Hanford workers have met the third of five Recovery Act goals in a solid waste disposal program, following concerns in May that the project had fallen behind schedule.
The most recent project was completed two months early and has shipped off 2,350 cubic yards -- or 1,800 cubic meters -- of low level radioactive waste mixed with hazardous chemicals. The waste would fill 9,000 55-gallon drums.
The waste was stored in buildings or had been buried temporarily. Much of it is being treated at Perma-Fix Northwest near Hanford and then returned for disposal at Hanford in lined trenches.
Hanford received $315 million in federal economic stimulus money to meet five goals for work in its solid waste program.
But in May, the Department of Energy Office of Inspector General said it was concerned that the work had fallen behind and would not be complete by Sept. 30, when Recovery Act projects are due to be completed.
In 1970 Congress said transuranic wastes -- at Hanford typically waste contaminated with plutonium -- must be sent to a national repository. But until the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico opened, waste that Hanford workers thought might be characterized as transuranic was stored in buildings or buried for later retrieval and surveying.
Now CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation is dealing with that waste.
It completed the first Recovery Act solid waste project in March, retrieving 65 cubic yards of transuranic waste so radioactively hot it has to be remotely handled and shipping it to New Mexico.
It has now shipped 110 cubic meters of the waste.
It also has exceeded goals for repackaging contact-handled transuranic waste for shipment to New Mexico.
Workers are getting close to meeting a goal of shipping 2,615 cubic yards of contact-handled transuranic waste off Hanford.
However, they still must retrieve by Sept. 30 more than 1,000 cubic yards of temporarily buried waste to meet the fifth goal of retrieving 3,270 cubic yards of the waste, which includes debris, equipment, tools and protective clothing, some of it buried in large boxes.
The Recovery Act money allowed Hanford to develop methods for transporting and treating large containers of waste, said J.D. Dowell of DOE.
"Shipping the waste in large containers is more efficient and is significantly cheaper than breaking the waste down into smaller containers for shipment," he said.