Hanford Pipeline Completed, Facility on Track to Process Radioactive Waste

Hanford workers finished a 3,500-foot-long pipeline this month that will connect one of the site’s 27 double-shell tanks in the underground tank farm to the vitrification plant that will treat low-level radioactive waste.

This represents a major achievement for the Department of Energy (DOE) to meet the federal-court ordered 2023 deadline to start treating the least radioactive of the 56 million gallons of waste in the tank farm.

DOE’s plan to handle this low-level waste is to have the Tank-Side Cesium Removal system pretreat some of the liquid portion of the tank waste and remove the radioactive material. The solid waste in the liquid will be treated and disposed of as high level radioactive waste.

Workers already installed the pretreatment system next to a double-shell tank that will act as a holding tank for pretreating the waste before it goes through the pipeline to the vitrification plant. This plant turns the waste into glass.

The underground pipe finished this month is reinforced to guard against leaks, as waste moves in batches to the vitrification plant.

Other preparations for treating this waste include finishing the testing of the plant’s equipment and heating one of two 300-ton melters by the end of this year.

Melters are huge furnaces used to heat the low-radioactive waste with glass-forming materials to more than 2,000 degrees. This produces a stable glass form. The mixture is then poured into stainless steel containers for permanent storage. The entire process is called vitrification.

The melters are undergoing start-up and operational testing to ensure they can run continuously during the startup and treatment of low-level waste.

Hanford officials expect to pretreat the lower level tank waste by early 2022 and to start turning it into glass by the end of 2023.

Pictured: Crews with EM tank operations contractor Washington River Protection Solutions and subcontractor Apollo, Inc. fit the final sections of double-walled pipe in place, connecting the Hanford Site tank farms to the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. Courtesy: Dept. of Energy

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