Progress is being made on the portions of the Hanford vitrification plant that do not have to contend with the worst of the radioactive waste that will be sent to the plant.
At least 80 percent of the design, purchasing and construction has been completed on the buildings at the vitrification plant other than its two largest facilities, the Pretreatment Facility and the High Level Waste Facility.
Construction on the Pretreatment Facility and part of the High Level Waste Facility has stopped until technical issues related to high level waste are resolved.
But work continues on the plant’s 65-acre campus on the Hanford nuclear reservation, with work being done at its two other major facilities, the Low Activity Waste Facility and the Analytical Laboratory. Work also continues on about 20 smaller support facilities on the campus.
Start-up activities for those buildings that will not handle high-level radioactive waste is about 7 percent complete.
75 percent of design, procurement and construction completed at Low Activity Waste Facility
DOE has proposed a plan to start operating those facilities to glassify low-activity radioactive waste as soon as 2022.
Design, procurement and construction on the Low Activity Waste Facility, where melters will turn low-activity waste into a stable glass form for disposal at Hanford, is at least 75 percent complete, according to the Department of Energy. The building will measure 330 feet by 240 feet and stand 90 feet tall.
The 115,000 feet of piping for the building started to arrive at the plant in late 2003. Earlier this year the last of the bulk piping for the building arrived at Hanford.
More than 110,000 feet of piping has been installed, or nearly 21 miles, with the final installations expected to be completed in 2017. Piping ranges from one-half inch in diameter to 24 inches in diameter.
Other recent work at the building has included placing a cement-like material, called castable refractory, into the lid of one of the two radioactive waste glass melters.
It resembles wet contract when mixed, and it hardens to provide heat resistance for the glass melters. Each glass melter lid contains almost 200 cubic feet of refractory and weighs 25.5 tons, according to Bechtel National.
21miles of piping installed in Low Activity Waste Facility
The completed melters will weigh 300 tons each and will be the largest waste glass melters in the world, according to Bechtel.
Construction work on the Analytical Laboratory, which will measure 320 feet by 180 feet, is considered at least 96 percent complete. The state of Washington, the regulator on the project, agreed in court documents that construction of the lab is substantially completed.
Because DOE and the state have agreed that the best course of action is to start treating low-activity waste while technical issues related to high-level waste are resolved, the lab is not being outfitted now with the hot cells and other analytical equipment that would be used for high-level radioactive waste. Technical issues include a small chance of an unplanned nuclear reaction and corrosion of equipment in the plant.
The lab will be used to ensure that all the waste-containing glass produced at the vitrification plant meets regulatory requirements and standards. Each year, the lab will analyze about 10,000 waste samples, according to Bechtel.
Samples initially will be used to confirm that the correct recipe of glass-forming material is used to produce the glass. Samples also will be taken throughout the vitrification process to ensure a high-quality glass product.
95 feet is planned height of High Level Waste Facility
The smaller support facilities, including the steam plant and other buildings that comprise the infrastructure to support processing at the plant, are at least 80 percent constructed.
Some construction continues on the High Level Waste Facility as technical issues are resolved.
Work has been done on the 58-foot elevation — the fifth of six levels of the plant that will stand 95 feet high.
DOE expects that the major technical issues that affect high-level radioactive waste at the Pretreatment Facility and the High Level Waste Facility will be resolved by September 2019. Design changes could follow.