Chief among the many accomplishments in 2014 at the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, also known as the vit plant, was resuming design work at the High-Level Waste (HLW) Vitrification Facility.
Work on certain areas of the HLW Facility was curtailed in early 2012 while technical decisions were finalized. By resuming engineering work in all areas of the facility, we’ll also be able to resume procurement and construction, which is a major step forward for the vit plant.
The HLW Facility is one of four major nuclear processing facilities under construction at the vit plant’s 65-acre construction site. The plant includes the HLW Facility, Pretreatment Facility, Low-Activity Waste Vitrification Facility, Analytical Laboratory and 20 infrastructure facilities and systems. It is being designed and built for the U.S. Department of Energy by Bechtel National Inc. and principal subcontractor URS.
Last year, work continued at the LAW Facility, the Analytical Lab and on infrastructure facilities and systems. Significant progress was made on the areas of the HLW Facility not affected by technical decisions, including completing 18 concrete placements.
We also placed a standby diesel generator, which is part of the infrastructure facilities and systems. The generator can supply 2,250 kilowatts of electricity, enough to support 1,800 average American households.
Important components of the two 300-ton melters in the LAW Facility were installed. Considered the heart of the vitrification process, the melters will heat liquid radioactive waste and glass-forming materials to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit before the mixture is poured into canisters and cooled for permanent storage.
In 2014, technicians began testing the control system for the vit plant pulse jet mixers. The tests continue and we will use the results to finalize vessel designs later this year. The results also will provide the data necessary to make the technical decisions about vit plant mixing technologies.
Our employees continued to advance design and construction at the vit plant while remaining committed to safety and quality. With more than 1,100 employees at our active construction site, we achieved our best-ever safety record with fewer injuries than at any other time in the project’s 14-year history. Our safety performance far exceeds construction industry standards, and we continue to strive for zero accidents.
The vit plant is the largest government construction project in the nation. We employ about 2,700 skilled craft and professionals and will hire more than 100 engineers in the coming months.
Our economic impact is substantial, especially locally. In Washington and Oregon, we have spent more than $1.6 billion on goods and services since the project began in 2000, including $95 million in 2014. Benton and Franklin counties have been the largest recipients of vit plant dollars with $1.2 billion provided to local vendors and subcontractors since 2000, including $79 million in 2014.
I continue to be impressed with the technical capabilities and quality of local businesses. They are essential to our success.
An equally impressive complement to the project dollars going to the community is the support provided by our employees to local charities and nonprofit agencies. In 2014, Bechtel, URS and vit plant employees donated more than $585,000 and thousands of volunteer hours to organizations and programs such as United Way, Second Harvest, March of Dimes, Junior Achievement and Toys for Tots.
Our mission fulfills a commitment the federal government made to the citizens of Eastern Washington to clean up the remnants of the nation’s World War II and Cold War success.
Specifically, our role is to design, build and commission the vit plant, which will solidify and immobilize 56 million gallons of liquid radioactive waste stored in 177 aging underground tanks. It’s a role we are privileged to fulfill, and we look forward to building on the 2014 successes in 2015.