12:26 PM

Hanford Vit Plant begins early lab process work

Columbia Basin College offers space for training lab workforce

The U.S. Department of Energy and Bechtel National Inc. (BNI) are collaborating with a local college to help prepare chemists to eventually work at the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant’s (WTP) Analytical Laboratory. Local and regional news media were invited today for a view inside a 3,300-square foot laboratory at Columbia Basin College (CBC) in Pasco, Washington, that will prepare the Analytical Laboratory’s future staff for work at the real thing.

The lab will start developing the processes that will be used to support low-activity waste vitrification by a court-ordered milestone of 2023. BNI set up the lab at CBC so chemists and laboratory specialists can train with the same equipment that will be eventually transferred to the WTP Analytical Laboratory.

“They are developing the methods, processes, and procedures today that we’ll need at the Analytical Laboratory in the future to perform the direct feed low-activity waste commissioning work,” explained Brian Vance, manager of the DOE Office of River Protection. “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.”

The WTP Analytical Laboratory’s key function is to confirm that all glass produced by the Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility meets regulatory requirements and standards. During direct feed low-activity waste (DFLAW) operations, the Analytical Laboratory will analyze approximately 3,000 process samples each year. Analyses will confirm the correct glass-former “recipe” needed to produce a consistent glass form. Samples will also be taken throughout the vitrification process to confirm a high-quality glass product and good process controls.

“We are in the early hiring and training phases for the laboratory technical staff that will eventually be transferred from the CBC lab to the WTP’s large Analytical Laboratory at the Hanford Site,” said Brian Reilly, a Bechtel senior vice president and BNI’s director for the WTP Project. “Through our work here at CBC, we are preparing the future Laboratory workforce for the plant’s cold and hot commissioning phases.”

During the WTP’s 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 sturdy glass.

“It’s an honor to know that work supporting the Hanford cleanup mission is happening here at Columbia Basin College,” added Dr. Rebekah Woods, CBC president. “It’s great that our campus can be a community resource for companies who are training the next generation of Hanford’s workforce.”

The DFLAW approach uses key facilities of the WTP, including the LAW Facility. Construction is largely complete for the WTP’s LAW Facility, Analytical Laboratory and a collection of more than 20 support facilities. In addition, some portions of the LAW Facility, the Laboratory, and support facilities are undergoing systems testing and startup activities.

About the Office of River Protection

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Hanford Site in southeast Washington state is home to 56 million gallons of chemical and radioactive waste stored in underground tanks – the result of more than four decades of plutonium production. The Office of River Protection (ORP) is responsible for the retrieval, treatment, and disposal of this waste in a safe, efficient manner. The River Protection Project is the largest and most complex environmental remediation project in the nation.

About Bechtel

Bechtel is one of the world’s leading engineering and construction companies, and is designing and building the world’s largest radioactive waste treatment plant for the U.S. Department of Energy at the Hanford Site in southeastern Washington state. The Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, also known as the Vit Plant, will immobilize some of the chemical and radioactive waste stored in 177 underground tanks using a process called vitrification. Visit