Crane components installed at vit plant

Crews at the Hanford vitrification plant installed Friday major components of an overhead crane that officials say will be essential to plant operations.

The pieces were lowered through the roof into the canyon-like center that runs the length of the vit plant's largest facility, the pretreatment facility.

The $12.2 billion plant is being built to turn up to 53 million gallons of radioactive waste left from defense production of plutonium at Hanford into a stable glass form for disposal.

When the plant is operational, the canyonlike center, known as the "hot cell," will not be accessed by humans, and the equipment stored in it will be maintained using only remote-handling equipment and the crane.

"The crane will be absolutely essential to maintaining the process equipment housed in the Pretreatment Facility," said Ty Troutman, area project manager for the facility, in a press release.

The 30-ton capacity crane is made up of four major components: a bridge, trolley, slewer (a rotating overhead base) and a telescoping mast with manipulator arm. These pieces will maximize the versatility of the crane, allowing it to move and rotate in virtually all directions. The manipulator arm and seven hooks, which extend and retract, provide additional functionality, officials say.

Using a rail system installed this fall, the crane will be able to move the length of the 400-foot-long hot cell, as well as in and out of maintenance areas. It was manufactured by PaR Systems in St. Paul, Minn.

The vit plant will cover 65 acres with four nuclear facilities -- pretreatment, low-activity waste vitrification, high-level waste vitrification and analytical laboratory -- as well as operations and maintenance buildings, utilities and office space.

Construction began in 2001 and is now 58 percent complete. The plant is expected to be operating in 2019.