Vit Plant chemists begin work at Analytical Laboratory
Workers, instruments transition from CBC to Hanford Site
The first team of chemists is setting up shop at Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP), or Vit Plant. The chemists will perform the first scientific work taking place inside the plant’s Analytical Laboratory to support starting the treatment of Hanford tank waste by the end of 2023.
The laboratory’s key function is to confirm that glass produced by the Low-Activity Waste vitrification facility meets regulatory requirements and standards. During waste treatment operations, laboratory staff will analyze approximately 3,000 process samples annually to confirm a high-quality glass product and good process controls. Analyses will also confirm the correct glass-former “recipe” needed to produce a consistent glass form.
“Our Analytical Laboratory is a key component of meeting regulatory requirements for tank waste treatment,” said Tom Fletcher, WTP federal project manager and Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) program manager for the Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection. “The work to develop analytical processes, procedures and methods is an important step to being ready to treat low-activity waste and preparing the workforce for the upcoming commissioning phase.”
Over the next 18 months, more employees are expected to be hired, trained at an offsite lab, and then transferred to the laboratory.
“The chemists represent another group of permanent positions to support plant commissioning, along with 95 commissioning technicians currently working in the control room of the plant’s Low-Activity Waste Facility Annex and throughout the plant,” said Valerie McCain, a principal vice president and project director for Vit Plant contractor Bechtel National, Inc.
The chemists prepared for their transition to the Hanford Site by first honing their skills and instruments at a smaller-scale offsite lab at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Washington.
During the past year, the laboratory team collaborated with Vit Plant engineers to analyze glass made from a slurry of low-activity waste simulant and glass-forming materials. This same analytical method will verify the glass vitrified in the Low-Activity Waste Facility meets DOE standards.
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 National, Inc.
Bechtel National, Inc. (BNI), is a leading engineering, procurement, construction, and project management contractor for the U.S. government. BNI’s successes include many large, first-of-a-kind signature projects in federally owned site management, environmental restoration, defense, space, energy, as well as national and homeland security. BNI is a member of the Bechtel group of companies.