By Suzanne Dahl, Tank Waste Treatment manager, Nuclear Waste Program
I can hardly contain my excitement about the arrival of the first melter for the Low-Activity Waste treatment facility at Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant (WTP). For many years, we have celebrated events like the new cross site transfer line, the ground breaking at WTP, and the installation of the first big tank. Each time, we said, “This gets us closer to vitrifying the waste.”
Well, this time, we really have something to cheer about! This is one of two melters that will receive the chemical and radioactive waste after it’s been mixed with glass formers. Then, the melters will heat the mixture to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit (1,150 degrees Celcius). Finally, the molten liquid will be poured into stainless steel storage containers where it will cool into solid, robust glass — which will protect human health and the environment for thousands of years to come. Simply said, this mechanism will make the waste safe.
Leading up to this momentous occasion, numerous tests in pilot melters on surrogate waste helped to improve the design of these truly unique melters by increasing waste throughput. These melters are engineering marvels able to treat 15 metric tons of glass a day each, which is at least three times more than other melters in the world. They will be the heart and soul of the LAW facility and will vitrify the low-activity portion of the waste, which will stay on the Hanford Site for disposal.
So this equipment is extremely important to Tri-Cities residents and all Columbia River users, because it will help to keep Hanford’s toxic legacy out of the river and our groundwater.
For more on melters, visit Bechtel’s LAW melter blog.