Public can learn about Hanford radioactive waste proposals at two Richland meetings

The public can learn about two Hanford radioactive tank waste issues this week.

On Wednesday the Department of Energy will discuss plans to remove radioactive cesium from waste held in underground tanks to allow it to be treated as low activity radioactive waste at the nuclear reservation site’s vitrification plant.

DOE faces a deadline to start treating low activity radioactive waste no later than 2023, but construction is on hold at the plant’s Pretreatment Facility to work out technical issues related to high level radioactive waste.

The Pretreatment Facility is being built to separate much of the 56 million gallons of radioactive waste held in Hanford’s underground waste into low activity and high level waste streams for separate treatment.

With the plant not available by 2023, DOE needs a way to separate a low activity waste stream from the tank waste, which includes removing solids and radioactive cesium.

DOE is proposing starting with a Tank-Side Cesium Removal unit that would remove both cesium and solid materials from tank waste.

The system would filter liquid waste to remove solids and use an ion exchange system to remove cesium.

In the second phase of waste pretreatment a second Tank-Side Cesium Removal unit could be added, or a permanent Low Activity Waste Pretreatment Facility could be built.

The public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Richland Public Library is to provide information as DOE applies for a change to its Hanford Facility Dangerous Waste Permit issued by the Washington state Department of Ecology to allow the pretreatment project.

Comments may be sent until June 30 to Washington state Department of Ecology, 3100 Port of Benton Blvd., Richland, WA., 99354.

For links to submit comments electronically or attend the meeting by webinar, go to May 29 on the event calendar at www.hanford.gov.

At the Thursday DOE meeting, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will give DOE requests for more information for the NRC’s review of a draft DOE evaluation that could lead to the 16 tanks of the C Tank Farm being filled with grout and closed in place.

DOE must show it would be safe to leave some residual radioactive waste in the tanks if they are filled will grout.

Hanford contractors have retrieved 96 percent of the waste in the C Farm tanks and transferred it to newer, double-shell tanks until it can be treated for disposal. The C Farm tanks are the first group of tanks to be emptied to regulatory standards.

The waste is left from the past production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. May 30 at the Best Western Plus M Hotel, 1515 George Washington Way, Richland. The public may provide informal comments at the meeting.