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High-quality, dedicated workforce move Vit Plant forward

Hanford Vit Plant Project Director Valerie McCain shared a project update earlier this year with the Tri-Cities community in the Tri-City Herald. Below is that Progress update. The original article can be viewed on the TCH website at

Vit Plant Project Director Valerie McCainOur employees are focused on completing the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, also known as the Vit Plant. Their hard work to finish construction and turn support facilities over to startup and commissioning is propelling the plant toward processing low-activity waste (LAW) by 2023.

Part of the Direct Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) approach, Bechtel National, Inc., together with the Department of Energy Office of River Protection (ORP), have already met significant milestones in 2019.

The Vit Plant job site moved to a 24/7 rotating shift schedule to ensure systems turned over to operations are properly monitored and maintained. Commissioning technicians are being hired and trained, and the LAW facility annex will soon be occupied by plant management staff.

The loss of power test, scheduled for September 2020, is a substantial milestone and will involve cutting power to the LAW facility, then testing our ability to recover quickly enough that there is no damage to the facility’s 300-ton melters. The melters will be used to heat the waste and glass-forming chemicals to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit and are considered the heart of the vitrification process. Each of our crews will demonstrate proficiency to restart the plant. A successful loss of power test will be crucial to moving forward toward operations.

Our accomplishments of 2019 build on those from last year, which include completing physical construction of the one of the four major nuclear facilities — the LAW facility — and the turnover of several support facilities to plant management and to startup and testing.

The progress we have made can be attributed to the collaborative spirit and completion mindset of the entire WTP team. We also continue to partner with ORP, the Washington State Department of Ecology, Mission Support Alliance and Washington River Protection Solutions.

For 2019, the Vit Plant will continue its focus on Direct Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW), including the following specific activities:

  • Deliver all DFLAW major equipment and bulk materials.
  • Turn over all Balance of Facility systems to startup and hand over to plant management.
  • Complete startup and hand over the Analytical Laboratory to plant management.
  • Obtain radiological air operating permit.
  • Install evaporator, powerhouse, large vessels, and building enclosures for the Effluent Management Facility (EMF), the last support structure under construction.

These accomplishments will represent a significant leap toward operations.

Our team is broader than just those who work at WTP. Many companies around the region and across the company contribute to our mission. During fiscal year 2018, we purchased $297 million in goods and services for the Vit Plant, with nearly 55 percent of those in Washington and Oregon. Of that, $164 million was spent in the Tri-Cities.

Our employees are committed to supporting our community, which they demonstrate consistently by donating their time and money. In 2018, Vit Plant employees, together with Bechtel and AECOM, donated more than $800,000 to charitable organizations and programs in the Tri-Cities community. Donations included nearly $300,000 to United Way, $12,000 to Toys for Tots and $15,000 to Second Harvest.

I am extremely proud to have joined the Vit Plant team in October 2018. In the time I have been here, I have been impressed with our workforce of skilled craft and professionals who are wholly committed to their community and completing their work safely and upholding the highest quality standards. I look forward to the coming year of recognizing their hard work accomplishments.