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Workers with EM Richland Operations Office contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company recently finished building a replica of areas of a Hanford Site facility.
Workers with EM Richland Operations Office contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company recently finished building a replica of areas of a Hanford Site facility.

RICHLAND, Wash.EM Richland Operations Office (RL) and contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) recently completed construction of a full-scale mock-up of the system that will be used to transfer nearly 2,000 radioactive capsules from an underwater basin to safer, dry storage on the Hanford Site.

The mock-up, which was built at Hanford’s Maintenance and Storage Facility (MASF), replicates the areas of the Waste Encapsulation Storage Facility (WESF) where the capsules of cesium and strontium will be loaded into dry storage casks, sealed inside, and loaded onto trucks for transportation to a nearby concrete storage pad.

Check out this time-lapse video of construction of the mock-up in MASF.

Transferring the capsules from the water-filled basin in WESF to dry storage in stainless steel and concrete casks reduces the risk of a radioactive release in the unlikely event of loss of water from the basin.

”Finishing the mock-up is another important step toward transferring the capsules to dry storage,” said Gary Pyles, RL project director for the WESF project. “Moving the capsules will enable the planned deactivation of WESF and will reduce the risk and costs for the storage of the capsules.”

Hanford Site electrician Fonzie Lopez looks inside a simulated radiation containment chamber called a hot cell during construction of a mock-up to prepare workers to safely move nearly 2,000 capsules of highly radioactive cesium and strontium.
Hanford Site electrician Fonzie Lopez looks inside a simulated radiation containment chamber called a hot cell during construction of a mock-up to prepare workers to safely move nearly 2,000 capsules of highly radioactive cesium and strontium.
A view of the hot cell inside Hanford’s Waste Encapsulation Storage Facility through which workers will safely move nearly 2,000 capsules of highly radioactive cesium and strontium from a water-filled basin into dry storage casks.
A view of the hot cell inside Hanford’s Waste Encapsulation Storage Facility through which workers will safely move nearly 2,000 capsules of highly radioactive cesium and strontium from a water-filled basin into dry storage casks.

Over the past several months, workers followed strict COVID-19 protocols as they built the 1,400-square-foot mock-up, where they will test and train on the actual equipment that will be used for the transfer from WESF. Over the next year, workers will install hot-cell manipulator arms, capsule transfer equipment, and welding systems in the mock-up, and they will develop procedures to work with the radioactive material.

“I am so proud of the employees and the hard work that brought this mock-up to life,” said Marie Gillespie, CHPRC project manager. “The mock-up allows employees to train in a safe environment to gain confidence in using the equipment before they perform work in the radiological environment at WESF.”

Mock-ups have been used successfully at Hanford to prepare workers, equipment, and procedures to work safely and efficiently with radioactive materials in hazardous facilities. The most recent example is a mock-up constructed at MASF to prepare to safely retrieve 35 cubic yards of radioactive sludge from an underwater storage basin near the Columbia River, package the sludge in shielded containers, and transfer the containers from the K West Reactor to interim storage at Hanford’s T Plant.

The cesium and strontium in the capsules were removed from Hanford tank waste in the 1970s to reduce the temperature of that waste.

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