Journey to Melter Heatup
The Department of Energy’s Hanford Vit Plant is on a journey to heat up the first of two melters, considered the heart of a process that transforms nuclear waste into a glass form safe for storage. This process – called vitrification – will help protect our environment and rivershore communities from Hanford’s legacy waste. Follow us on this journey toward achieving Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste as early as December 2023, which follows a process called Commissioning to reach operations.
Commissioning is fully underway. Learn more about key steps along the Commissioning road with these interactive waypoints, below.
Hanford Site crews recently completed the first transfer of test water from the Vit Plant’s Effluent Management Facility (EMF) to the nearby Liquid Effluent Retention Facility (LERF). The transfer of 6,000 gallons was the first simulation of the process that will be used to treat secondary liquid waste from the plant’s Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility during Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) Program operations to treat tank waste.
As any sports fan can attest, achieving greatness takes more than just a team full of star players. Experienced coaches need to design the plays and guide them to success. The team at the Vit Plant follows that model in its approach to operations with the recent addition of conduct-of-operations coaches.
The Hanford Vit Plant team recently reached a historic milestone when its first crew of commissioning technicians became fully qualified control room operators. “The Bravo crew set the standard, and we’ve qualified additional crews since,” said Valerie McCain, project director and senior vice president for Bechtel National, Inc., the EM Office of River Protection (ORP) prime contractor designing, building and commissioning the plant. “It is an important achievement as we ensure the people, plant, and paperwork or processes are ready as we go into melter heatup and cold commissioning.”
The Vit Plant has completed all startup testing of components and systems associated with transforming low-activity tank waste into a safe form for disposal. This accomplishment moves the plant fully into the commissioning phase where final steps are taken to prepare for vitrifying, or immobilizing in glass, radioactive and chemical waste as part of Hanford’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) Program.
The Vit Plant has successfully completed a loss of offsite power (LOOP) commissioning test, a critical step toward the heatup of melters and vitrification of Hanford’s radioactive and chemical tank waste for disposal. When offsite power was cut during the test, plant personnel activated backup power to keep critical safety systems operational while they worked through procedures to restore power to the plant.
Considered the “heart” of the Low-Activity Waste Facility, two 300-ton nuclear waste melters – the largest nuclear industry melters in the world – will be used to heat Hanford’s low-activity tank waste and glass-forming materials to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The heated mixture is then poured into stainless steel containers for permanent storage – a process called vitrification. Employees have finished assembly of the melters and these key pieces of equipment are now undergoing extensive startup and commissioning testing to ensure successful melter heatup and operation.