13:39 PM

Hanford Vit Plant laboratory enters startup phase

Achievement marks first major facility in full systems testing mode

Workers at Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP), or Vit Plant, have completed turnover of the Analytical Laboratory systems to the full startup testing phase.

“The laboratory is the first major WTP facility to complete systems turnover work,” said Tom Fletcher, WTP project director for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection. “Finishing major construction and turning the laboratory systems over to the startup phase moves us closer to treating radioactive tank waste.”

The turnover comes after Vit Plant contractor Bechtel National Inc. (BNI) successfully energized the laboratory’s lights, panels, and outlets this past fall. Startup testing is now underway to verify the laboratory equipment and systems are in safe and working order for handover to the commissioning phase. Laboratory systems startup testing is anticipated to finish this year.

The 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 operations, technicians in the 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.

The turnovers from construction to startup of 34 systems included electrical, mechanical, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and high purity gases systems.

“This accomplishment involved many people and teams,” said Valerie McCain, BNI principal vice president and WTP project director. “It represents the full range of work including design and engineering, environmental permitting, procurement, construction, and many support organizations.”

In the meantime, Vit Plant chemists are developing the processes needed to analyze radioactive tank waste at the laboratory. This work is happening inside a 3,300-square-foot laboratory at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Washington. BNI set up the laboratory there so chemists and laboratory specialists can train with the same equipment that will be eventually transferred to the Vit Plant Analytical Laboratory to support WTP’s commissioning phase.

About the Office of River Protection

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