The Hanford vitrification plant will be the focus of a public hearing of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board on Thursday in Kennewick.
It's the second time the Washington, D.C., board has visited the Hanford area to take a close look at vitrification plant issues.
An afternoon session will focus on plans to resolve technical issues at the $12.2 billion plant planned to treat much of the 56 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in underground tanks at Hanford. The waste is left from the past production of weapons plutonium.
Unresolved technical issues include keeping high-level radioactive waste adequately mixed in vessels in the plant. Inadequate mixing could lead to a buildup of flammable gases or a small risk of a criticality.
The board also will hear testimony about the rate of expected corrosion in piping and vessels that will hold high-level radioactive waste to be certain they will last until all the waste is turned into a stable glass form. Concerns have been raised that potential fixes to the waste mixing issue could accelerate corrosion and erosion in vessels.
Resolving technical issues before construction is completed is crucial because the plant is not designed to allow workers to safely enter areas, called black cells, where problems could occur after the cells are contaminated with high-level radioactive waste.
The afternoon session also will include a panel discussion on development of the documented safety analysis for the plant, which is required to demonstrate it will operate safely.
The evening session will focus on the vitrification plant project's safety culture, including whether engineers and scientists on the plant feel free to raise technical issues that could affect the future safe operation of the plant.
Recent DOE and Bechtel National safety culture assessments will be discussed, followed by a panel on causes of problems identified and the path forward.
The meeting will be at the Three Rivers Convention Center, 7016 W. Grandridge Blvd. The afternoon session will start at 1 p.m. and conclude with public statements from 3:30 to 4 p.m. The evening session will begin at 6 p.m. and include time from 8:20 to 8:50 p.m. for public statements.
Those wishing to speak are advised to contact the board in advance at 800-788-4016. Written comments also will be accepted at the hearing.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org; more Hanford news at hanfordnews.com