Crews at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Washington state are doing electrical testing, setting the stage to again start heating up the first melter at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, the agency’s acting nuclear cleanup boss said this week.
“At Hanford we resumed our electrical testing for the vitrification plant,” William (Ike) White, senior adviser of the Office of Environmental Management, said May 22 during an online meeting of a DOE cleanup advisory board.
“We are also beginning to get into the final couple of weeks before we are able to resume another heat up,” White told the Environmental Management Advisory Board. There is “a lot of work to be done,” White said of the next step toward converting radioactive tank waste into glass logs.
White did not put a date range on when heat-up of the first melter is expected to resume. Likewise, a DOE nuclear cleanup spokesperson said Wednesday no restart date has been set yet.
Heating up the first melter at the Waste Treatment Plant, built by Bechtel National, was suspended by DOE in October 2022 due to various glitches including problems with the Joule heater power supply, DOE said in January.
Heating up the first melter for the plant’s Direct-Feed-Low-Activity-Waste Facilities is a process that takes about two months. The vitrification plant will not be cleared for glass-making operations until a second melter is heated up and equipment is vetted to handle the exhaust, also known as off-gas.
DOE now expects hot commissioning of the low-level radioactive waste operations by fiscal 2025. A year ago, the agency was targeting the end of the 2023 calendar year. Hanford has about 56 million gallons of liquid tank waste, most of it low-level, left over from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.