11:25 PM

Hanford Vit Plant opens doors to Commissioning workforce

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of River Protection and Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (Vit Plant) contractor Bechtel National, Inc. (BNI) have opened the doors to a commissioning workforce at an annex connected to a facility where low-activity nuclear waste from Hanford’s underground tanks will be transformed into immobilized glass.

Vit Plant commissioning workers have moved into the annex housing the plant’s control room at the massive Low-Activity Waste Facility. The annex is key to controlling Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste operations.

Inside the 20,000-square-foot, two-story annex, workers have moved in to bring systems online aimed at turning radioactive tank waste safely into glass by 2023.

“The control room is the operations center of the Low-Activity Waste Facility,” said Brian Vance, DOE Hanford Site manager. “By moving into the annex, we have the capability to monitor and control completed systems inside the 14 support buildings called the Balance of Facilities. We are also using the control room to conduct startup and testing activities for the Low-Activity Waste Facility and Analytical Laboratory.”

Workers are coordinating a sequenced construction, startup, and commissioning approach for each of the plant’s individual systems. The Low-Activity Waste Facility alone contains the vitrification process, mechanical handling, utility, and air supply systems. Crews have begun startup activities as nearly 78 percent of the facility’s systems — 72 of 92 — are in process to verify they are complete, tested, and in safe working order. After the startup phase, systems undergo a commissioning phase to ensure they are ready to support Vit Plant operations by 2023.

“We are getting closer to making low-activity waste glass,” said Valerie McCain, BNI project director for the Vit Plant project. “Moving into the annex signifies we are moving forward to prepare the Low-Activity Waste Facility for its commissioning phase. It also allows the commissioning team to be in a single, central location for daily work activities.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) praised the workers for their efforts in achieving this milestone.

“This new control room for the Waste Treatment Plant at Hanford demonstrates a key step toward the goal of treating tank waste,” said Newhouse. “The startup of low-activity waste treatment is dependent upon the entirety of the Hanford site’s workforce, so I am grateful to the hard-working women and men whose work site-wide has been instrumental in this effort. I am glad to see this progress firsthand and look forward to continuing to work with the Department of Energy and the State of Washington to ensure the safe and efficient cleanup of Hanford.”

DOE is working toward waste treatment through the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste program, which uses key facilities of the Vit Plant, including the Low-Activity Waste Facility. Construction is substantially complete for the Low-Activity Waste Facility, the Analytical Laboratory, and a collection of support buildings.

About the Office of River Protection:

The Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for the federal government’s cleanup of the legacy of more than 40 years of plutonium production at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash. The DOE Office of River Protection (ORP) is responsible for the safe and efficient retrieval, treatment and disposal of the 56 million gallons of chemical and radioactive waste stored in Hanford’s 177 underground tanks. The River Protection Project is the largest and most complex environmental remediation project in the nation. ORP oversees the tank waste management mission and the building of the world’s largest radioactive waste treatment plant, which will immobilize the legacy tank waste through vitrification. The DOE Richland Operations Office is responsible for all remaining Hanford cleanup and is currently focused on demolishing the high-hazard Plutonium Finishing Plant, excavating and disposing of contaminated soil and waste, treating contaminated groundwater, moving radioactive sludge out of the K West Basin and away from the Columbia River, and configuring Hanford Site infrastructure for the future, with an emphasis on supporting the tank waste mission. The two offices oversee Hanford Site work that is conducted by a federal and contractor workforce of approximately 9,000 personnel. Visit for more information about Hanford Site.

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