Weapons Complex Vol. 25 No. 11
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Weapons Complex Monitor
Article 11 of 13
June 09, 2014

AT IDAHO

By Martin Schneider

DOE BEGINS IWTU READINESS ASSESSMENT

WC Monitor
3/14/2014

Efforts to start up the Idaho Integrated Waste Treatment Unit took another step forward this week, with the Department of Energy launching a readiness assessment expected to take two weeks to complete. The purpose of the assessment is to help evaluate whether the facility is ready for the introduction of steam and simulated waste as part of the overall effort to get it into full operation, according to Danielle Miller, a spokeswoman for the DOE Idaho Operations Office. The DOE assessment will largely examine areas similar to those examined by cleanup contractor CH2M-WG Idaho in a recently completed assessment it performed, Miller said. “Both assessment teams are looking at basically the same areas and the difference is the DOE perspective versus a contractor’s perspective with regard to being ready. The facility is currently at normal operating temperature and pressure and will be maintained in that condition through the assessment. The readiness assessments are conducted with the purpose of ensuring and maintaining safe operations,” she said in a written response.

DOE officials have said the IWTU, also known as the Sodium-Bearing Waste Treatment Facility, is expected to begin full operation later this spring (WC Monitor, Vol. 25 No. 10). The facility is intended to treat the approximately 900,000 gallons of remaining liquid waste at the Idaho site through a steam reforming process for disposal and to allow for closure of the site’s remaining waste tanks. DOE has a commitment to the state of Idaho to have the liquid waste processed by the end of this year, and both the Department and CWI have stressed they believe the milestone can still be met. 

DOE previously had a commitment to the state to complete processing of the waste by the end of 2012, but in the summer of that year, startup of the facility was significant disrupted by what has been described as a “pressure event.” The incident occurred when the facility’s filters became clogged with carbon material during efforts to get it up to its operating temperature. The facility was shut down and DOE and CWI implemented a set of modifications, the last of which were completed last summer. Since then, DOE and CWI have worked to get the facility up to its normal operating temperature and pressure. Once the readiness assessments are completed, steam and a waste simulant will be introduced in the facility to complete the integrated system test now underway. Once the test is completed, depending on the results, the facility will enter into a planned cool-down and outage period, and DOE will seek permission from Idaho regulators to initiate actual waste processing.

IWTU Issues Factor in Y-12/Pantex Contract

Notably, the difficulties encountered to date in getting the IWTU up and running appear to have played a role in Bechtel-led Consolidated Nuclear Security’s win of the new Y-12/Pantex management contract, according to information the Government Accountability Office released this week. The IWTU’s impact on how the National Nuclear Security Administration evaluated the two bids submitted for the contract was outlined in the GAO’s decision denying a third protest filed by B&W-led Nuclear Production Partners, LLC (NP2). NP2 includes URS, which is also part of CWI.  According to the GAO decision, the IWTU issues hurt NP2 when it came to evaluating the contractor’s past performance issues concerning its proposal for the Uranium Processing Facility to be built at Y-12.  

The decision states that “while both CNS and NPP [NP2] were rated satisfactory, the SSA noted a significant risk associated with performance of an [NP2] team member, URS Energy & Construction, Inc., on the ‘Integrated Waste Treatment Unit’ (IWTU) project.” The decision adds, “Although the project was completed in April 2012, ‘it has not successfully been put into operation.’ Accordingly, the SSA [Source Selection Authority] concluded that CNS ‘has a slight advantage over NPP’ under this evaluation factor.” URS declined to comment on the issue this week.

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