Installation of the two melters at the Low-Activity Waste Facility at the Hanford’ Site’s Waste Treatment Plant has been completed, a key milestone on the project, plant officials announced Wednesday.
“When operational, these melters will be the largest operating vitrification plant melters in the world,” said Bill Hamel, Department of Energy project director for the vit plant, which will convert millions of gallons of chemical and radioactive waste stored at Hanford into a glass form for permanent disposal.
The melters are 10 times larger than the melters being used to treat high-level radioactive waste at DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina, said Peggy McCullough, vitrification plant project director for contract prime Bechtel National.
“With the melters assembled and all major process equipment already installed, our workforce remains on pace toward the construction complete contract milestone of June 2018 for the LAW Facility,” McCullough said. Under Bechtel National’s contract it earned $4.275 million for assembling the first melter this spring and should earn the same for the second melter.
Each melter weighs 300 tons and measures 20 by 30 feet and 16 feet high. Together they will produce 30 tons of glass a day. The melters will heat a mixture of concentrated low-activity radioactive waste and glass-forming material to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. The mixture will be poured into steel containers to harden for disposal at Hanford.
A federal court order requires the Waste Treatment Plant to begin full operations by the close of 2036. Processing of low-activity waste must begin by 2023, though Bechtel would forfeit millions of dollars in fees if processing does not begin in 2022.