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$41 billion for Hanford high level nuclear waste clean-up. Fiasco of Pretreatment Facility

Hanford strategy for worst nuclear waste criticized. Plant estimates skyrocket to $41 billion, Tri City Herald BY ANNETTE CARY, MAY 13, 2020 The Department of Energy’s strategy for pretreating high-level waste at Hanford is “unclear” 20 years after construction of a massive glassification plant began, while costs continue to soar, says a new federal report.

The Government Accountability Office released a report to Congress this week focusing on the plant’s Pretreatment Facility, where construction stopped seven years ago because of technical issues.

The issues involved safety concerns to prevent a possible explosion or radioactive waste leak.

U.S. taxpayers have spent $11 billion on the Hanford glassification plant, but the Pretreatment Facility is unlikely to be finished on schedule or as designed, the report said.

Under one scenario being studied, some of the worst waste at Hanford could be shipped across the nation to South Carolina to be stabilized for disposal.

Since construction stopped in late 2012 on the pretreatment plant, $752 million has been spent, with construction not ready to restart anytime soon, the GAO report indicated.

DOE also has spent $428 million developing alternatives for some of the work expected to be done at the pretreatment plant.

There is no cost estimate for completing the Pretreatment Facility, the largest facility at the plant, the GAO report said.

Completing the entire vitrification plant could cost $19 billion to $30 billion more than the $11 billion already spent, the GAO said.

That would put the total cost at $30 billion to $41 billion.

The plant, named the Hanford Waste Treatment Plant, is being built to to glassify much of the 56 million gallons of radioactive waste in underground tanks, turning it into a stable form for disposal.

The waste is left from the past production of plutonium at Hanford in Eastern Washington for the nation’s nuclear weapons program from World War II through the Cold War.


When Bechtel National was awarded a contract to build and start the plant in 2000, plans called for waste from the tanks to be sent first to the largest facility at the plant, the Pretreatment Facility

It stands about 12 stories high and covers an area larger than a football field.

There waste retrieved from underground tanks was to be separated into low activity radioactive waste and high level radioactive waste for glassification at separate facilities at the vitrification plant.

But after technical issues were raised in 2012 related to how well the pretreatment plant could handle the high level portion of the tank waste, DOE proposed a new plan.

It would first start vitrifying the low activity radioactive waste by developing other methods to separate that waste from tank waste.

A federal court judge agreed to the plan in 2016 but set a deadline for DOE to start vitrifying that waste by the end of 2023. The plant must be fully operational in 2036, the judge ordered.

DOE has since been focused on meeting the 2023 court-enforced deadline, including spending about $428 million developing those alternative pretreatment approaches, rather than on facilities that will handle high level waste, the GAO report said.

When construction stopped on the pretreatment plant it was about 40 percent complete.


DOE has spent about $323 million to resolve technical issues at the facility since late 2012, with the rest of the $752 million spent on the plant during those years paying for overhead, project management, facility maintenance and DOE oversight………

Local DOE officials said they will not develop a cost for completing the Pretreatment Facility until there is a decision about the future of the facility and any updated design changes for it, according to the GAO report……


The issue is further complicated by concerns of the Washington state Department of Ecology, a Hanford regulator……….

May 14, 2020 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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