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Chemist Kay Keltner with EM Office of River Protection contractor Bechtel National, Inc. works inside the Analytical Laboratory at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant to prepare for cold commissioning.
Chemist Kay Keltner with EM Office of River Protection contractor Bechtel National, Inc. works inside the Analytical Laboratory at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant to prepare for cold commissioning.

RICHLAND, Wash. – The EM Office of River Protection (ORP) and its contractor Bechtel National, Inc. recently determined the Hanford Site’s Analytical Laboratory at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) is “Ready to Operate.”

That’s an official designation signifying the facility and its team are prepared to support cold commissioning, during which a waste-like simulant is run through the plant to ensure systems are working properly under operating conditions.

The Analytical Laboratory is key to an approach that will be used to treat millions of gallons of waste from Hanford’s underground tanks, called Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste. It’s a system of interdependent projects and infrastructure improvements, managed and highly integrated as a program, that must operate together successfully to vitrify, or immobilize in glass, Hanford’s low-activity tank waste.

The lab’s ready-to-operate designation means that training and qualification processes are finished; programs and procedures are approved and implemented; and equipment, tools, and materials are in place, tested, and available for use by existing and future lab staff.

“This is another important step forward in preparing to treat tank waste,” said Tom Fletcher, ORP assistant manager for WTP. “Our team continues to demonstrate that we have a deliberate process that ensures safety and quality through every step toward cold and hot commissioning.”

In preparation for the ready-to-operate assessment, the WTP's jobsite team completed a comprehensive set of 67 individual criteria that included readying the lab's structures, systems, components, programs, procedures, and staff. The assessment participants included staff from WTP, Bechtel’s corporate offices, and Hanford’s 222-S Laboratory.

“This effort overcame many unforeseen challenges in 2020 and embodies the 'One Team' spirit we are proud of at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant," said Gene Nemeth, WTP deputy nuclear facility manager. “It was a united effort with tremendous support from all organizations. Passing the assessment is a tribute to the team's significant effort and can-do attitude. Completing this goal provides a significant boost to our pride and motivation as we continue the journey toward cold commissioning."

DOE reviewed and validated the assessment that the lab met expectations for readiness to operate.

Next, the lab team will prepare for hot commissioning, when actual tank waste will be run through the plant to ensure systems are operating properly. In 2021, WTP staff plan to hire a total of 24 laboratory technicians and 20 radiological technicians to support lab activities and preparations.

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