Steam plant waits for startup, Bechtel says

Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldOctober 2, 2013 

The steam plant at the Hanford vitrification plant will be ready to start up as soon as it's needed, said Bechtel National.

Completing construction on the steam plant met a court-enforced consent decree requirement, and both the Department of Energy and the Washington State Department of Ecology have agreed that the requirement has been met.

The steam plant is one of about 20 buildings on the vitrification plant campus that will support the four main facilities at the plant that are central to turning radioactive and hazardous chemical waste into a stable glass form for disposal.

The 11,000-square-foot building contains six boilers that will supply high- and low-pressure steam to the plant, said Tony Veirup, Bechtel National area project manager for the plant's Analytical Laboratory and support buildings.

Steam with a pressure of 25 to 35 pounds per square inch will be used to heat the four main facilities at the plant -- the Pretreatment, High Level Waste and Low Activity Waste Facilities and the Analytical Laboratory.

Steam with a pressure of 135 pounds per square inch will be used to transfer liquids from one tank to another within the Pretreatment and High Level Waste Facilities. It also will be used to decontaminate the canisters of glassified high level radioactive waste before they leave the plant.

The waste is left from the past production of plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program.

At full capacity, the steam plant will produce 207,000 pounds of steam per hour, enough to heat nine buildings the size of the Empire State Building, according to Bechtel.

It's expected to be used first to supply heat for the Analytical Laboratory and Low Activity Waste Facility. The Department of Energy is required to begin treating waste in 2019, but may start treating low activity waste before the entire plant is ready to operate.

The steam plant still needs to be prepared for operation, starting with bringing up the low and medium voltage power systems and then flushing the piping systems to make sure they are clean.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533;; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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