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First massive melter on its way to Hanford

The first of two 125-ton melter assemblies for the Hanford vitrification plant has started its slow journey from Utah, taking up two lanes of the roads it travels.

The melter assembly is being carried on a 190-foot-long, heavy-haul transporter that can travel a maximum of 45 mph. It is expected to reach Hanford by Friday or sometime next week, depending on factors such as weather.

The caravan, which includes support cars, is making good time. Monday it left manufacturer Petersen Inc. in Ogden, Utah, and made it to Moreland, Idaho, north of Pocatello, Idaho. It traveled 170 miles at an average speed of 22.6 mph.

Tuesday it was moving through Idaho. The driver has been traveling along the side of the road, to allow traffic to pass in the left lane in many places.

One of the worst stretches, the steep Deadman's Pass on Cabbage Hill east of Pendleton, is expected to be particularly slow going.

The transporter includes a tractor in front, a 13-axle trailer and another tractor in back. The clearance between the bottom of the trailer and the road is just nine inches. The transporter is accompanied by two lead cars that verify clearances, one or two follow cars and a transporter carrying a forklift to provide support during stops.

Bechtel National began discussing logistics with state and local governments along the route in June and has agreed to conditions, such as not traveling at certain times of the day to disrupt local traffic as little as possible.

The melter assemblies, which include the base and the walls, measure 30 feet long, 21 feet wide and 13 feet tall. They'll be assembled with radiation shield lids that already have been shipped, a refractory brick interior that will be built in place at the vitrification plant, a gas barrier lid and components to feed, stir and monitor the glass mixture.

When complete, the two melters each will weigh 300 tons. They will be the world's largest waste-processing melters in operation.

They will be used at Hanford's vitrification plant to melt low-activity radioactive waste and glass formers to turn waste into a sturdy glass form for disposal. The waste is left from the past production of plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program.

Two smaller melters are being built to treat high-level radioactive waste at the vit plant. The plant is expected to be operating in 2019.

To track the progress of the melters with photos and daily updates, go to www.hanfordvitplant.com/lawmelterblog/on the internet.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; More Hanford news at hanfordnews.com

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