1 of 2 Hanford vit plant melter assemblies arrive

RICHLAND -- The first of two 125-ton melter assemblies arrived at the Hanford vitrification plant Friday after an 800-mile, four-state journey.

The melter assembly was carried on a 190-foot-long, heavy-haul transporter that could travel a maximum of 45 mph. The journey took four days and included a delay in Oregon on Thursday for a flat tire.

"The melters are central to the vitrification process and receiving them is a huge milestone toward treating Hanford's radioactive tank waste," Dale Knutson, the vitrification plant's federal project director, said in a written statement. "This receipt brings us one step closer to achieving operations in 2019."

The transporter now is expected to return to manufacturer Petersen Inc. in Ogden, Utah, to pick up the second melter assembly.

The melter assemblies, which include the base and walls, measure 30 feet long, 21 feet wide and 13 feet tall.

They will 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.