Concrete work has started on a newly planned Effluent Management Facility at the Hanford vitrification plant to allow treatment of some waste to begin within a decade.
The new project is intended to take on some of the work of the vitrification plant’s Pretreatment Facility, which is not required to commence operations until 2033 under the revised federal court consent decree issued last week.
Technical issues have delayed work on the parts of the vitrification plant that will handle high-level radioactive waste — the Pretreatment and High-Level Waste facilities.
The new project is a workaround to allow the Department of Energy to treat low-activity radioactive waste as soon as 2022 or 2023.
One facility will need to be built for the front end of the operation — preparing a stream of low-activity waste from the contents of underground storage. A smaller waste preparation facility with limited capabilities is planned to be built in the tank farms.
A second facility — the one on which work has started — is needed for the back end of operations. It will condense secondary waste, or waste collected in the plant’s off-gas system, until the Pretreatment Facility is up and running.
Right now it’s progressing well.
Jason Young, DOE project director
It will be needed by the end of 2022, when DOE is required under the newly amended consent decree to start cold commissioning, or test operations without using radioactive waste, of its Low Activity Waste Facility at the vitrification plant.
DOE plans a “design-build” project with design work continuing to be done as construction progresses on the facility.
The design-build process being used for the main vitrification plant is a process no longer approved by DOE for large, complex construction projects. But it is acceptable for the Effluent Management Facility because it is using known technology already developed for parts of the Pretreatment Facility not affected by technical issues, according to DOE.
Ground was broken on the Effluent Management Facility in December, with the design about 30 percent complete. Design now is about 45 percent complete and concrete is being laid for the below-ground base of the building by Bechtel National, the vitrification plant contractor.
“Right now it’s progressing well,” said Jason Young, DOE project director for the vitrification plant support facilities, in a statement. “Construction and design are on schedule, and we are looking for opportunities to improve schedule where possible.”
The planned building will be about 18,400 square feet with sturdy concrete construction and steel tanks. Work to purchase the tanks has started.
The Low Activity Waste Facility will mix waste with glass-forming material and heat it to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit to create a stable glass waste product that will be buried at a Hanford landfill.
New consent decree requires the vit plant to be ready to treat low-activity waste in 2023, but DOE and the state have discussed starting treatment in 2022.
The low-activity waste captured in the off-gas system during processing will be sent to the new Effluent Management Facility for evaporation. Less-contaminated fluid will be sent to the Effluent Treatment Facility a mile north of Hanford for treatment with other Hanford waste.
The remaining, more contaminated concentrate will be sent back to the Low Activity Waste Facility for vitrification.
The new facility also will have an 8,400-square-foot utility building to house electrical cabinets, among other equipment.
DOE does not plan to release information about the cost of the new facility while it is in contract negotiations with Bechtel.
Before the walls of the main building start to go up, the official start of construction, DOE will need a Washington state permit. It could be ready in November, although the state said it was too early to confirm that.
The state Department of Ecology is working closely with DOE and Bechtel to develop permit documents, which are part of the vitrification plant permits, according to the Department of Ecology. DOE has only submitted draft permit documents so far.
The state has supported plans to start treating low-activity waste for disposal before the entire plant is fully operating, which is required by 2036.