12:27 PM

Chemists make final move to Analytical Laboratory

A team of chemists and lab technicians has moved into its permanent home in the Analytical Laboratory (LAB) at the Hanford Vit Plant.

Over the past two years, the scientific team developed training and procedures and verified laboratory equipment performance while working from a temporary offsite laboratory at Columbia Basin College (CBC) in Pasco, Wash. In parallel, startup testing of systems in the LAB was completed to allow the team to transition to the site.

“It’s a critical moment in time for the project to welcome the last of the laboratory team to the jobsite,” said Valerie McCain, project director for lead contractor Bechtel National, Inc. “I appreciate CBC’s collaboration as we leveraged the capabilities in our community to help progress the mission. Now, with the people and equipment here, we are well positioned for cold and hot commissioning for Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste.”

The LAB’s key function is to determine the correct “recipe” of glass-forming materials for each incoming batch of tank waste, and then to confirm the glass produced by the Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility meets state and federal regulatory requirements. Rigorous processes, procedures and training developed by the team will ensure the vitrified waste is safe for long-term storage.

This is a key step in preparations to bring the vitrification plant online, begin making glass, and continue moving forward in our Hanford cleanup mission,” said Tom Fletcher, EM WTP Federal Project Director. “Over the next several months, we will have fewer construction workers and more commissioning and operations workers. It’s exciting and a long time in coming.”

Under the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste process, the tank farms will feed waste directly to the LAW Facility for vitrification. During the cold commissioning phase, a waste-like simulant will be run through the LAW Facility. Then, a hot-commissioning vitrification phase will begin turning low-activity radioactive tank waste into stable glass. The LAB will analyze 3.000 process samples annually to ensure the quality of vitrified waste.

Vitrification involves mixing liquid radioactive wastes with glass-forming materials and heating them in a high-temperature melter. The process incorporates the waste into the glass itself. It is poured into canisters, allowed to solidify and cool. Then it is transported for disposal.