RICHLAND, Wash. – Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette had an opportunity last week to see progress being made at the Hanford Site by two Department of Energy offices, four major contractors and nearly 11,000 site employees working together as a One Hanford team, which is making preparations to treat tank waste and reduce site risks to protect the workforce, the public and the environment.
U.S. Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar joined Brouillette during the visit. They toured multiple facilities, including key sections of the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) under construction by Bechtel National. They also discussed completion of startup testing, and learned more about the progress at Hanford both to date as well during the last several months of COVID-19 response.
"I'm pleased to see the tremendous work the team here at Hanford has done to protect its people, the communities and the Columbia River," Brouillette said. "We are now getting ready to move into the tank cleanup phase and address it in a safe, timely and cost-effective manner."
As a prevention measure against the spread of COVID-19, in March, Hanford leadership significantly reduced onsite staffing to those performing essential mission-critical work. Beginning in late May, leadership began a phased remobilization of operations, and approximately 45 percent of employees are now working on the site. An additional 45 percent continue to telework, supporting the site mission and keeping administrative and planning functions on schedule.
The Secretary received an update on the Tank-Side Cesium Removal system, which will pretreat tank waste for vitrification at the WTP. The pretreatment system, designed by tank operations contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) and fabricated by subcontractor AVANTech, is a key component in the treatment of tank waste using the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) approach.
The cesium removal system recently passed factory acceptance testing at AVANTech’s facility in Richland, Wash., and will be moved to the Site later this year for installation and additional testing.
The Secretary also cut a ribbon at the WTP Analytical Laboratory to recognize the completion of startup testing and the addition of laboratory testing equipment and personnel. The laboratory is now undergoing commissioning, and chemists are proving out the analytical protocols. The laboratory is the first nuclear facility at the massive tank waste treatment plant to reach this important stage.
Progress on both projects supports EM’s priority of completing DFLAW construction and turnover for commissioning.
Following a tour of the laboratory, the Secretary visited the WTP’s Low-Activity Waste Facility, where pretreated tank waste will be vitrified. He toured the 20,000-square foot facility’s control room, where technicians are monitoring and remotely controlling systems as part of startup and testing activities.
The Secretary also heard progress updates from Mission Support Alliance about upgrading Hanford’s communication infrastructure as the Site prepares for round-the-clock tank waste treatment operations and how CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company is stabilizing and reducing risks from aging facilities and structures, as well as constructing the Integrated Disposal Facility, where vitrified low-level waste will be permanently stored.
“Hanford Site leadership remains focused on the safety and health of our Site workforce while safely progressing Hanford’s cleanup mission,” said Brian Vance, manager of EM’s Richland Operations Office and Office of River Protection. “Even during this challenging time, there has been a lot of progress both on the site and through telework.”
Brouillette was complimentary of the work he had seen at Hanford.
“I think the future at Hanford is every bit as bright as its past,” he said.