During a visit to
the Hanford Site last week, EM Senior Advisor William “Ike” White, left,
got a look inside enclosures for the pretreatment system that will
prepare waste from Hanford’s large underground tanks to be fed directly
to a nearby facility and stabilized for disposal using vitrification, or
immobilization in glass, technology. Also pictured is Washington River
Protection Solutions President and CEO John Eschenberg.
RICHLAND, Wash. – EM Senior Advisor William “Ike” White
visited the Hanford Site last week to view progress
on the environmental cleanup mission.
“Despite unprecedented challenges caused by the ongoing
COVID-19 pandemic, the Hanford team has demonstrated an ability to
adjust, adapt, and move the cleanup mission forward,” said White. “They
are progressing the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) system
that puts tank waste treatment on the horizon at Hanford, and addressing
risks from the site’s plutonium production legacy.”
White got a firsthand look at advancements on several
projects critical to the DFLAW system that will transform the Hanford
Site by enabling a shift to tank waste treatment operations. The approach
is a system of interdependent projects and infrastructure improvements
that will operate together to send pretreated waste from Hanford’s tank farms directly to the Low-Activity
Waste Facility at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant
White began his visit at the AP Tank Farm, where the recent
delivery of a pretreatment system for tank waste marked the last piece of
the physical DFLAW system to be put in place at Hanford. At WTP, White
saw specially fabricated containers that were delivered to the site in
October that will hold vitrified waste after it is treated so that it can
be safely disposed.
EM Senior Advisor William “Ike” White,
right, stopped by the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant during a
visit to the Hanford Site last week and saw the first 20 containers that
will hold waste simulant and tank waste that is vitrified, or immobilized
in glass. Also pictured is Waste Treatment Completion Company Nuclear
Facility Manager Mike Huyck.
EM Senior Advisor William “Ike” White,
right, visited the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant’s Analytical
Laboratory, the first nuclear facility in the plant to move from startup
testing to commissioning following construction. The laboratory will analyze
approximately 3,000 samples a year to ensure low-activity tank waste
immobilized in glass meets disposal requirements. Also pictured is Waste
Treatment Completion Company Chemist Andrew Killgore.
White also visited the plant’s Analytical Laboratory, which recently
became the first nuclear facility at the plant to finish startup testing,
and he visited the plant’s Effluent Management Facility. White
rounded out his first day at Hanford with a look at improvements to the
disposal facility where tens of thousands of containers of vitrified
low-activity waste will be placed.
In addition to viewing progress on Hanford’s tank waste
mission, White visited a number of projects where workers are reducing
significant risks and remediating contamination from Hanford’s national
At the Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility,
White got a look at the latest preparations for transferring capsules of
highly radioactive cesium and strontium from underwater storage to dry
At a visit to a mock-up used for practice and training,
updates were provided on work to excavate highly radioactive soil from
below Hanford’s 324 Building.
EM Senior Advisor William “Ike” White,
right, ended his visit to the Hanford Site last week with a stop at a
mock-up of a former plutonium processing laboratory located near
Richland, Washington, and the Columbia River, where workers are preparing
to excavate highly radioactive soil from below the 324 Building. Also
pictured is Ben Vannah with EM Richland Operations Office.
While at the 200 West Pump and Treat Facility, White
congratulated workers on reaching the goal of treating approximately 2
billion gallons of groundwater this year.
White was also briefed on work getting underway to stabilize
three aging underground waste disposal structures located in the
footprint of the Plutonium Finishing Plant demolition
area. See more on this project in this issue of the EM Update.
“With the risk reduction work and the transformative
progress on the tank waste mission, 2020 represents an inflection point
for Hanford,” said White. “The work being accomplished puts the site on a
clear path to tank waste treatment and additional risk reduction in the
“Completing the first shipment of depleted uranium oxide
opens an important chapter in the story of the DUF6 Conversion Project,”
said Robert Edwards, manager of EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office. “It
is significant because it safely and efficiently addresses one of the
Department’s legacy priorities.”
The material arrived in six storage cylinders in a
specifically modified 55-foot gondola rail car at the Waste Control
Specialists (WCS) Federal Waste Facility in Andrews. A low-level
crystalline powder, DUO is one of two end-products of the DUF6 conversion
process — the other being hydrogen fluoride that is dispositioned
A Waste Control Specialists Federal Waste
Facility crew in Texas offloads one of the first depleted uranium oxide
cylinders to reach final disposition.
