Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Closing 16 Hanford Tanks: Caution, Tough Decisions Ahead!

by Jeff Lyon, Tank Waste Storage Project, Nuclear Waste Program

Hopefully, you read my first blog last month. It was about our efforts to oversee closure of the 177 tanks at Hanford. The next step for closure is getting the first group of tanks, or tank farm, closed. That will be the hardest part of our job.

Waste Management Area C (WMA-C or C-Farm) is scheduled for closure in 2019, and we haven’t even decided what closure will look like. The tanks are underground. Twelve of the tanks have a capacity of about 530,000 gallons each, and four of the tanks are 55,000 gallons each. Some of the tanks may have leaked. In addition, about 10 miles of pipelines running throughout C-Farm may have had a few leaks. Right now, the US Dept. of Energy (USDOE) is doing a “Facility Investigation” (RCRA [Resource Conservation and Recovery Act] Facility Investigation and Corrective Measures Study – RFI/CMS). Ecology has reviewed and approved this Work Plan.

Also, USDOE is removing waste from the tanks and safely storing it in the double-shell tanks (DSTs). They have finished getting waste out of six of the tanks: the four smaller ones (200-series tanks) and two of the larger ones (C-103 and C-106). All of the remaining tank waste must be retrieved by September 2014. That’s more than a million gallons of radioactive and dangerous waste (mixed waste) that will be moved into the DSTs.

Our first real decision will be whether to close the tank farm as clean closure or to leave waste in place and close the tank farm as landfill closure. Ecology has commented on USDOE's "Draft Tank Closure and Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement" (TC &WM EIS). When the TC & WM EIS is finalized, it will provide some of the information we will use for this decision.

This is where you come in. We are developing a FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) publication for the Tank Farm Closure project at Hanford. We would love to add your question to our list. If we can answer the question in a timely manner, we will answer it on the blog. Regardless, we will consider all of the questions for our FAQ.

So, got questions? Please comment on the blog.


Buddy said...

Great job Jeff! What are some of the major Milestones over the next 10 years for tank farms?

Erika Holmes said...

Thanks for the question, Buddy. We've been working on a way to illustrate important steps toward tank closure. Here's what we came up with:
Let us know what you think, and please keep following our blog!