09:43 AM

Vit Plant support buildings move into commissioning phase

The Hanford Vit Plant is bringing more major utility systems online as the facility continues the transition from construction to startup and commissioning in support of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) plans to begin treating tank waste through its Direct Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) vitrification approach.

Earlier this month crews finished startup testing of systems for four more Vit Plant Balance of Facilities (BOF) utility support buildings, which were handed over for commissioning. As engineers and construction crews finish all, or specific portions of, plant systems, the systems are transferred to the startup phase where they are verified and tested as complete and in safe working order. After the startup phase, systems undergo a commissioning phase to ensure they are calibrated and ready to support future plant operations.

Construction, startup, and testing phases are now complete for five major support buildings:

  • Water Treatment Building

  • Main Site Electrical Switchgear Building

  • BOF Electrical Switchgear Building

  • Fire Water Pump House

  • Non-Radioactive Liquid Waste Disposal System

Vit Plant contractor Bechtel National Inc., is now focused on completing the commissioning phase for each building ― the final step before operations.

“In terms of momentum for the project, this is a step change in our capability to complete utility infrastructure startup and testing,” explained Rick Holmes, Vit Plant site director and Waste Treatment Completion Company general manager. “We now have permanent plant electricity and water.”

Delmar Noyes, DOE Office of River Protection assistant manager for waste treatment operations, agreed.

“Having the capability to begin connecting Vit Plant systems to Hanford Site utilities marks significant progress toward our goal to bring Direct Feed Low-Activity Waste vitrification online as soon as possible,” Noyes said.

The BOF support infrastructure is housed in 20 buildings. BOF contains a total of 56 systems, including an electrical power distribution system, backup power, water purification, compressed air, steam, communication and control, and fire water systems. Of the 56 systems, 26 have successfully completed startup and testing and have transitioned over to the commissioning phase; 21 are in the startup phase; and nine are nearing construction turnover to startup.

The DFLAW approach is expected to allow treatment of low-level waste to begin by the court-ordered milestone date of 2023.

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