The Energy Department’s DUF6 inventory resulted from 50
years of uranium enrichment at U.S. gaseous diffusion plants. More than
700,000 metric tons of the material is safely maintained in storage at
Paducah and its sister site near Portsmouth, Ohio. Over
the next few decades, some of the remaining inventory will be disposed in
licensed offsite facilities and some will be reused.
Zack Smith, president and project manager of EM’s DUF6
operations and maintenance contractor, Mid-America Conversion Services,
credited his company’s partnership with the United Steelworkers, DOE, and
the WCS facility for the milestone. He noted that numerous procedures and
plans were developed while adhering to pandemic protocols.
"The inaugural oxide shipment demonstrates the full
mission capability for the DUF6 Project, and a job well done by a very
capable team," Smith said.
-Contributors: Kearney Ackermann,
Brad Mitzelfelt, Tom Simmons, Waste Control Specialists
With the closure of the Yucca Flat and Climax Mine
groundwater area, EM Nevada’s overall groundwater mission at the NNSS is
now 75% complete.
“The successful closure of our second groundwater corrective
action area in 2020 alone is a testament to the hard work of dedicated
professionals with the EM Nevada Program, as well as our lead contractor,
Navarro Research and Engineering, over the course of many years,” EM
Nevada Program Manager Rob Boehlecke said. “With this accomplishment, we
are now three-quarters of the way toward completing our overall
groundwater mission in Nevada, an effort that promises to come in both
ahead of schedule and well under budget.”
The Yucca Flat and Climax Mine corrective action region is
located in the northeast portion of the NNSS, about 85 miles from Las
Vegas, and contains groundwater impacted by historic nuclear weapons and
device testing at the site. The area was host to 750 underground nuclear
detonations from 1951 to 1992, three of which occurred at Climax Mine,
with the remaining 747 occurring at Yucca Flat.
A view from Sedan Crater looking at Flat
Top Mountain with Climax Mine visible on the foothill.
A groundwater well at the Yucca Flat and
Climax Mine corrective action unit.
The closure of the Yucca Flat and Climax Mine groundwater
area represents the second such accomplishment for EM Nevada this year
alone. In April, the program earned regulatory approval for closure at
the Rainier Mesa and Shoshone Mountain groundwater area, a milestone
reached three years ahead of schedule, saving $5 million in federal
Combined, these dual successes cap off more than 35 years of
testing, analysis, and modeling work in the Rainier Mesa, Shoshone
Mountain, Yucca Flat, and Climax Mine groundwater areas, which has led EM
Nevada to an even better understanding of the nature and movement of
groundwater under the NNSS. Based on these extensive, expert
observations, it is understood that radiologically contaminated
groundwater at the NNSS will likely never pose a threat to the public.
To safely and successfully accelerate its groundwater
mission, EM Nevada has broadly adopted the use of risk-informed
decision-making, which prioritizes the protection of human health and the
environment, while considering future land use, in the development of
cleanup strategies. As a result of this approach, the accelerated closure
of all groundwater areas at the NNSS is anticipated to result in $80
million in savings under initial baseline estimates, with the timeline
expedited by two full years.
Click here for more information EM Nevada’s
groundwater mission at the NNSS.
A key provision of
the Idaho Settlement Agreement is the removal of transuranic waste from
the DOE Idaho National Laboratory Site. EM and cleanup contractor Fluor
Idaho are nearly finished removing targeted buried transuranic and
hazardous wastes from a landfill known as the Subsurface Disposal Area,
shown in the foreground. The last of 65,000 cubic meters of stored
transuranic waste at the site was retrieved in 2017 at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project,
shown in the background. That waste is being shipped to the Waste
Isolation Pilot Plant.
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho –
It’s been 25 years since EM, the state of Idaho, and U.S. Navy
signed a landmark agreement providing timelines for offsite
transuranic waste shipments, the transfer of spent nuclear fuel from wet
to dry storage, and the treatment and shipment of high-level radioactive
In two and a half decades, EM has met more than 90% of
milestones outlined in the 1995 Idaho Settlement Agreement on or ahead of
schedule. In other instances, EM and the state have renegotiated
“The Idaho Settlement Agreement has been extremely
beneficial to the Department, the state of Idaho, and our stakeholders in
that it provided the vision to safely disposition legacy wastes and spent
nuclear fuel,” EM Idaho Cleanup Project Manager Connie Flohr said. “We’ve
made monumental progress in meeting our commitments, which in turn has
paved the way for a long and meaningful nuclear energy mission in Idaho.”
