RICHLAND, Wash. – After years of planning, the future interim storage area for nearly 2,000 highly radioactive capsules is taking shape at the Hanford Site.
EM Richland Operations Office (RL) and contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) recently finished pouring two large concrete pads for a dry cask storage area where 1,936 capsules of radioactive cesium and strontium will be moved from an underwater basin at the nearby Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility (WESF).
Check out this video, including a time-lapse of the concrete pour, to learn more about the capsule transfer project.
The capsules have been stored at WESF since the mid-1970s. Cesium and strontium were removed from waste tanks at Hanford to reduce the temperature of the waste inside the tanks.
“While the capsules are currently in a safe and compliant configuration in underwater pool cells, WESF is an aging facility,” said Gary Pyles, RL project director for the WESF project. “Transferring the capsules to dry storage in stainless steel and concrete casks reduces the risk of a radioactive release in the unlikely loss of water from the basin.”
One 90-square-foot, 18-inch-thick concrete slab will hold the dry casks. A second, even larger slab provides space for workers to safely maneuver the casks onto the storage pad, as well as provide additional storage and a testing area.
The dry cask storage system is designed for passive cooling by the airflow within the cask. This same passive cooling approach is used for dry storage of used nuclear fuel at other locations. The concrete and steel casks also provide radiation shielding to protect workers and eliminate the possibility of a release of radioactive material. Storing the capsules this way will also save more than $6 million in annual operating costs.
“It’s exciting to see the cask storage and operating pads going from a drawing on paper to physical concrete pads,” said Karen Sanders, CHPRC lead engineer for the capsule storage area. “I’m proud of the safe progress our team has made this year on this critical risk reduction project.”