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.

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.

Hanford tests vitrification bubblers

August 30, 2022, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
A worker watches test bubblers in operation at the Hanford Site. (Photo: DOE)

Crews at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Washington state recently finished testing “bubblers” at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. Bubblers are used to transform radiological and chemical tank waste into a glass form for safe disposal.

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.

Hanford evaporator prepares for tank waste treatment

December 23, 2021, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
A worker installing new waste transfer lines between Hanford’s large underground tanks and evaporator facility welds a secondary encasement on one of the lines. (Photo: DOE)

As the Department of Energy's Hanford Site prepares for around-the-clock operations for tank waste disposal, workers at the site's 242-A Evaporator are upgrading equipment used to remove water from the tank waste and the systems that transfer waste to and from large underground containers. The upgrades will also extend the evaporator’s service life.