Key to the agreement is the milestone to ship offsite 65,000
cubic meters of transuranic waste that was sent to the site for
aboveground storage from the former Rocky Flats Plant and other
offsite generators from 1970 until the late 1980s.
EM and cleanup contractor Fluor Idaho retrieved
the last of that waste in 2017 and completed the treatment of transuranic
waste debris last fall. To date, more than 60,000 cubic meters of
transuranic waste has been shipped out of Idaho for permanent disposal.
Based on a projected shipping schedule from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New
Mexico, the remaining transuranic waste will leave Idaho in the next
In 2008, a record of decision was signed that incorporated
two milestones into the agreement focused on exhuming, repackaging, and
shipping targeted buried radioactive and hazardous waste sent to Idaho
from 1954 to 1970. EM met one of the milestones after exhuming a minimum
of 7,485 cubic meters of waste. EM is set to reach the second milestone
next year after completing remediation of a combined 5.69 acres of a
landfill containing buried waste.
Another critical milestone of the agreement is the transfer of spent nuclear fuel from a
water-filled basin to dry storage by 2023. Two types of fuel remain in
wet storage, and the basin is now 95% empty. The final disposition path
for the remaining spent nuclear fuel is contingent upon the opening of a
geologic waste repository or interim storage location.
EM continues progress on the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit, which
will convert approximately 900,000 gallons of liquid sodium-bearing waste
to a granular solid. The waste was generated during historic spent
nuclear fuel reprocessing campaigns that ended in 1992. EM soon is
scheduled to launch a final 50-day demonstration at the facility using a
simulant. That demonstration will take place after facility modifications
are completed this year, as the facility nears startup of operations.
Under the agreement, EM is required to retrieve, treat,
repackage, and prepare 4,400 cubic meters of a granulated high-level radioactive waste called calcine
to ship for out-of-state disposal by 2035. Crews are testing technologies
to enter a bin set to retrieve 220 cubic meters of the waste and transfer
it to another bin set. Once emptied, the first bin set would be closed
under federal regulations. The bins are a series of long cylinders, and
the number of bins in each set varies.
“While there is still much work to do, I’m proud of what’s
been accomplished in Idaho over the last 25 years,” said Flohr. “I
appreciate the dedication of all employees involved in this effort as
well as the support of our stakeholders, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, the
congressional delegation, and the state of Idaho.”
The interim measure will mitigate the risk of collapse and
the potential for contamination spread until a remedy to remove, treat,
and dispose of the material in the structures is implemented.
The three structures, located near the former Plutonium Finishing Plant on
Hanford’s Central Plateau, received liquid waste
during Hanford’s plutonium production operations and contain residual
radioactive and chemical contamination. Recent evaluations determined the
structures are at risk of age-related failure.
“This is a major step forward in reducing risk at the
Hanford Site,” said Al Farabee, Hanford’s senior technical advisor for
the project. “Filling these structures with engineered grout will further
protect workers and the environment, while not precluding future remedial
actions or final closure decisions.”
Devan Smith, an engineer for EM Richland
Operations Office contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company,
monitors progress as workers prepare to stabilize three aging underground
disposal structures by filling them with engineered grout.
Grout has been used to safely stabilize other structures at
Hanford, including the Plutonium Uranium Extraction (PUREX) Plant
waste storage tunnel that partially collapsed in 2017 and an adjacent
waste storage tunnel in 2019.
This animation shows the grout delivery
system being used to stabilize the three structures. The system pumps the
engineered grout from trucks through more than 1,500 feet of pipe to the
underground structures. The system was successfully tested using a
full-scale mock-up last summer.
“I’m proud of the safe and steady progress our team has made
on the stabilization project during obviously challenging circumstances
last spring and summer,” said Delise Savior, CHPRC project manager. “We
look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Department of
Energy and regulators to safely complete the project as part of ongoing
risk-reduction activities on Hanford’s Central Plateau.”
Stabilization of all three structures is expected to be
completed by the end of the year.
