PermaFix Northwest is dropping plans to add an evaporation system to its suite of systems to treat and package radioactive waste at its Richland plant near Hanford.
The Department of Energy had shown interest in evaporation capabilities for contaminated waste water from Hanford. But with no firm commitment from DOE to use the proposed PermaFix system, the company decided to drop the project, said Richard Grondin, general manager of PermaFix Northwest.
It was planning also to accept other liquid wastes to be shipped to Richland, but it needed Hanford work to justify the expense of adding the evaporation system, Grondin said. The company also was concerned about the long lead time to get Washington State Department of Ecology permit approval for the project.
A public meeting was held in Richland in September on the proposed project as an early step toward state approval. Grondin said he could not predict when a permit might be granted, but it could easily take three or four years.
The proposed evaporator had been expected to receive up to four tanker truck shipments a week of Hanford waste water with minimal amounts of low-level radioactive waste, metals and organics.
The Effluent Treatment Facility in central Hanford has been used to treat up to 28 million gallons of contaminated waste water a year. However, treatment operations there have stopped until a heat exchanger can be replaced.
The state said at the September meeting that a crack in the equipment there was fixed at least a year ago but another crack developed and the facility was shut down several months ago.
Since September, the Hanford treatment facility has been transferred from the DOE Richland Operations Office to the DOE Office of River Protection. Its contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, expects the heat exchanger to be replaced and the facility ready to operate again by the end of the year.
Washington River Protection Solutions also will make other improvements to the facility to prepare it to take some waste water related to the start of vitrification plant operations as early as 2022, in addition to other uses.
The PermaFix system would have included two evaporators, with one available as a backup, to heat waste water to boil off most of the liquid. The remaining brine would have been solidified and treated for disposal, with any waste coming from Hanford returned there.