WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of EM leadership recently visited Catholic University’s Vitreous State Laboratory (VSL), a contributor to key innovations in the vitrification technology central to Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) in Washington state.
EM Acting Assistant Secretary William “Ike” White, EM Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Nicole Nelson-Jean, and EM Chief Engineer Robert Crosby toured the VSL facility and received updates about its various labs and projects that support the safe immobilization of nuclear waste at DOE sites, including the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina.
Over the years, the VSL and Atkins Nuclear Secured team have helped EM continually improve efficiency in melter design and operation. VSL and Atkins have also introduced technology solutions that will avoid billions in lifecycle costs at Hanford, SRS, and the Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility in Japan.
VSL has consistently provided technology solutions to Hanford’s WTP program since 1994 through a successful university-industry partnership with Atkins. The partners were the primary contributors to the WTP vitrification development program and initiated the WTP low-activity and high-level radioactive waste loading and melt rate enhancement program with EM’s Office of River Protection in 2003. Vitrification involves turning high-level radioactive waste into a glass form by blending it with glass-forming materials and heating it to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Atkins Nuclear Secured Chief Operating Officer Jack Craig and Atkins Engineering and Technology Senior Vice President Brad Bowan hosted White, Nelson-Jean, and Crosby. During the visit, VSL Director and Physics Professor Ian Pegg discussed the usage of vitrification, provided a glass pouring demonstration, and gave a tour of the DuraMelter facilities, home to the largest test melter in the U.S. The group also made stops at the glass leaching, analytical, and nanotechnology laboratories.
VSL and Atkins also assist DOE and the nuclear industry in the fields of robotics and emerging digital technologies. White, Nelson-Jean, and Crosby viewed a demonstration of the Spot quadruped robot, which is being developed to help insulate workers from environmental hazards during routine inspections and surveys.
VSL is widely recognized as a center of excellence in glass science and technology. The laboratory’s experts have developed processes to more efficiently transform highly radioactive nuclear waste into stable glass that can be disposed safely. The center provides support to various nuclear facilities in the U.S., Japan, and United Kingdom.
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