Office of Environmental Management

Hanford Crews Safely Complete Sludge Transfer, Reducing Risk to River

September 17, 2019

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Workers prepare the 20th and final sludge container for shipment at the Hanford Site. The transfer of sludge from K West to T Plant reduces a significant risk to the Columbia River and marks a key accomplishment in the overall Hanford cleanup mission.
Workers prepare the 20th and final sludge container for shipment at the Hanford Site. The transfer of sludge from K West to T Plant reduces a significant risk to the Columbia River and marks a key accomplishment in the overall Hanford cleanup mission.

RICHLAND, Wash. EM workers recently completed an important project, transferring 35 cubic yards of highly radioactive sludge from the K West Reactor fuel storage basin to T Plant, located on the Hanford Site’s central plateau, for safe interim storage.

“Everyone who has worked on this project and contributed to its success should be very proud of what they have done for Hanford, the nearby communities, and the entire Pacific Northwest. This is a fantastic testament to their dedication,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said.

Sludge consists of sand, dirt, corrosion products from uranium fuel, and other materials. It was created when irradiated fuel rods began to deteriorate after decades of sitting in a fuel storage basin.

Hanford Site Manager Brian Vance said years of planning and training went into protecting workers and the environment to reduce a significant risk to the Columbia River.

"Removing the sludge is a critical step in moving forward with other work near the K reactors to reduce Hanford’s annual operating costs,” Vance said.

The sludge containers were transferred from the K West Reactor Basin to T Plant, about 10 miles away in the center of the Hanford Site. The containers will be safely stored here until final disposition plans are completed and implemented.
The sludge containers were transferred from the K West Reactor Basin to T Plant, about 10 miles away in the center of the Hanford Site. The containers will be safely stored here until final disposition plans are completed and implemented.
Sludge transfer began in June 2018 and was recently completed, more than three months ahead of a Tri-Party Agreement milestone.
Sludge transfer began in June 2018 and was recently completed, more than three months ahead of a Tri-Party Agreement milestone.

The transfer of the sludge began in June 2018 and is done three months ahead of a Tri-Party Agreement milestone.

“This important mark of progress is a result of the whole CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) team working together, and also making a dedicated team effort with the Department of Energy, workers, labor and labor leadership, regulatory agencies, and community leadership,” said Ty Blackford, president and CEO of CHPRC, in a message to his workers Sept. 11.

Efforts are already underway to remove debris, like contaminated tools and pumps, from the basin, which will in turn enable dewatering and demolition to begin. The sludge will remain in interim safe storage at T Plant until a disposition path is selected.

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