About the Hanford Vit Plant Project
In southeastern Washington state, Bechtel National, Inc. is designing, constructing, and commissioning the world’s largest radioactive waste treatment plant for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). When complete, the Hanford Tank Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, also known as the Vit Plant, will process and stabilize million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste currently stored at the Hanford Site.
Through our team’s diligent efforts, we will help protect the Columbia River and surrounding Rivershore communities from dangerous nuclear waste leftover from World War II and the Cold War plutonium production.
The Columbia River snakes along the Hanford Site with the Hanford Reach being the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River remaining in the U.S. This 50-mile stretch of the Columbia is a natural wonder and is designated a National Monument.
The 56 million gallons of waste are a byproduct of national defense plutonium-production efforts during World War II and the Cold War era. It resides in 158 aging underground tanks. Of these, more than 60 have leaked, contaminating the subsurface and threatening the nearby Columbia River. Visit the Department of Energy site at Hanford to learn more.
- The tanks contain the most complex heterogeneous radioactive waste at any U.S. cleanup site.
- Waste is in the form of sludge, salts, and liquids.
- No two tanks have the same combination of waste.
- There are 1,800 different chemicals in the tank waste.
What is Vitrification?
The plant will use vitrification technology to stabilize the waste. Vitrification involves mixing the waste with glass-forming materials and heating it to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit and pouring it into stainless steel canisters to cool and solidify. In this glass form, the waste is stable and safe for storage.
The vitrification process has been used successfully elsewhere for decades but has never been attempted at the scale of or on waste as complex as that stored at Hanford.
The Vit Plant is one of DOE’s most technically challenging clean-up projects. During a 2016 visit to the Hanford Site, Energy Secretary Moniz described the Vit Plant as "the single greatest engineering cleanup challenge in the world."
We are focused on vitrifying the low-activity waste in Hanford tanks first. The Department of Energy created the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste process, a system of interdependent projects and infrastructure improvements, managed and highly integrated as a program, that must operate together to vitrify tank waste, which means to immobilize it within glass. Under DFLAW, waste will be sent from the tank farms to the Vit Plant’s Low-Activity Waste Facility for vitrification.
High-level waste will be processed and vitrified later in a separate process.
Bechtel's experience and leadership are solving the nation's toughest energy and environmental challenges. The Vit Plant team is proud to be working with the Department of Energy to resolve this legacy waste issue.
View a sponsored story about the Vit Plant and Bechtel's role at http://www.exchangemonitor.com/long-form-stories/the-hanford-waste-treatment-plant-a-21st-century-solution-to-a-70-year-old-problem/.