Hanford makes vital development toward safe disposal of radioactive waste

Hanford
Electrician Ralph Bisla conducts tests of the finishing line inside the Low-Activity Waste Facility at Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant.

RICHLAND, Wash. — Scientists at the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant completed startup testing to transform low-activity take waste into a form that can be disposed of safely.

Cleaning up waste from the Hanford site has long been a priority of the innovative minds working there. This recent accomplishment will transition the plant into a commissioning phase to prepare for the vitrification (immobilization in glass) of radioactive and chemical waste.

“It was a huge milestone for the startup team to transfer the final DFLAW systems to the care, custody and control of plant management,” said Valerie McCain—the project director and senior vice president of the contractor in charge of designing, building, and commissioning the plant. “We are in the final phase of our preparations to start vitrifying waste.”

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Through the vitrification process, waste is treated to extract radioactive material which is fed into the plant’s low-activity waste facility melters.

That waste is mixed with other glass-forming materials, heated, and poured into expertly-designed stainless steel containers for disposal at Hanford’s  Integrated Disposal Facility.

These efforts are part of Hanford’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) Program, which aims to vitrify waste by spearheading a series of interdependent projects including improvements to the Hanford Site’s critical infrastructure.

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“With the completion of startup testing, we can focus on commissioning and establishing the operating culture necessary to safely begin a new era of operations at Hanford,” said Mat Irwin, Office of River Protection deputy assistant manager for the plant. “All contractors are driving toward 24/7 operations to ensure we can operate the plant successfully.”

You may learn more about this process and Hanford operations with a self-guided virtual tour.

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