Vit plant drives for more progress in 2020

The vit plant entered this new decade looking different than ever before.

And we are well positioned for another transformational year in 2020. We are driving toward spring 2021 when we will heat up the first of two melters inside the Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility at Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP).

We are on pace to vitrify low-activity waste through the U.S. Department of Energy’s direct-feed LAW program by the end of 2023.

By the end of this year, we will have finished the testing needed for systems in the LAW Facility for melter heat up. We will have completed the remaining LAW construction and construction of the Effluent Management Facility (EMF) while closing out testing in 14 support facilities.

Managing the plant

We continue to build our workforce for commissioning and eventual sustained operations.

Last year we opened the doors to a commissioning workforce at an annex connected to the LAW Facility. We adopted a 24/7 shift schedule with 22 commissioning technicians, eight supervisors and four engineers.

The site gradually will build up its 24/7 rotating shift work to nearly 350 employees over the next year.

These technicians successfully completed their fundamentals training and have been training at the annex on the WTP systems and direct-feed LAW operations.

Training is comprised of a multitude of subjects, including teamwork, communications and human performance improvement fundamentals. Commissioning technicians also receive training on more than 200 separate systems in the LAW Facility, EMF, analytical laboratory and other support facilities.

Confirming standards met

Last fall, the first team of chemists set up shop at the analytical laboratory where they will perform the first scientific work needed to support treatment of Hanford tank waste.

The laboratory’s key function is to confirm that glass produced in the LAW Facility meets regulatory requirements and standards. Once waste treatment operations begin, the laboratory will analyze about 3,000 samples each year.

We appreciated the opportunity to leverage facilities at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, where the chemists initially set up the instruments and began building the necessary programs.

The chemists represent another group of permanent positions to support plant commissioning, along with 95 commissioning technicians who work in the control room and throughout the plant.

The team is broader than Bechtel, Amentum or the Waste Treatment Completion Company. We collaborate with DOE, the Washington Department of Ecology and other Hanford contractors, as well as our subcontractors and suppliers.

In fiscal year 2019, we awarded $145 million in contracts to small and large businesses, including small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses and others.

Nearly $67 million, or 62.5 percent, was spent in Washington and Oregon, with about $39 million of that remaining in the Tri-Cities.

It’s an exciting time to be at the vit plant.

We are making history. Our 3,000 workers are committed to their community and completing their work safely and with quality. I look forward to the coming year of celebrating the next phase of progress toward completion.

Valerie McCain is principal vice president and project director for Bechtel National Inc.

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