste sometime in the 2030s.

This is the fifth delay granted by the court for the project, which should have begun operations in 2007. In one sense, this delay is good, since turning LLW into glass through vitrification is about as smart as singing into the wind. The chemistry of this waste makes it much better suited to grouting, a treatment used by everyone else in the United States and the world.

New transfer lines installed on Hanford tank waste evaporator

September 8, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions

Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) crews recently finished installing about 1,300 feet of new waste transfer lines between a tank waste evaporator and a nearby tank farm at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash. WRPS is the tank operations contractor for the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM).

Basin added to support Hanford’s tank waste treatment

September 7, 2022, 12:07PMRadwaste Solutions
Retention basins at the Liquid Effluent Retention Facility on the Hanford Site, as seen in September 2021, at top, and recently with the nearly completed Basin 41 on the far left. (Photo: DOE)

Work is nearing completion on a fourth basin needed to ensure adequate storage for wastewater during tank waste treatment on the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site, in Washington state.

According to the DOE, its operations contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) has made significant progress on Basin 41 at the Liquid Effluent Retention Facility (LERF) since concrete was first poured for the perimeter one year ago.

Video: Watch this time-lapse video of the LERF Basin 41 construction.

Washington and DOE reach an agreement on leaking Hanford tanks

August 26, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
The B Farm underground waste tank area at Hanford. (Photo: DOE)

Washington state’s Department of Ecology and the U.S. Department of Energy have agreed on a plan for how to respond to two underground tanks that are leaking radioactive waste, as well as any future tank leaks, at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash.

In April 2021, following a year-long leak assessment, the DOE announced that Hanford’s Tank B-109 is leaking waste into the surrounding soil. Tank T-111 was discovered to be leaking in 2013. Currently, Tank B-109 is leaking about 1.5 gallons of waste per day, and Tank T-111 is leaking less than a gallon a day, according to the DOE.

Hanford prepares to empty waste from single-shell tank

August 15, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
Hanford workers will soon begin retrieving about 373,000 gallons of waste from Tank AX-101, shown here in an image from an inspection video shot. (Photo: DOE)

Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) is preparing to retrieve waste from Tank AX-101 at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site near Richland, Wash. WRPS is the tank operations contractor at Hanford.

Cocooning of Hanford’s K East Reactor begins

June 29, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
The first steel columns, each weighing up to 28 tons, were placed for a cocoon over the former K East Reactor building at the Hanford Site. (Photo: DOE-EM)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) said that construction is well underway on a protective enclosure, or cocoon, for the K East Reactor building at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash.

EM reports that is has achieved one of its key construction priorities for 2022 by beginning construction of the enclosure, which is designed to protect the reactor building while the radioactivity in the deactivated reactor core decays over the next several decades, making it safer and easier to decommission.

A time-lapse video showing the construction of the cocoon’s massive 120-foot steel frame can be seen here.

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Hanford workers’ comp law

June 23, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
An aerial view of Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant in 2021. (Photo: Bechtel National)

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 21 struck down a Washington state workers’ compensation law that was designed to make it easier for workers at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site to receive compensation benefits. The court, by unanimous decision, found that the law violates the U.S. Supremacy Clause and discriminates against the federal government and its contractors.

Located near Richland, Wash., the Hanford Site produced plutonium for the U.S. weapons program for more than 40 years and is currently undergoing a massive radiological cleanup mission involving around 10,000 workers.

Hanford conducts test of tank waste treatment support facilities

June 1, 2022, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions
During the Hanford Site's Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste Program treatment operations, the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, background, will feed liquid waste to the Liquid Effluent Retention Facility, foreground, through a primary transfer line pictured here. (Photo: DOE)

Work crews at the Department of Energy's Hanford Site recently completed the first transfer of test water from the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant's Effluent Management Facility to the nearby Liquid Effluent Retention Facility (LERF). The transfer of 6,000 gallons was the first simulation of the process that will be used to treat secondary liquid waste from the plant’s Low-Activity Waste Facility during operations to treat tank waste.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment that culminates years of work by our team and alumni toward being ready for hot commissioning,” said Valerie McCain, project director and senior vice president for Bechtel National, Inc. “It’s an important step for the entire Hanford team and our collective mission of protecting the Columbia River and its shoreline communities.”

Bechtel National is a contractor of the DOE's Office of Environmental Management's Office of River Protection.

DOE releases updated cleanup strategy

March 10, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) has issued EM Strategic Vision 2022-2032, a blueprint for planned nuclear-related cleanup efforts over the next decade. The document outlines environmental cleanup priorities for 2022–2032, focusing on safety, innovation, and improved performance.

According to a March 8 statement, the DOE is working to fulfill “the moral and ecological responsibility of safely dealing with contamination and delivering on environmental justice goals in communities that were vital to the development of nuclear weapons and advances in government-sponsored nuclear energy research.”

EM Strategic Vision 2022–2032, which is available here, is an update of previous iterations and was developed with feedback from regulators, tribal nations, local communities, and other partners.

Hanford K East Reactor cocooning project taking shape

March 8, 2022, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
An artist’s rendering of the K East Reactor safe-storage enclosure. (Photo: DOE)

Preparations are being made to enclose, or “cocoon,” the K East Reactor, the seventh of nine former reactors at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site. The cocooning project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Watch this video for more on the project.

Hanford’s cesium removal system begins waste treatment operations

February 4, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
WRPS operations engineer Steven Porter, left, and nuclear chemical operator Brent Walker monitor the TSCR System in the control room as the system is put in operations mode. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy announced on Wednesday that the first large-scale treatment of radioactive and chemical waste from underground tanks at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash., has begun with the start of operations of the Tank-Side Cesium Removal (TSCR) System.

The newly operational TSCR System removes radioactive cesium and solids from the tank waste. The treated waste will be fed directly to the nearby Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) for vitrification when the plant comes on line next year.

DOE notes progress in campaign to transfer radioactive capsules to dry storage at Hanford Site

January 27, 2022, 12:03PMRadwaste Solutions
Workers recently installed manipulator equipment at a full-scale mock-up of areas of the Hanford Site’s Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced this week that preparations are well underway for the transfer of nearly 2,000 highly radioactive cesium and strontium capsules from the Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility (WESF) to interim dry storage at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash.

“Escape room” used to train Hanford employees in respiratory protection

January 20, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
Employees wearing supplied-air equipment work through clues in an “escape room” during respiratory protection training at Hanford’s Volpentest HAMMER Federal Training Center. (Photo: DOE)

A new respiratory protection course at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site near Richland, Wash., features an “escape room” in which employees wear supplied-air equipment while they answer questions, discover clues, and solve puzzles in a simulated work environment.

The origins of The Reactor Safety Study

September 10, 2021, 8:22AMUpdated December 31, 2021, 7:15AMNuclear NewsThomas R. Wellock
An aerial view of the Hanford reservation and Columbia River that shows the N (nearest), KE/KW (center), and B (top right) reactors. (Photo: U.S. DOE )

In March 1972, Stephen Hanauer, a technical advisor with the Atomic Energy Commission, met with Norman Rasmussen, a nuclear engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The AEC had recruited Rasmussen to develop a report, The Reactor Safety Study (WASH-1400), to estimate the probabilities and consequences of a major nuclear power plant accident. With thousands of safety components in a modern reactor, the task was mind-boggling. Rasmussen proposed a novel approach based on more powerful computers, “fault tree” methodology, and an expanding body of operational data. By calculating and aggregating probabilities for innumerable failure chains of components, he believed he could develop a meaningful estimate of overall accident risk. WASH-1400 would be a first-of-its-kind probabilistic risk assessment (PRA).