RICHLAND, Wash. – EM’s Office of River Protection has opened the doors to a key portion of the facility where low-activity nuclear waste from the Hanford Site’s underground tanks will be transformed into immobilized glass.
Commissioning workers with Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) contractor Bechtel National, Inc. (BNI) have moved into the annex housing the plant’s control room at the massive Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility. The annex is key to controlling Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) operations.
Inside the 20,000-square-foot, two-story annex, workers are scheduled to bring systems online aimed at turning radioactive tank waste safely into glass by 2023.
“The control room is the operations center of the Low-Activity Waste Facility,” said Brian Vance, EM Hanford Site manager. “By moving into the annex, we have the capability to monitor and control completed systems inside the 14 support buildings called the Balance of Facilities. We are also using the control room to conduct startup and testing activities for the Low-Activity Waste Facility and Analytical Laboratory.”
Workers are coordinating a sequenced construction, startup, and commissioning approach for each of the plant’s individual systems. The LAW Facility alone contains the vitrification process, mechanical handling, utility, and air supply systems. Crews have begun startup activities as nearly 78 percent of the facility’s systems — 72 of 92 — are in process to verify they are complete, tested, and in safe working order. After the startup phase, systems undergo a commissioning phase to ensure they are ready to support WTP operations by 2023.
“We are getting closer to making low-activity waste glass,” said Valerie McCain, BNI project director for the WTP project. “Moving into the annex signifies we are moving forward to prepare the Low-Activity Waste Facility for its commissioning phase. It also allows the commissioning team to be in a single, central location for daily work activities.”
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington state, who attended an event marking the opening of the annex, praised the workers for achieving this milestone.
“This new control room for the Waste Treatment Plant at Hanford demonstrates a key step toward the goal of treating tank waste,” Newhouse said. “The startup of low-activity waste treatment is dependent upon the entirety of the Hanford Site’s workforce, so I am grateful to the hardworking women and men whose work site-wide has been instrumental in this effort. I am glad to see this progress firsthand and look forward to continuing to work with the Department of Energy and the State of Washington to ensure the safe and efficient cleanup of Hanford.”