13:05 PM

Final technician class in training for Vit Plant operations


By the end of 2020, about 140 commissioning technicians will be working in 24/7 shifts to manage and monitor the facilities needed for the Department of Energy's Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste approach at the Vit Plant.

Training recently kicked off for the final class of commissioning technicians who will prepare Hanford’s massive Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP), or Vit Plant, for round-the-clock operations in the next few years to vitrify millions of gallons of radioactive tank waste.

An in-depth classroom and on-the-job training program is preparing the final class of 27 new commissioning workers to bring more than 200 separate systems online in two main facilities, including 14 support facilities and the Low-Activity Waste (LAW) FacilityAt the end of the five-month training program, a total of approximately 140 commissioning technicians will be readying the plant for round-the-clock operations to treat a large volume of Hanford’s waste leftover from producing plutonium in the 1940s through the late 1980s.

“A lot of people have put in years of work and effort to get us to where we are today,” said Tom Fletcher, Department of Energy federal project director for the plant. “It’s an exciting time to be working at Hanford as our team moves closer to treating tank waste.”

Training the technicians supports the DOE Office of Environmental Management’s strategic priorities for 2020, which include completing Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) construction for turnover to commissioning. Direct-feed means waste will be pretreated at a tank farm, which is a group of tanks, to remove radioactive cesium and solids. The resulting less radioactive, low-activity waste will be fed via pipelines directly to the Low-Activity Waste Facility for vitrification.

The Bechtel National, Inc-led team began hiring technicians in 2016 to prepare, or commission, the plant to start treating tank waste in the next few years. Workers are observing COVID-19 safety protocols while training at a 17,000-square-foot building that contains a full-scale, fully functional replica of the Low-Activity Waste Facility control room, where they will eventually work. In early 2019, the plant began 24/7 commissioning shift work, as the control room is already operational and staffed by qualified commissioning technicians.

“Our rigorous training program prepares and qualifies them to bring the plant online as we complete commissioning and for eventual around-the-clock operations,” said Valerie McCain, Bechtel National, Inc. project director. “I’m excited to welcome them to our team.”

Commissioning technicians also learn about conduct of operations; process systems; integrated system response; alarm response; normal, abnormal and emergency procedures; and human performance improvement fundamentals.

In the LAW Facility, low-activity waste will be mixed with silica and other glass-forming materials. The mixture is then fed into LAW’s two 300-ton melters and heated to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. The glass mixture is then poured into containers that are 4 feet in diameter and 7 feet tall. At full production, the LAW Facility is designed to vitrify 30 metric tons of waste per day.

About Bechtel National, Inc.:

Bechtel is a trusted engineering, construction and project management partner to industry and government. Differentiated by the quality of our people and our relentless drive to deliver the most successful outcomes, we align our capabilities to our customers’ objectives to create a lasting positive impact. Since 1898, we have helped customers complete more than 25,000 projects in 160 countries on all seven continents that have created jobs, grown economies, improved the resiliency of the world's infrastructure, increased access to energy, resources, and vital services, and made the world a safer, cleaner place. Bechtel serves the Infrastructure; Nuclear, Security & Environmental; Oil, Gas & Chemicals; and Mining & Metals markets. Our services span from initial planning and investment, through start-up and operations.