In mid-August, the Vit Plant was honored to host Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and show her the progress toward melter heatup and eventual hot commissioning. She was joined by Department of Energy and Vit Plant leadership for a tour of the Low-Activity Waste Facility as part of a larger Hanford Site visit.
Vit Plant Site Director Talks Progress at Conference
Rick Holmes, Vit Plant Site Director and Waste Treatment Completion Company General Manager, spoke about progress towards melter heatup at the inaugural Central Washington Building & Construction Trades Council conference. Holmes participated in a moderated panel discussion that featured cleanup mission updates from the Vit Plant and other Hanford contractors.
About the Vit Plant
In 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 millions of gallons of radioactive and chemical waste currently stored at the Hanford Site.
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 177 aging underground tanks and threaten the nearby Columbia River.
Under DOE’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste approach, the low-activity waste in those tanks will be treated and piped to the Vit Plant’s Low-Activity Waste Facility, where it will be vitrified into a solid glass form that is safe and impervious to the environment.
Community Corner: Grace Clinic Celebrates 20 Years
After two decades of great work, Grace Clinic in Kennewick, Wash., is celebrating its 20th anniversary since opening in 2002. Vit Plant prime contractor Bechtel National, Inc. and subcontractor Amentum have made financial donations to Grace Clinic this year.
Grace Clinic is the only organization in the Tri-Cities that provides free care for patients who are low-income and uninsured in Benton and Franklin counties, which is equal to about 32,000 people. For the 20th anniversary of Grace Clinic, many local businesses and other organizations have shown their support and help, whether it be donations of money or time.
Clinic Director Avonte Jackson said, “We are very fortunate to have the support of companies like Bechtel and Amentum to help us support people that all of us interact with on a daily basis. The investments they make in Grace Clinic go right back into our community every single day."
Grace Clinic has provided almost 100,000 patient visits in its 20 years. Services range from medical and dental, as well as mental health counseling, all free of charge to its patients. Grace Clinic hopes to expand its dental services soon to see more patients. Read more.
Vit Plant Prepares for Melter Heatup, Begins Installing Startup Heaters
Vit Plant staff at the Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility prepared to install 18 temporary heaters to start up the first of the facility’s two 300-ton glass melters.
The startup heaters will be installed through ports in the lid of the melter and will raise the melter’s internal operating temperature to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit — hot enough to sustain the pool of molten glass to be used to start the waste vitrification process.
Heating up the melter is a complex process, consisting of a series of activities to prepare for and establish the pool of molten glass. After the startup heaters raise the melter to operating temperature, small glass beads called frit will be added until the pool covers the heating electrodes inside the melter.
After melter heatup, the startup heaters will be removed and replaced with bubblers to mix the molten glass pool and help maintain an even temperature. Finally, more frit will be added to the melter to bring the pool up to operating level. The melter will then be ready to receive simulated materials to test the system before processing tank waste. The frit is provided by Richland-based company Fluid Controls and Components Inc.
During DFLAW operations, waste from Hanford’s large underground tanks that has been treated to remove radioactive cesium and solids will be fed directly to the LAW Facility’s melters. The waste and glass-forming materials will be mixed and heated in the melters, then poured into specially designed stainless-steel containers for permanent disposal at the site’s Integrated Disposal Facility.
Vitreous State Laboratory and Vit Plant Continue Long Partnership
Operations and commissioning team members from the Vit Plant enhanced their knowledge of melters during a recent visit to the Vitreous State Laboratory (VSL) at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
The visit provided tangible experience and built upon training the team has received at a project simulator at the Hanford Site. VSL is home to small prototypes of the two melters installed in the Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility at the Vit Plant.
VSL operates four test melters that can produce up to three tons of glass per day. Two of the VSL melters also have prototypes of the Vit Plant’s exhaust, or offgas, treatment system, which the team saw in operation.
The team observed VSL employees removing equipment, such as bubblers that keep a steady molten pool inside the melter, and observed the employees establishing waste flow into the melter.
The visit is the latest collaboration between the Hanford team, contractor Atkins and VSL since work at the Vit Plant began.
The Vit Plant team is also planning to expand its experience through additional visits. Read more.
Melters: Central to the vitrification process, the Vit Plant melters will heat the molten-glass-and-waste mixture to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit before it is poured into stainless steel containers for permanent storage. Two 300-ton melters will be used for Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW).