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EM headquarters and field site officials at the Waste Management Symposia discussed the start up of major liquid waste treatment facilities.
EM headquarters and field site officials at the Waste Management Symposia discussed the start up of major liquid waste treatment facilities.

PHOENIX – Project managers advancing key liquid waste treatment facilities toward startup at three EM sites shared successes, challenges, and lessons learned during the Waste Management Symposia.

The Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF) at the Savannah River Site (SRS), the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site, and the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) treatment approach at the Hanford Site are in varying stages of construction, testing, or operational readiness.

SWPF is anticipated to start up this spring while IWTU is expected to begin treatment late in the year. At Hanford, construction of DFLAW facilities is expected to be completed this year, a key step toward commissioning and beginning to vitrify waste by the end of 2023.

Pamela Marks, federal project director for the Salt Waste Processing Facility at the Savannah River Site.
Pamela Marks, federal project director for the Salt Waste Processing Facility at the Savannah River Site.

At Savannah River, SWPF was constructed to remove radioactive salt waste stored in 43 underground tanks in two tank farms at SRS. It will process up to 9 million gallons per year.

Pamela Marks, SWPF federal project director, said the facility is coming in on budget and will be completed soon. The SWPF is currently going through operational readiness reviews, and project personnel are addressing action items identified by the review teams.

Marks said she was proud of the relationships that were established with various programs and contractors during construction and testing. Marks said this was imperative at a complex site like SRS.

Startup is very challenging, she added. “Teamwork is the most important thing to get you through these processes,” she said.

Connie Flohr, manager of the Idaho Cleanup Project.
Connie Flohr, manager of the Idaho Cleanup Project.

At Idaho, IWTU was constructed from 2007 from 2012 to convert 900,000 gallons of sodium-bearing liquid waste from a nearby tank farm into a dry, granular solid using a steam-reforming process. The granular waste will then be transferred to stainless steel canisters and placed into concrete vaults for temporary on-site storage until a national geologic repository is available.

Due to chemistry and engineering challenges, the IWTU has undergone a redesign of its primary reaction vessel. Its process gas filter media is also being changed. Following a confirmatory run later this summer using a liquid simulant, the IWTU is scheduled to begin startup by the end of the year.

Connie Flohr, manager of the Idaho Cleanup Project, said a tight construction schedule, a budget reduction that suspended construction, and an underutilized pilot plant contributed to IWTU’s initial challenges.

Fred Hughes, president of Idaho Cleanup Project contractor Fluor Idaho, said the last major challenges are being resolved. New ceramic filters will replace the former metal matrix filters; a wet decontamination system will be installed; and robotics will be added to perform decontamination of the stainless steel canisters.

Fred Hughes, president of Fluor Idaho, EM's cleanup contractor at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory Site.
Fred Hughes, president of Fluor Idaho, EM's cleanup contractor at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory Site.
Tom Fletcher, assistant manager, Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant Project at the Hanford Site.
Tom Fletcher, assistant manager, Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant Project at the Hanford Site.

Hanford’s DFLAW is designed to vitrify waste from its tank farm. About 90 percent of the tank farm’s 56 million gallons of liquid waste is low activity.

Tom Fletcher, program manager for the Office of River Protection, said interface management has been imperative during construction. “This is not a single project to bring on; it is multiple projects to bring on,” he said.

He said for such a large waste treatment plant, project planners need to know the information that management needs, the utilities that are needed, and a whole host of interfaces that are required with many organizations.

“I cannot say enough about integration and teamwork,” Fletcher said.

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