RESTON, Va., August 21, 2019 — Bechtel, the U.S. Department of Energy, and members of Congress this week marked the opening of a 20,000-square foot control facility for a plant that will safely treat millions of gallons of liquid radioactive waste at the historic Hanford Site in Washington state. The milestone marked another step toward starting waste treatment at the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste Facility – a seven-story, sports arena-sized plant – and its associated support facilities.
“The control room is the operations center of the facility,” said Bechtel Project Director Valerie McCain. “By moving into the control room, we have the capability to monitor and control completed systems inside the 14 support buildings. We are also using the control room to conduct startup and testing activities for the plant and our Analytical Laboratory.”
The first phase of the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant is now well into its startup and commissioning, a methodical process to bring the plant’s 86 individual systems online. The plant is scheduled to begin treating waste by 2023.
Treating Manhattan Project and Cold War-era waste
Hanford is the United States’ most challenging and complex radioactive waste cleanup site. It had nine nuclear reactors as well as chemical separation facilities that created plutonium for U.S. nuclear weapons from 1944 to 1987. Approximately 56 million gallons of chemical and radioactive waste is currently stored and awaiting treatment in underground tanks, some of which have leaked into the ground. Bechtel has partnered with the DOE to support its mission to clean up legacy waste, leaving a cleaner and safer environment for future generations.
In WTP’s first phase, the waste will be piped to the Low-Activity Waste Facility, mixed with silica and other materials, melted, and poured into stainless steel containers where it will solidify. The process is known as vitrification. The containers will then be disposed at Hanford’s existing low-level waste disposal site.
Bechtel is a leader in environmental cleanup and restoration of former nuclear weapons production sites. The company’s service spans nearly 40 years and includes the cleanup, remediation, and closure of nuclear waste facilities in Washington state, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina, including the only currently operating vitrification plant in the U.S. – the Defense Waste Processing Facility at the DOE’s Savannah River Site.