First team of chemists arrives at Hanford’s Vit Plant

The first team of chemists has arrived at Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP), better known as the Vit Plant. The chemists will perform the first scientific work taking place inside the plant’s Analytical Laboratory to support starting the treatment of Hanford tank waste by the end of 2023.

The laboratory’s key function is to confirm that glass produced by the Low-Activity Waste vitrification facility meets regulatory requirements and standards. During waste treatment operations, laboratory staff will analyze approximately 3,000 process samples annually.

“Our Analytical Laboratory is a key component of meeting regulatory requirements for tank waste treatment,” said Tom Fletcher, WTP federal project manager and Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) program manager for the Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection. “The work to develop analytical processes, procedures and methods is an important step to being ready to treat low-activity waste and preparing the workforce for the upcoming commissioning phase.”

During the past year, the laboratory team collaborated with Vit Plant engineers to analyze glass made from a slurry of low-activity waste simulant and glass-forming materials. This same analytical method will verify the glass vitrified in the Low-Activity Waste Facility meets DOE standards.

The chemists prepared for their transition to the Hanford Site by first honing their skills and instruments at a smaller-scale, offsite lab at Columbia Basin College in Pasco. Over the next 18 months, more employees are expected to be hired, trained at an offsite lab and then transferred to the laboratory.