Columbia Basin College is helping Hanford officials take the next step toward getting the $17 billion vitrification plant ready to treat waste by 2023.
The massive plant is being built to glassify some of the nation’s most dangerous radioactive and hazardous waste.
Vit plant employees who could eventually be operating the Analytical Laboratory at the Hanford nuclear reservation’s vit plant are coming up with the processes and procedures at the college’s Pasco campus that will be used at the plant’s lab.
A lab set up at CBC also is allowing chemists and laboratory specialists to train on equipment that will be transferred to the vitrification plant.
“We’ve already begun and will continue to hire and train the staff for the laboratory,” said Brian Reilly, vit plant project director for Department of Energy contractor Bechtel National.
About 40 employees will be needed at the lab.
Bechtel is taking the plant from its design and construction through commissioning, which will test plant operations using first a nonradioactive waste simulant and then radioactive waste.
“We are really in the phase where we are now starting that transition to operations, as so many people have worked for so long to enable us to achieve,” said Brian Vance, manager of the DOE Office of River Protection.
“This is a big transition. Going from a construction project that has been going on for a very long time and making that transition to operations is critical.”
Ground was broken on the plant in 2002, with the Analytical Laboratory one of four major facilities on the 65-acre campus in central Hanford.
The plant is being built to turn up to 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical waste in underground tanks into a stable form for disposal. The waste is left from World War II and Cold War production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.
Staff could make the transition from the CBC lab, called the Analytical Methods Laboratory, to the actual Analytical Laboratory at Hanford in late 2019.
Staff will work at the lab at Hanford through commissioning and could be hired as the plant begins operating under a contractor yet to be picked.
“(It’s) a wonderful example of how the next generation of the workforce needed at Hanford to support their cleanup mission is receiving their training and preparation right here on our campus,” said Rebekah Woods, CBC president.
CBC has leased the space for the campus lab to Bechtel and also is playing a role in preparing new workers who will be needed as construction wraps up and work advances through start up of the plant’s systems and then commissioning and operation.
A commissioning technician course is offered and laboratory technician training will be added. In January a training room will be added to the lab at CBC.
No radioactive waste will be used at the CBC lab.
The Analytical Laboratory at Hanford will analyze about 3,000 samples of tank waste annually, starting with low activity radioactive waste.
The plant is not required to be in full operation, including treating high level radioactive waste, until 2036 under terms of a federal court consent decree.
Batches of waste will be analyzed at the Hanford lab to come up with the best recipe for the different ingredients of the glass forming material that will be added to the waste to form glass.
Other samples will be taken throughout the vitrification process to verify work is proceeding as planned and that a high-quality glass will be produced.
“It’s another major step in the direction of moving in a focus on construction to operations,” Vance said.