EM Senior Advisor William “Ike” White told members of the
community near EM’s Paducah, Kentucky site recently that the
cleanup program remains productive amid the COVID-19 pandemic and
continues to maximize telework opportunities for employees.
The virtual meeting with Paducah community leaders and
members of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce was moderated by chamber
president Sandra Wilson and U.S. Rep. James Comer of Kentucky. Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office
Manager Robert Edwards also participated in the event.
An expansion of EM’s virtual capabilities may create
opportunities to attract the workforce of the future, White said. He
talked about EM’s continued focus on attracting talent from colleges and
universities in the region surrounding the Paducah Site.
White shared with the group a list of the Paducah Site’s
current priorities, which are outlined in EM’s Strategic Vision: The C-400 Complex
remediation, C-333 process building deactivation, and infrastructure and
Meeting participants also discussed the Paducah Area
Community Reuse Organization (PACRO). White said he appreciates the
organization’s work, which benefits both the community and EM. PACRO has
worked on several recycling efforts with the site. White said that
communication between EM and the community is essential for discovering
new opportunities to work cooperatively.
The virtual meeting was held in lieu of the Paducah
chamber’s annual visit to Washington, D.C., which provides chamber
members with an opportunity to meet with their congressional delegation,
government agencies, and others.
The 242-A Evaporator is one of those
facilities, which is why ensuring its dependability is a top priority.
The 242-A Evaporator is fundamental to the Hanford Site tank
waste mission. EM Office of River Protection (ORP) and
contractor Washington River Protection Solutions have completed several
major upgrades and repairs at the evaporator, and more are planned.
“These improvements will ensure the evaporator is efficient
and dependable for its long-term mission during tank waste treatment
operations,” said Paul Hernandez with ORP.
The control room of Hanford’s 242-A
Evaporator facility has been upgraded to support the Hanford Site tank
waste treatment mission using the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste
approach. Other upgrades will include adding new waste transfer lines.
The evaporator has played a vital role for more than 40
years, creating storage space in Hanford’s double-shell tanks by boiling
liquid tank waste to remove water and most volatile organics, reducing
the volume by as much as 40%. Vapor from the boiling waste is condensed,
filtered, and sent to Hanford’s Effluent Treatment Facility for disposal.
The remaining slurry is sent back to a double-shell waste tank.
Recent improvements include a new instrument air dryer and a
new air receiver tank and piping.
The team also upgraded the facility’s monitoring and control
system, updating system hardware and software, and improving
WRPS recently completed the design for replacing three waste
transfer lines. Double-walled piping is used to move tank waste from
double-shell tanks to the evaporator for reduction and to send the
resulting slurry back to a tank.
Slurry lines installed in 1977 were taken out of service in
2018 after the lines failed periodic pressure testing of the outer
encasement piping. While the inner piping that transfers waste has not
leaked, the encasement line integrity could not be verified. EM decided
to install three new lines, one to transfer tank waste to the evaporator,
one to return slurry back to the tank, and a backup line.
Other improvements will include a safety system upgrade that
will significantly increase the efficiency of equipment testing required
prior to an evaporator campaign.
conducts sampling across the Oak Ridge Reservation. The five-year review
uses groundwater, surface water, soil, sediment, and data from plant and
animal life from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2020 for its evaluations.
OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management
(OREM) and its cleanup contractor UCOR are conducting a critical review
of remediation measures in place across the Oak Ridge Reservation
virtually as they adapt to challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The five-year, multi-agency review underway is designed to
determine if remedies that have been implemented continue to protect
human health and the environment. Required by CERCLA — the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act — the review
covers the three DOE sites in Oak Ridge — the East Tennessee Technology Park, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Y-12 National Security Complex. This is
the fifth review since the start of remedial actions in Oak Ridge in the
The review included more than 40 interviews held this summer
followed by virtual site visits in August and September. Those
interviewed included facility managers, engineers, system operators,
project managers, subject-matter experts, and site personnel. Regulators,
stakeholders, members of the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board, and
others participated in the virtual site visits. Interviews and visits were
conducted using online conference systems.
Lynn Sims, the manager of the five-year
review, looks at data that will help evaluate Oak Ridge’s remediation
measures. Sims is an employee of UCOR subcontractor RSI, which performs
water and soil sampling at the site, among other things.
All three Oak Ridge sites will be evaluated on their
performance of cleanup remedies. This evaluation will continue into next
year, with results scheduled to be delivered by May 31, 2021.
