RICHLAND, Wash. – During the World War II and Cold War plutonium production mission at Hanford, plants operated around the clock. It’s been more than 20 years since the Hanford Site was in a 24-hour production mode, but that’s changing.
Today, commissioning technicians are working a 24/7 shift schedule in the control room of the Low-Activity Waste Facility (LAW) at EM’s Office of River Protection Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) for contractor Bechtel National, Inc. (BNI). For the past year, BNI subcontractor Waste Treatment Completion Company has been training workers to run the plant, including on-site learning to manage the vast facility.
The latest group of 16 commissioning technicians was hired earlier this year and went through a rigorous qualification process that trained them to manage WTP safely and compliantly, and prepare it for operations as early as 2022.
Earlier this year, the WTP adopted a 24/7 shift schedule with 22 commissioning technicians, eight supervisors, and four engineers. The site will gradually build up its 24/7 rotating shift work to nearly 350 employees over the next 18 months.
“Now that they have successfully completed their fundamentals training, these technicians have been assigned out to the jobsite and are training on the WTP systems and direct-feed low-activity waste operations,” said Kent Smith, plant manager.
Training is comprised of a multitude of subjects, including teamwork, communications, and human performance improvement fundamentals.
Commissioning technicians also receive training on more than 200 separate systems in the LAW facility, Effluent Management Facility, Analytical Laboratory, and other support facilities. A key part of that training includes learning to run the software to manage the WTP.
WTP management runs the training in a 17,000-square-foot simulator building in Richland. The building contains a full-scale, fully functional replica of the LAW facility control room and traditional training classrooms.
Once qualified, the technicians are deployed to Hanford, where they will use the same processes, procedures, and proficiencies gained in the simulator in real life to help bring the WTP online as early as 2022.
A class of commissioning technicians began training on April 8, while another class is planned to begin in July.