The analytical laboratory at Hanford's Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant has secured an operating permit from the Washington Department of Ecology.
While it will be several years before the services of the lab are required, the approval represents the first vitrification-related facility to complete all phases of Washington's permit process, from initial design through construction.
The laboratory will support the plan of the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management to treat low-activity tank waste at the vitrification plant.
Samples of incoming waste will be analyzed to ensure operators use the correct mix of ingredients to yield high-quality glass forms, Ecology said.
It will also sample the glass produced at the low-activity waste facility to ensure they meet the requirements of the Hanford cleanup.
The lab is expected to analyze about 3,000 samples each year once the plant begins operating.
That is not expected to happen before 2021, an Ecology spokesman said. Low-level waste treatment must start by 2023 under a court order.
The lab is adjacent the Low Activity Waste Facility.
The operating permit is one of a series of key steps DOE contractor Bechtel National expects to accomplish in 2018 as it shifts its emphasis from engineering and construction to commissioning the waste treatment plant.
The vit plant is being built to convert up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste into stable glass form for disposal.
The waste is the result of plutonium production at Hanford for the nation's nuclear weapons program from World War II through the Cold War.
The court-set deadline for full operation is 2036.