“This is an important review that helps ensure that public
health and safety, and the environment are protected over the long term,”
OREM Quality and Mission Support Division Director Dave Adler said.
Cleanup remedies address the legacies remaining from more
than 50 years of energy research and weapons production. The measures
includes environmental remediation, removing deteriorated and radioactively
contaminated facilities, and disposing legacy low-level, mixed low-level,
transuranic wastes, and hazardous and non-hazardous industrial wastes.
The review, which will be finalized and released next year,
uses groundwater, surface water, soil, sediment, and data on plant and
animal life from fiscal 2016 through fiscal 2020 as the basis for its
evaluations. Sampling is conducted as part of the review.
OREM, UCOR, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and
the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation will evaluate
that data to ensure that the cleanup and remediation that are conducted
to fulfill regulatory commitments are protective of human health and the
One of 44 trucks delivers grout to the
West Valley Demonstration Project to place inside a cell 30 feet below
WEST VALLEY, N.Y. – EM and cleanup contractor CH2M HILL BWXT
West Valley (CHBWV) recently began grouting a large underground cell at
the West Valley Demonstration Project (WVDP)
to provide structural stability for when heavy demolition equipment
operates aboveground to tear down the Main Plant Process Building.
The cell, which is nearly 30 feet below ground, will remain
in place until the underground portion of the Main Plant Process Building
is removed in the future. Crews continue to prepare the building for
“The WVDP team’s work was well planned and executed in an
effort to maintain safety, including the addition of COVID-19 protocols,”
EM WVDP Safety and Site Programs Team Leader Jennifer Dundas said. “This
work is part of DOE’s efforts to reduce legacy risks in preparation for
the future demolition of the Main Plant Process Building, an EM priority
A total of 44 trucks supported the grouting effort. Prior to
grouting, all major process equipment was removed, interior surfaces were
decontaminated and sealed, all utilities and connections with adjoining
structures were disconnected, and characterization data was obtained to
plan for future waste disposal.
Before crews deactivated the cell, it had contained radiological
and hazardous contaminants resulting from spent nuclear fuel reprocessing
“This work activity was successful because it was a group
effort,” said Scott Chase, facility disposition operations manager. “Our
crew worked with the engineering division on the overall plan and we had
good support from the radiation control and security divisions as well.”
Used in spent nuclear fuel reprocessing operations in the
late 1960s and early 1970s, the cell is 46 feet long, 11 feet wide, and
nearly 20 feet tall.
NEW ELLENTON S.C. –
U.S. Forest Service employees recently held their annual longleaf pine
cone collection event on Savannah River Site (SRS), gathering
approximately 700 bushels of pine cones.
The cones will be sent to a facility where the seeds are
extracted and planted, and will eventually grow into longleaf pine
seedlings at a nursery. Those seedlings will then be used on SRS and by
partnering agencies to help restore lands once dominated by longleaf pine
“Collecting cones from known longleaf pine trees that are
phenotypically superior ensures great genetic stock. When we replant, we
want to know the seedlings will grow well in this area,” Silviculture
Forester Jennie Haskell said. “We have had tremendous success planting
quality seedlings from locally collected cones as opposed to reforesting
with seedlings collected from other zones.”
A silviculture forester manages programs to control the
establishment, growth, quality, and health of forests. They analyze
forests to maximize timber production and minimize negative impacts on
the land, water, and wildlife.
Preparing collected cones for transport
to the facility where their seeds will be extracted and eventually
longleaf pine community is an important objective for the U.S. Forest
Service across the SRS and the southeast region of the U.S. This process
takes many years. Reforesting with longleaf pine seedlings is just one
step. Prescribed fire, chemical treatments, and harvesting to remove
undesirable vegetation and reduce competition are also important in the
The longleaf pine
community, when maintained with prescribed fire, is one of the most
biologically diverse ecosystems in North America. The biodiversity is
evident in the abundant understory and groundcover that is important to
many wildlife species, including wild turkey, white tail deer, fox,
squirrels, many reptiles, numerous songbirds, and native butterflies and
other pollinator species.
is a long-term ongoing process. We provide sustainable forest products,
bioenergy, and economic stability to our local communities. It all starts
with collecting the hundreds of seeds contained in each individual pine
cone,” Forest Planner David Malone said.
To learn more
about ongoing forest restoration efforts on SRS, click here.