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Hanford's Waste Treatment Plant updates

(Information on this site is considered to be accurate at the time of posting, but is subject to change as new information becomes available.)
We oversee the permitting, construction, and eventual operation of the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP), the world’s largest treatment plant for radioactive waste. An estimated 53 million gallons of mixed hazardous and radioactive waste remain in the underground tanks at Hanford. The plant will convert the radioactive and chemical wastes from the tanks into large glass logs, and place them for long-term storage in stainless steel cylinders. The glass will keep the waste stable so it can be safely disposed of without posing significant risk to human health or the environment. Until construction on WTP is completed, waste will remain in the underground tanks at Hanford.

Summary information

Date of incident: June 1, 2000 -
Location: Hanford site, southeastern Washington (map)
Type of incident: Development of facility to treat waste at Hanford.
Cause of incident:
Responsible party: U.S. Department of Energy and Bechtel
Aerial view of three WTP buildings under construction.

Aerial view of WTP buildings under construction (source DOE)

Status updates

June 2018 - Public Comment Period (ended June 22, 2018)

April 23-June 22 - We held a comment period to ask the public for their input about proposed modifications to the WTP Permit, incorporating the draft Environmental Performance Demonstration Test plan for the for the Low Activity Waste Facility.

May 2018 - Yucca Mountain Project update; First building completed at WTP

May 4 - A bill that would restart the Yucca Mountain licensing project in Nevada is in the process of being approved. We’ve long supported this project, as Yucca Mountain Project is well suited to serve as the deep geologic repository for high-level nuclear waste, including Hanford’s. Currently, the Columbia Generating Station – located on the Hanford site – stores its used nuclear fuel rods on a concrete pad near the station where it awaits disposal at a deep geologic repository. And eventually, treatment of high-level tank waste at WTP will generate thousands of stainless steel canisters containing vitrified waste. Vitrification is the process of incorporating waste into glass to keep it stable for the thousands of years it will take for the radioactivity in the waste to decay. Until a deep repository like Yucca Mountain is licensed and operating, those canisters will accumulate at Hanford, awaiting final disposal.

May 2 - We are pleased to see that the first building has been completed at WTP. This is a positive first step to getting the new plant operational. The new building, Non-Radioactive Liquid Waste Disposal System, is one of many facilities required to achieve the Direct Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) approach that will move waste from the Hanford tank farms to the LAW Facility and turn the waste into large glass logs.

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June 2002 - Construction began

June 2002 - Workers poured the first yard of concrete for Hanford's WTP. The facility is intended to treat 56 million gallons of radioactive and dangerous chemical waste currently stored in 177 aging tanks at Hanford. The start of construction culminated more than a decade of planning by the state of Washington and the U.S. Department of Energy. 
 

Situation

Once it's completed, Hanford's Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP, also known as the Vit Plant) facilities will turn the high-level waste into glass logs through a process called vitrification and the glass will be stored in very large, high-grade stainless steel casks. While it will still be radioactive, the vitrified waste will no longer be able to seep into or pollute the air, water, and soil. WTP is critical in helping to clean up Hanford and in reducing the possibility of further threats to the environment and all who live and work near the Hanford site. Without the retrieval and treatment of the tank waste, any leakage would eventually reach the Columbia River.

News releases

None at this time.

Media contact

Randy Bradbury, Communication Manager, NWP, randy.bradbury@ecy.wa.gov, 509-372-7954, @