It’s hard to believe it has been more than a year since the Central Plateau Cleanup Company (CPCCo) started work as the new prime contractor for nuclear waste cleanup on the Hanford site’s Central Plateau and along the Columbia River.
CPCCo began work in January 2021 with a mission to build on 30 years of cleanup progress with cost-effective and efficient solutions to safely finish several of Hanford’s highest-profile risk-reduction projects over the next decade. A new leadership team brings new energy, and a motivated and committed workforce is already delivering great results.
With a completion mindset in place, our highly trained crews hit the ground running and safely closed out one of our key projects in less than 12 months: the end of demolition activities at the former Plutonium Finishing Plant (PFP), once among the most contaminated sites in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) environmental cleanup complex. What exactly did that effort look like? Watch a time-lapse video showing PFP demolition over the last five years: bit.ly/PFPdemo.
I couldn’t be prouder of our team for working hand in hand with DOE and the Department of Ecology to safely move this project across the finish line. Yet, as exciting as this historic accomplishment is for CPCCo and the Hanford cleanup mission, it is just one of several key projects on our “to do” list in 2022 and beyond.
We continue to make significant progress toward the transfer of nearly 2,000 radioactive cesium and strontium capsules from an underwater basin in the Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility (WESF) to safer dry storage. Last year, we completed construction of a storage area where casks loaded with capsules will be placed. We also awarded a subcontract to complete the necessary structural and utility modifications to WESF and install the new cask storage system.
This year, testing and training on equipment that will move the capsules into the casks will continue at our full-scale mock-up, and we will upgrade and modify areas in and around the WESF facility to prepare for the capsule transfer.
Last March, work resumed at the 324 Building after a yearlong pause to conduct important safety reviews. Over the past year, our team has made excellent progress on structural modifications needed to prepare the facility for the removal of contaminated soil under the building. That work will continue this year, along with other activities to ensure the safe completion of this key risk-reduction project near the Columbia River.
The area near Hanford’s former K West and K East Reactors also continues to be a busy place for CPCCo. Our crews recently removed contaminated filter material from the 1.2 million-gallon spent fuel storage basin in the K West Reactor.
Workers placed the material in shielded containers and transferred them about 10 miles away from the river to T Plant for safe interim storage. With the filter media gone, we are beginning work to stabilize about 15,000 pounds of radioactive debris in the underwater basin. Debris stabilization and removal are among the final steps needed to allow workers to safely drain and demolish the basin.
At the former K East Reactor, we are starting construction on a steel structure to be placed over the building. The enclosure will protect the reactor building while the radioactivity in the reactor core decays over the next several decades, making it easier and safer to complete disposition of the reactor in the future.
K East will be the seventh of Hanford’s eight former reactors to be “cocooned,” or placed in safe storage, with the ninth – B Reactor – preserved as part of a national park.
We also continue to focus on accelerating the cleanup of groundwater. Fiscal year 2021 marked the seventh straight year the site has treated more than 2 billion gallons of contaminated groundwater, and Hanford is closing in on 30 billion total gallons treated during the life of the cleanup mission.
Our six pump-and-treat facilities continue to remove hazardous chemical and radioactive constituents on the Central Plateau and along the Columbia River, reducing risk across the Hanford site.
Finally, CPCCo is making excellent progress on construction activities at the Integrated Disposal Facility in support of the site’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) program, a top priority for DOE. This engineered landfill will provide permanent, environmentally safe disposal for containers filled with vitrified, or immobilized in glass, low-activity tank waste from the nearby Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant and mixed low-level waste from Hanford operations.
The disposal facility is an excellent example of the collaborative One Hanford approach: DOE and all of the site’s contractors are working together toward a common goal of getting the waste out of the tanks and treating it for safe disposal.
Just as important to CPCCo as tackling the technical aspects of Hanford’s cleanup mission is our role in making a positive impact on the Tri-Cities community we all call home.
Our incredibly generous workforce last year donated hundreds of volunteer hours supporting numerous community organizations, such as the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties, Columbia Basin College and United Way.
We can’t wait to expand our engagement efforts in 2022, through additional volunteer activities, support of school STEM programs to provide opportunities for our next generation of Hanford workers, and service on local boards, just to name a few of our community involvement goals.
It’s an exciting time for CPCCo, and I’m proud of what we accomplished in 2021, as we safely navigated the challenges of an ongoing pandemic.
Our first year reducing risk on the Central Plateau on behalf of DOE’s environmental cleanup mission fills us with energy and optimism for 2022. With a talented and experienced workforce of more than 1,600 and fantastic support from the Tri-City subcontractor community, we look forward to continuing to partner with DOE, regulators and stakeholders to make Hanford a model for success across the DOE complex.
To learn more, go to: cpcco.hanford.gov.
Scott Sax is president/project manager at Central Plateau Cleanup Company.
Editor’s note: Scott Sax recently announced his retirement. John Eschenberg, currently of WRPS, will succeed him effective May 16.
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