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Management Systems and Culture Important for Sustained Operations

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    AIChE Member Credits 0.5
    AIChE Members $19.00
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    AIChE Undergraduate Student Members Free
    Non-Members $29.00
  • Type:
    Conference Presentation
  • Conference Type:
    AIChE Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety
  • Presentation Date:
    April 19, 2021
  • Duration:
    30 minutes
  • Skill Level:
    Intermediate
  • PDHs:
    0.50

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Currently, the Department of Energy (DOE) stores approximately 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous waste in 177 underground tanks at the Hanford Site. The waste was generated from production of plutonium for the United States’ nuclear weapons program starting in the second World War and finishing in 1990. Approximately 20 million gallons of that waste is in a liquid form (supernate), approximately 10 million gallons is in the form of insoluble sludge materials, and the remainder is in a partially soluble solid form referred to as saltcake. Treatment of the tank waste is planned with the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) being the principle plant where this will be accomplished. The WTP is currently being constructed and large portions of the plant are already starting up. Waste treatment commissioning and operations are planned to start in the early 2020s.

The start of waste treatment operations will mark a significant event in Hanford history. Not since the 1980s, or at least a generation of engineers, will the Site experience the sustained operations of a multi-functional chemical process plant. This situation makes for an interesting study in transitioning management systems and culture from one supportive of design and construction to one conducive to sustained operations. Making ready for safe operations and then to demonstrably show readiness in Operational Readiness reviews and assessments is a well-defined process in the DOE Environmental Management complex. However, there is little programmatic guidance on how to make ready and demonstrably show readiness for sustained operations.

The development of a Sustained Operations Readiness Program was conducted based on the author’s professional experience, input from specific individuals with relevant expertise and the author’s review of public information. A Sustained Operations Readiness Program is not intended to replace or in any way diminish the role for Operational Readiness Reviews and Assessments as required by the Department of Energy. Rather, the intent is to build upon the Operational Readiness concept to maximize readiness for sustained operations through commissioning and into operations, and to establish a culture of simultaneous operations excellence in production, safety and environmental management. The work has concluded that the state of sustained operations for a complex processing plant can be objectively characterized by 12 features. These features represent the conducive culture or conditions in which the plant, paper and people interact to produce a sustained operations state. The 12 features were further consolidated into the five programmatic and executable elements described below with associated recommendations specific for Hanford waste treatment operations:

Risk management
Risks and opportunities should prioritize continuous improvement initiatives and be informed by the design and technical authorities and stakeholder monitors.
For Hanford waste treatment operations, an integrated risk management program led by the DOE is recommended.

Continuous improvement
All levels of the project organization should exhibit commitment to continuous improvement and learning.
At Hanford, the tank farm contractor had introduced the Lean management system as a continuous improvement program. The program has yielded efficiencies in tank farm operations and waste treatment operations planning and introduced a culture of continuous improvement. A waste treatment operations program-wide continuous improvement system is recommended for Hanford waste treatment operations.

Continuity of design and technical authorities
The authorities are responsible for managing knowledge for its effective use in the other elements.
Recommended for Hanford waste treatment operations is a body of technical program managers from the key technology providers chartered to provide the technical authority and a continuing role for the WTP Engineering, Procurement and Construction contractor as the design authority.

Stakeholder monitoring
Active and deliberate monitoring of stakeholder relationships.
Hanford waste treatment operations is characterized by complex and wide-ranging stakeholders at Federal, State and local levels of government and regulation and various public bodies. Centralized and integrated stakeholder monitoring and management is recommended as an organizational element.

Sustained operations integrated business planning
Business planning integrates and balances technical, financial and regulatory objectives. In a commercial venture this is arguably a business plan.
An integrated Hanford waste treatment operations business plan is recommended for the Site to most effectively compete with other sites in the current Federal environment competitive for Congressional funding.

Readiness evaluation for sustained operations is a continuous function that progresses from overseeing establishment of the five elements during design and construction phases to monitoring the output of those elements performing during commissioning and operations. Continuously assessing readiness for sustained operations becomes an important business function for the Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection as competition for Federal funds increases with increasing waste treatment operations throughout the Environmental Management complex.

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AIChE Member Credits 0.5
AIChE Members $19.00
AIChE Graduate Student Members Free
AIChE Undergraduate Student Members Free
Non-Members $29.00
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