28 September 2009

Waste mixing being tested for Hanford vit plant

The waste treatment plant at Hanford, coming with a $12.2 billion dollar price tag, is the largest public works project in the United States.  This project has a history of mismanagement and is $8 billion over budget, but is nearing 50% completion.

This plant will vitrify the highly radioactive waste stored at Hanford, transforming it from sludge into glass rods that can be stored more safely.  This article details some of the testing that must be done before the vitrification facility becomes fully functional.  The waste slated to be treated here is so dangerously radioactive that some areas of the facility will be closed to human entry once processing begins.  This means that the machinery must be able to function for 40 years without maintenance, which is why testing now with simulated radioactive material is essential.

The latest changes to the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA; Hanford Clean-up Agreement) propose to delay the "hot-start" of the waste treatment plant from the current 2011 milestone to 2019.  Under the new timeline, the plant would not be fully operational until 2022.  The public comment period on these and other changes to the TPA begins this Thursday, October 1 and extends through December 11.  Check back often for more information and announcements of public hearings near you!

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