$17 billion Hanford vit plant has a new leader

An aerial view of the vitrification plant plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
An aerial view of the vitrification plant plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation.

Bechtel National has picked a new top leader for the Hanford nuclear reservation’s $17 billion vitrification plant as it is preparing for a limited startup.

Brian Reilly, the current Bechtel project director, told project employees on Friday that he had been named the project director for the Vogtle 3 and 4 nuclear power plants that Bechtel is building in Georgia.

Valerie McCain will take over for him at the vitrification plant.

She now has the job that Reilly left 10 months ago to come to Hanford: project manager at the $6.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility being built in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

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Reilly told employees after he was transferred in December that he planned to see the Hanford vit plant through its first-start-up phase.

“While that was both my and Bechtel’s plan, the situation has changed, and I go where my company decides I need to be,” Reilly said in a message to employees.

Valerie McCain.jpg
Valerie McCain

The Waste Treatment Plant should begin turning some of Hanford’s low-activity radioactive tank waste into a stable glass form for disposal before a legal deadline of 2023, with full operation of the plant to also treat high-level radioactive waste required by 2036. Hanford’s underground tanks, some of them prone to leaks, hold 56 million gallons of radioactive waste left from the past production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

“We are building the plant that will solve the decades-old problem of liquid tank waste threatening the Columbia River and nearby communities,” Reilly said.

He said he had confidence that McCain would build on work at the vitrification plant done this year.

The project has been finishing startup testing and moving into the commissioning phase for the 20 buildings that will support operations of the plant, including electrical, water treatment and non-radioactive, liquid-waste disposal buildings.

It also passed a major milestone in the spring, winning DOE approval of its safety analysis that identifies the potential hazards associated with treating low-activity waste and the controls that will be used to address hazards and protect workers, the public and the environment.

Brian Reilly

McCain is an environmental scientist by training and has provided oversight of Bechtel work in North America, Europe, Africa, Australia and the Middle East. Projects during her 28 years at Bechtel have included leadership roles at the Pueblo, Colo., plant for destroying chemical weapons and an aluminum smelter modernization project in Australia.

“She has a diversity of experience across industries, countries and customers in high-hazard construction efforts,” Reilly told employees.

McCain is expected to start work at Hanford in October.

Kim Irwin, deputy director of the Bechtel vit plant project, will serve as the transition lead as McCain starts work, Reilly said. Then she will be leaving Hanford to go to the Horizon Wylfa Newydd project in Wales, where a former nuclear power station is being decommissioned and two new plants are being built.

The vit plant project’s area manager for direct feed low activity waste, Felice Presti, will become deputy project director effective Sept. 29.

Annette Cary; 509-582-1533; @HanfordNews