Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), Hanford’s Tank Operations Contractor, is managing risks to our workers, the public and the environment while working to meet challenging milestones for tank waste retrieval and preparing to feed waste to the Waste Treatment Plant.
Five strategic priorities are guiding our work for the Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection: complete C Farm waste retrieval, commence the next round of single-shell tank retrievals, maximize the usable storage space in Hanford’s double-shell tanks, improve tank farm infrastructure, and integrate the tank farms with the Waste Treatment Plant.
Retrieving tank waste
WRPS completed retrieval from four underground tanks in C Farm last year, bringing the total number of retrieved single-shell tanks to 14. Retrieval methods included modified sluicing adding chemicals to soften the waste, and using the Foldtrack, a remotely operated bulldozer with high-pressure water nozzles, to break up hard waste.
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As we work to empty the last tanks in C Farm, WRPS is preparing for the next round of retrievals in the A and AX farms. Preparations include refurbishing and installing tank farm ventilation systems, controlling trailers, changing trailers, lighting, parking and other infrastructure.
We are also preparing to retrieve the waste from double-shell tank AY-102, which was confirmed to be leaking from its inner shell in October 2012. The tank has been taken out of service and will be pumped beginning in March 2016.
Maximizing tank storage space and improving infrastructure
Our mission also requires additional double-shell tank storage space. The 242-A Evaporator, since going into operation in 1977, has removed nearly 68 million gallons of water from tank waste, reducing the volume stored in double-shell tanks and making room for waste retrieved from single-shell tanks. The evaporator completed an operating campaign in October after four years of upgrades and will complete more operating campaigns this year.
A major WRPS priority is improving tank farm infrastructure. The tanks and their control systems are aging. In 2014, a central tank operations control room replaced six remote control rooms. It monitors leak detection, tank waste levels, waste transfers, exhausters and other vital functions. There are two operating nuclear facilities at Hanford that are essential to the safe operations of the tank farms: the 242-A Evaporator and the 222-S Laboratory. Both facilities are being gradually upgraded and modernized to extend their operating lives by several decades.
Integrating with the
Waste Treatment Plant
In support of the Waste Treatment Plant, WRPS’ One System program office is developing program management tools. Key to the program plan is a new Low-Activity Waste Pretreatment System (LAWPS) that will prepare tank waste for treatment at the Waste Treatment Plant’s (WTP) Low-Activity Waste Vitrification Facility.
The LAWPS will filter high-level radioactive solids from tank waste and use an ion-exchange process to remove dissolved radionuclides. The resulting low-activity waste will be fed directly to the Low-Activity Waste Vitrification Facility to produce glassified waste.
Keeping workers safe
WRPS continues to have one of the best industrial safety records among DOE contractors. It was recognized this year for achieving Star status in the Department of Energy’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). VPP Star status recognizes that WRPS has significantly improved its safety and health program, fostered additional employee involvement, and improved the relationship between managers and workers.
With increased waste retrievals and waste transfers, protecting tank farm workers from chemical vapors took on increased emphasis. An independent team of nationally known experts, led by the Savannah River National Laboratory, conducted an assessment of the issue. The team issued a report in October with recommendations for improving the industrial hygiene program to deal with Hanford’s unique environment. WRPS is implementing a plan to address the recommendations.
Since 2008, WRPS has contributed more than $4.5 million to community events and initiatives. In 2014, the company provided $50,000 to the Reach in Richland for a new environmental and natural resources education initiative, after previously providing $600,000 toward the facility’s construction.