Feds, state reach agreement in Hanford cleanup negotiations

May 4, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
The Hanford Site’s B Complex area tank farm containing waste created during the production of plutonium at the site. (Photo: DOE)

After nearly three years of discussions and more than 60 mediation sessions, the Department of Energy, Washington State Department of Ecology, and the Environmental Protection Agency announced that they have reached a conceptual agreement on revising plans for managing millions of gallons of waste stored in tanks at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash.

Hanford cites progress in retrieving tank waste, preps for future transfers

April 21, 2023, 9:33AMRadwaste Solutions
Photos taken inside Hanford’s Tank AX-101 before workers started removing radioactive and chemical waste from it in January. As of April 18, crews have removed 35 percent of the tank waste. (Photos: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) said in an April 18 release that workers have so far removed almost 150,000 gallons, or about 35 percent, of the radioactive and chemical waste from Tank AX-101 at the department’s Hanford Site near Richland, Wash. Retrieval from this tank began in January.

DOE awards $45 billion Hanford tank waste contract

April 14, 2023, 9:29AMRadwaste Solutions
Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, also known as the Vit Plant. (Photo: Bechtel National)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management awarded a 10-year contract worth up to $45 billion to Hanford Tank Waste Operations and Closure (H2C) of Lynchburg, Va., to oversee the management of liquid radioactive tank waste at the DOE’s Hanford Site in southeastern Washington state.

Hanford restarts liquid waste treatment after maintenance outage

March 20, 2023, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions

Workers change out spent 27,000-pound TSCR filter columns and place them on a nearby storage pad during a planned outage. (Photo: DOE)

Following a second planned maintenance outage, the Tank-Side Cesium Removal (TSCR) system at the Hanford Site in Washington state has resumed processing liquid tank waste, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced on March 14.

According to EM, its Office of River Protection (ORP) and contractor Washington River Protection Solutions processed more than 25,000 gallons of waste during the previous week and has treated a total of 406,000 gallons of radioactive liquid waste since TSCR began operations early last year.

A key component in Hanford’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste program for treating tank waste, TSCR removes radioactive cesium and solids from tank waste and delivers low-activity waste to a nearby million-gallon tank, where it is staged until it can be fed to the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant for vitrification.

Outage improvements: During outages, workers change out filter columns that remove radioactive solids during waste processing, perform maintenance, and apply lessons learned from operations. According to EM, many improvements to the treatment system during outages over the past year came from recommendations made by workers and contractor and federal staff on the project team.

Locked in glass: The vitrification of LLW streams

March 10, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste SolutionsAmanda Gilmore
A sample of GeoMelt glass. (Photos: Veolia)

When it comes to managing nuclear waste, technology is transforming the way some of the most problematic waste is handled. The idea to transform nuclear waste into glass was developed back in the 1970s as a way to lock away the waste’s radioactive elements and prevent them from escaping. For more than 40 years, vitrification has been used for the immobilization of high-level radioactive waste in many countries around the world, including the United States.

Hanford’s DFLAW operations unlikely to begin in 2023

March 8, 2023, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

Hanford manager Brian Vance discusses the DFLAW program during a panel session at the 2023 Waste Management Symposia. (Photo: DOE)

Hanford’s waste vitrification operations are unlikely to start by the Department of Energy’s year-end goal, said Brian Vance, manager of the DOE’s Office of River Protection and Richland Operations Office for the Hanford Site in Washington state. The DOE is working to meet its obligations to begin processing Hanford’s low-level radioactive tank waste as part of its Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) program.

“The probability for 2023 is very low,” Vance said, regarding the department’s plan to begin vitrifying the tank waste. Vance made his remarks during a panel session of the 2023 Waste Management Symposia in Phoenix, Ariz., on February 28.

Hanford runs tests for melter replacements

March 2, 2023, 12:06PMRadwaste Solutions
Concrete blocks are loaded onto a metal base and transporter during tests on a gantry crane system that will lift replacement melters for Hanford’s WTP. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy has announced that tank operations contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) and subcontractor Atkins are making progress at the Hanford Site in Washington state in their preparations to provide replacement melters to treat radioactive and chemical tank waste for the site’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste program.

Hanford waste tanks moved for disposal

February 16, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
Two empty waste tanks weighing more than five tons each were transported from outside the Hanford Site’s Effluent Treatment Facility to an on-site landfill. (Photo: DOE)

Two large tanks near the Effluent Treatment Facility (ETF) at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Washington state were removed recently to make way for future wastewater treatment activities at the ETF.

Some of Hanford’s tank waste to be disposed of off-site as LLW

February 9, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

As preparations continue for immobilizing millions of gallons of low-activity tank waste at the Hanford Site in Washington state through vitrification, the Department of Energy has issued two key decisions for the handling and disposing of vitrified low-activity waste (LAW) and associated secondary wastes.

DOE seeks input on analysis of alternatives for treating Hanford’s HLW

January 24, 2023, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions
Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy is asking for feedback on a new report analyzing potential options for preparing high-level radioactive waste for vitrification at the department’s Hanford Site near Richland, Wash. Vitrification is the process of treating radioactive waste by immobilizing it in glass.

The report, Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant High-Level Waste Treatment: Analysis of Alternatives, was commissioned in response to a 2018 determination by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it was unlikely the DOE would meet its mandated deadlines for treating Hanford’s tank waste.

Looking back at 2022—October through December

January 6, 2023, 9:09AMNuclear News

Another calendar year has passed. Before heading too far into 2023, let’s look back at what happened in 2022 for the American Nuclear Society and the nuclear community. In today's post that follows, we have compiled from Nuclear News and Nuclear Newswire what we feel are the top nuclear news stories from September through December 2022.

But first:

Hanford's former PUREX plant is prepared for disposition

December 19, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
An aerial view of Hanford’s Plutonium Uranium Extraction plant, showing the main facility (at center), the 211-A chemical storage area, and (in foreground) the 203-A acid storage area. (Photo: DOE)

Work crews at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Washington state are performing risk-reduction activities at the Plutonium Uranium Extraction (PUREX) plant to prepare it for eventual disposition.

“It will be a yearslong effort to get this large facility ready for disposition, and I’m encouraged by the progress to safely and efficiently advance this work,” said Andy Wiborg, the DOE’s Projects and Facilities Division team lead for Hanford’s Central Plateau cleanup project.

Hanford facilities upgrading to support tank waste treatment

December 13, 2022, 9:31AMRadwaste Solutions
A tanker holding 6200 gallons of leachate unloads at a backup load-in station at the Hanford Site’s ETF. (Photo: DOE)

Construction of a backup load-in station has been completed at the Hanford Site’s Effluent Treatment Facility (ETF) in Washington state.

“We broke ground on the backup facility about a year ago,” said Rob Wood, project manager for Washington River Protection Solutions, the Department of Energy’s tank operations contractor at the site. “I am proud of the team for completing this portion of the load-in expansion project and doing it safely. In phase two, expansion of the main load-in station will prepare us for 24/7 operations on the Hanford Site.”

Watch a time-lapse video of the backup load-in station construction here.

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.