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Since 2015, workers on the Hanford Site have cleaned out a portion of the Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility to prepare to transfer radioactive capsules from an underwater basin to safer, dry storage.
Since 2015, workers on the Hanford Site have cleaned out a portion of the Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility to prepare to transfer radioactive capsules from an underwater basin to safer, dry storage.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Work is progressing at the Hanford Site to move radioactive capsules from a water-filled basin to safer, dry storage.

EM Richland Operations Office and contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) are preparing to modify the Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility (WESF) to install equipment to transfer the capsules to dry storage casks.

The 1,936 cesium and strontium capsules have been stored at WESF since the mid-1970s. While the capsules are currently in a safe configuration in an underwater basin at WESF, it is an aging facility. Transferring them to dry storage reduces the risk of a radioactive release in the unlikely loss of water from the basin, which in turn reduces risk to the Columbia River.

Crews recently finished cleaning and painting the area of the facility where a crane will load sleeves containing capsules into a cask for transport to outdoor storage. Preparations to improve where the equipment will load capsules into sleeves is also underway, as are fabrications of the equipment.

“There are a lot of aspects to this critical risk-reduction effort,” said Gary Pyles, project manager. “In the facility, outside, and several miles away at a training facility, we are making progress by focusing on the safety of our workforce, the public, and the environment.”

Transferring the capsules to dry storage will enable deactivation of the facility and reduction of hazards at Hanford. This spring, construction will begin on an outdoor storage area near the WESF that will hold the casks

At the Maintenance and Storage Facility on the Hanford Site, crews are removing old infrastructure to make room to build a mock-up of a system that will transfer radioactive capsules from underwater storage to dry storage.
At the Maintenance and Storage Facility on the Hanford Site, crews are removing old infrastructure to make room to build a mock-up of a system that will transfer radioactive capsules from underwater storage to dry storage.

At the nearby Maintenance and Storage Facility (MASF), crews are building a mock-up designed to replicate conditions at the WESF. The mock-up will allow workers to safely train and test equipment before performing the work in a radiological environment. This time-lapse video shows work inside the MASF to prepare for mock-up installation.

“It will be exciting to see the technology, test it, and train on it, so we are confident it will work as designed,” said Kalli Shupe, CHPRC vice president of the waste and fuels management project.

Completion of the mock-up is scheduled for this year, and procurement of materials for the cask storage system and transfer equipment will be complete in 2022, with capsule transfer to be completed by 2025.

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