RICHLAND, Wash. – More than 80 senior federal and contractor leaders met recently to discuss direct feed low-activity waste (DFLAW) operations and other advancements as part of the Hanford Site moves from a long-term construction site to an operational nuclear cleanup facility.
“We have to think differently about our future, not just for the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP), but also the tank farms and the rest of the site,” EM Office of River Protection (ORP) Manager Brian Vance said. “In less than two years, we’ll actually be transitioning to an operational mode at the site for waste treatment. We’re here today to communicate our perspective about what that transition means.”
Virtually every organization at the site will be impacted by the increase in operations, and they need to work together to meet those challenges, Vance said.
“This is not just an ORP deliverable or a WRPS deliverable or a BNI deliverable,” Vance said, referring to ORP tank farms contractor Washington River Protection Solutions and WTP contractor Bechtel National Inc. “It’s a DOE-Hanford community deliverable.”
Valerie McCain, BNI principal vice president and WTP project director, echoed Vance’s comments.
“It’s a great time to be a part of this mission and I can tell you the tempo and pace of the project has really picked up,” she said. “There is a sense of urgency. We’re not talking years, we’re talking months and days on the project.”
The DFLAW approach is expected to allow treatment of low-activity radioactive waste, which makes up the bulk of waste in the tank farms, to begin by 2023.
Jason Vitali, WRPS chief technology officer, challenged participants in the operations leadership workshop to address potential weaknesses in the DFLAW program.
“Do we have the capability, or is there a fragile point in the process that we need to start tracking?” he asked. “From a capacity standpoint, that’s not just supporting startup and commissioning operations. Looking forward to operations and full capacity throughput, we have to make sure we have full capacity within our systems.”
Rick Holmes, Waste Treatment Completion Company general manager and WTP site director, said most utility infrastructure construction for DFLAW operations is complete. Additionally, crews turned the Analytical Laboratory over to plant management and commissioning of the low-activity waste facility operations annex will soon begin.
Richland Operations Office Assistant Manager for Mission Support Jeff Frey said other infrastructure changes are needed as the site moves closer to waste treatment operations.
“We now have to reconfigure all the infrastructure and support services from the original setup to a new set of facilities in a smaller footprint, so it’s a very different challenge,” he said. “We have to reconfigure how the lines go and water feeds — the capacity needed. We also have to right-size them for sustained operations. We need to make some investments in the infrastructure.”
Vance encouraged leaders to reimagine relationships.
“I think what you heard today should cause you to think differently about where we are going as a site and how we can work together as a community to deliver on what many have been working on for such a long time,” he said. “We’re not just focused on commissioning, and then we all high-five each other and walk away. We’re focused on operations.
“Once those melters are operating, we don’t want to stop them,” Vance said. “We want to keep things moving forward.”