WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leadership from EM and its contractors highlighted measurable progress on major cleanup facilities across the complex and discussed a safe and successful path forward for startup and commissioning at an event for the House Nuclear Cleanup Caucus on June 8.
“With construction now complete at the Savannah River Site's Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF), the Hanford Direct Feed Low Activity Waste (DFLAW) initiative moving forward, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) progressing into cold commissioning, we are working hard and working together to leverage lessons learned and achieve our shared goal of safe and successful operations,” EM Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Whitney said.
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), who chairs the caucus, voiced support for EM’s cleanup and called it a national effort.
“I’m so proud of the folks in this room: the contractors, the workers, the affected communities who come together in a strong bipartisan way to advocate for cleanup of these legacy sites,” Fleischmann said. “You’re doing a great job. It’s an important job. It’s a federal obligation. These are sites that need to be cleaned up.” Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) also participated in the event and shared their support for EM’s cleanup efforts.
Whitney joined Parsons Senior Vice President and Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF) Project Manager Frank Sheppard and Bechtel National Inc. Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) Project Director Peggy McCullough on a panel moderated by Energy Facility Contractors Group Board of Directors Chair Billy Morrison that focused on the timely issues of startup and commissioning of key EM facilities.
Sheppard noted that SWPF has entered the testing and commissioning phase after finishing construction eight months ahead of schedule and more than $60 million under budget based on the company’s contract arrangement from June 2013.
Sheppard emphasized that safety is the top priority, and he noted the importance of lessons learned from other projects.
“The top priority for us is to make sure everything we do is done safely and in order to do that you have to take your experiences from other places,” he said. “There is a lot of cross-fertilization within the Department and within the contractor community to make sure we capture lessons learned and to make sure we start up the facility safely and efficiently.”
McCullough discussed the benefits of the sequenced startup and commissioning approach at Hanford’s WTP that will treat tank waste and transform it into stable glass. The sequenced approach will enable waste to be treated prior to completion of the entire WTP complex through DFLAW.
In addition to making glass as soon as 2022 and reducing risks at Hanford’s tank farms, the DFLAW initiative will reduce operational risks and add a higher degree of confidence to the tank waste treatment process at Hanford.
McCullough described Bechtel’s operational readiness review approach as robust and spoke about lessons learned to be applied to the startup of DFLAW. In explaining Bechtel’s approach to startup, the project director said Bechtel will use a progressive testing strategy that involves moving from the component level to the system level to an integrated facility test.
Whitney noted progress at WIPP, including significant changes to safety management programs, and outlined the steps necessary to develop proficiencies and test capabilities for site workers, equipment, and processes before restart.
“There has been a tremendous amount of work on recovery and we are moving forward on that with the plan to resume operations by December of this year, as long as it is safe to do so.” he said.
The panelists also discussed collaborative efforts across the complex and the world to study best practices that can be applied at multiple facilities and ways to prevent or solve challenges experienced in the past.
The third event for the caucus is scheduled for Sept. 14.