Huge melter lids arrive at Hanford's vit plant

Two 30-ton, carbon steel lids arrived at the Hanford vitrification plant Thursday.

They'll top the two melters that will be used at the plant's Low Activity Waste Facility to turn radioactive waste into a stable glass form for disposal.

But Thursday's delivery from Petersen Inc. in Ogden, Utah, was just a preview of what is to come.

Next month the Low Activity Waste Facility melters also are scheduled to arrive from Utah. They'll require a heavy-haul transporter 200 feet long to balance their weight and will need to be lowered to get under some overpasses, said Carrie Meyer, Department of Energy spokeswoman.

"The LAW melters are the largest waste-processing melters ever built, and there's been considerable work dedicated to manufacturing and delivering them," said Rich Brown, Bechtel National area project manager for plant equipment, in a statement.

The base and walls for a single melter weigh about 110 tons and measure 30 feet long, 21 feet wide and 13 feet tall. They also will have a gas barrier lid, a radiation shield lid, a refractory brick interior and other components that will feed, stir and monitor the glass mixture.

Each melter, weighing about 300 tons, will be used to heat waste and glass-forming materials to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit before the mixture is poured into stainless steel canisters for storage or disposal.

The lids that arrived Thursday were hauled on two tractor-trailers and each were about 26 feet long, 15 feet wide and 3 feet tall.

"Delivery of the LAW melters and associated components, including these lids, represents the culmination of extensive vitrification research and testing focused on removing the threat posed by Hanford's 53 million gallons of tank waste," said Gary Olsen, DOE project director for the building, in a statement.

The Low Activity Waste Facility is expected to be finished by 2015 and be operating by 2019.

The vit plant also will have two melters at the High Level Waste Facility to turn the worst of the tank radioactive waste into a stable glass form. Each of those melters will weigh 90 tons.