Richland, Wash.,
12:29 PM

Vit Plant Team Completes First Low-Activity Waste Facility Commissioning Test

The Vit Plant team completed the first commissioning test for one of 37 remote-operated cranes inside the Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility, bringing the plant one step closer to treating nuclear tank waste.

The commissioning test was also the first for any system inside the LAW Facility. It demonstrated that a bridge crane can successfully reach components and lifting points of six vessels used in the process to immobilize liquid waste in a glass form safe for storage, a process known as vitrification.

“This commissioning test is a great example of our facilities, processes and procedures, and people becoming fully integrated,” said Mat Irwin, Office of River Protection deputy assistant manager for the plant. “The crane performed as designed; the test procedures provided the necessary steps to perform the work; and the commissioning technicians, maintenance staff, and commissioning team safely conducted and finished the job.”

After construction and startup testing is complete, each system is handed over to the plant management team to initiate commissioning tests, which ensure utilities, equipment, and process systems are integrated and ready for operations. There are approximately 65 commissioning test packages, incorporating over 250 individual objectives that span the LAW Facility, Analytical Laboratory, Effluent Management Facility, and Balance of Facilities. More than 50% of the LAW Facility’s 94 systems have been handed over to plant management, with completion of all systems anticipated later this summer.

The plant will vitrify waste as part of Hanford’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) program. DFLAW is a system of interdependent projects and infrastructure improvements, managed and highly integrated, that must operate together to immobilize the tank waste in glass. During vitrification, the nuclear waste and glass-forming materials are mixed and heated up to 2,100 degree Fahrenheit inside one of two large melters in the LAW Facility, then poured into stainless steel containers for safe storage.

The LAW Facility’s 37 remotely operated cranes will access plant components, transfer equipment, package materials, bring in empty stainless steel containers, and transport glass-filled containers out of the facility.

The bridge crane that went through commissioning services the LAW process cell area that contains six large vessels. Three of the vessels receive, mix, and feed radioactive tank waste and glass-forming materials into the melters, and the others cool the exhaust and remove particulates.

If needed during plant operations, the bridge crane will hover above the process cell area to lift metal floor hatches for access to the process cell below, remove and replace equipment inside the cell, and bundle potentially radioactive-contaminated equipment into waste packages.

The Vit Plant team expects to begin heating up the first LAW Facility melter by the end of the year.

Information on the commissioning process, including a loss-of-power test and melter heatup, is available on the Journey to Melter Heatup website.

The plant facilities can be viewed using the self-guided Hanford Virtual Tour.

Contact: Staci A. West, 509-378-0308 or

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