This past year, I had the privilege of becoming the new president and project manager of Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), Hanford’s tank farms contractor.
I’m proud to be part of a team that performs highly hazardous work with exceptional skill, great efficiency and a steadfast commitment to safety. By working together with the Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection, we are reducing the risks to the public and environment posed by Hanford’s radioactive and chemical tank waste.
The blueprint we use to safely and efficiently retrieve tank waste and develop a delivery system to the planned Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) is based on five strategic priorities: complete C Farm waste retrieval, maximize the usable storage space in Hanford’s double-shell tanks, improve tank farm infrastructure, commence the next round of single-shell tank (SST) retrievals and integrate with the WTP.
Retrieving tank waste
We recently completed retrieving nearly 300,000 gallons of radioactive and chemical waste from tank C-102, allowing the waste to be transferred to double-shell tanks. We now have retrieved 14 of the 16 single-shell tanks in C Farm, which brings us to 15 SSTs tanks retrieved overall including S-112.
As we move closer to completing waste retrieval in C Farm, we’re preparing for waste retrieval from the next group of single-shell tanks in the A and AX farms. Meanwhile, after more than a year of installing new equipment, we’re set to begin retrieving nearly 800,000 gallons of waste from double-shell tank AY-102 in accordance with DOE’s agreement with Washington state.
Maximizing storage space and improving infrastructure
WRPS created nearly 2 million gallons of available double-shell tank storage space for liquid waste by completing four 242-A Evaporator campaigns. The 242-A Evaporator creates storage space by removing water and concentrating liquid waste, making double-shell tank space available to receive waste from single-shell tanks. This year, we plan to complete three more 242-A Evaporator campaigns.
Other infrastructure upgrades include the installation of exhausters and additional safety-related equipment in A and AX farms, and a new tank ventilation system in AP Farm.
We also made considerable progress in the five-year plan we developed in 2014 to upgrade the tank farms infrastructure, essential for maintaining safe and compliant operations and meeting our cleanup milestones. One of our focus areas has been the 222-S Laboratory, which is used to analyze waste samples in support of waste retrieval, transfers, safe storage and delivery of waste feed to the WTP. During the past year, we’ve continued to upgrade analytical instruments and renovate laboratory rooms, thereby enhancing the efficient utilization of the facility by the new laboratory operations contractor, Wastren Advantage, Inc.
In March 2015, WRPS also assumed operation of the Effluent Treatment Facility, which for the past 20 years has treated water contaminated with low levels of radioactive and chemical waste. Other infrastructure upgrades include the installation of exhausters and additional safety-related equipment in A and AX farms, and a new tank ventilation system in AP Farm.
Integrating with the Waste Treatment Plant
WRPS achieved a major milestone when DOE approved the conceptual design of the Low-Activity Waste Pretreatment System (LAWPS), a component of the DOE plan to begin treating to some tank waste as soon as 2022. LAWPS will pretreat the waste to create a low-activity waste stream that will be turned into a sturdy glass waste form at the WTP.
Keeping workers safe
In 2015, WRPS enhanced its reputation as one of DOE’s safest cleanup contractors by winning two awards at the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association (VPPPA) national conference. We received the VPP Innovation Award for developing a tool to reduce worker radiation exposure, and the VPP Star of Excellence as a VPP Star Site with injury/illness rates 75 percent below the national average.
We received the VPP Innovation Award for developing a tool to reduce worker radiation exposure, and the VPP Star of Excellence as a VPP Star Site with injury/illness rates 75 percent below the national average.
To address chemical vapors concerns in Hanford’s unique environment, we continue to implement external expert recommendations for enhancing our Industrial Hygiene program to provide increased protection for our workers. In recent weeks, we started a new tank headspace sampling campaign to further characterize chemical vapors, and we’re evaluating a variety of vapors detection and control technologies.
Since 2008, WRPS has contributed more than $5 million to community programs and initiatives. Most recently, we donated $127,000 to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs for Tri-City area students. We also donated $70,000 to the United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties and to several other organizations, including the March of Dimes, The ARC of Tri-Cities, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office and local food banks.
Additionally, we strive to keep our business local. In fiscal 2015 alone, we awarded about $150 million in subcontracts in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, of which nearly $127 million went to Benton, Franklin and Yakima counties.