Editor’s note: Valerie McCain submitted this column before she died on March 26 after a short illness.
It has been an exciting and challenging year at the Hanford Waste Tank Treatment and Immobilization Plant, also known as the vit plant, as we move closer to turning low-activity waste from Hanford’s large underground tanks into glass. Our team works tirelessly to achieve milestones and address the questions and challenges that arise when commissioning a plant of this size and complexity.
The plant remains in operational status with our team monitoring and managing equipment and systems 24/7.
In the fall, we initiated the process to heat up the first of two melters inside the Low-Activity Waste Facility. Considered the heart of the vitrification process, the 300-ton low-activity waste melters will be used to heat the waste and glass-forming chemicals to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. The mixture will then be poured into stainless steel containers to cool and solidify.
During heat up, we paused the process when we encountered technical challenges with the peripheral equipment. I am proud of our team’s response. They demonstrated that we have matured our operations culture, just as the plant and documentation have progressed to demonstrate readiness to perform our mission.
We look forward to re-establishing the conditions to resume melter heatup. Once heated up, the melter will remain at temperature through long-term operations.
Our team’s accomplishments last year include the following:
We continue to work hand in hand with the U.S. Department of Energy, One Hanford contractors, and the Central Washington Building Trades in our collective commitment to the cleanup mission.
Last year, we simulated our first transfer of waste between the tank farms and the vit plant using water, an exciting milestone as we move toward treating waste.
Bechtel recently celebrated its 125th anniversary, which includes the more than 40 years we have been part of the Tri-Cities community. We remain committed to investing in the community where we live and work. In 2022, our project team donated nearly $300,000 to charitable organizations like the United Way of Benton-Franklin Counties, Toys for Tots, Bikes for Tikes, Special Olympics and Second Harvest. We also made corporate donations to the Boys and Girls Club, Grace Clinic and Junior Achievement, as well as more than 20 other charities, and served as premier sponsor for events for the United Way and Children’s Reading Foundation of Mid-Columbia.
We have an incredible team of craft and staff professionals who are committed to effectively managing challenges, progressing our work safely and with quality, and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. I look forward to a historic 2023 in partnership with our customer, collaborators, and the community as we advance this national mission.
Valerie McCain was Bechtel’s senior vice president and project director. She died March 26 after a short illness.
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