(11d) Technology Development for Radioactive Sludge Treatment At the Hanford Nuclear Cleanup Site

Authors: 
Fogwell, Ph.D., P.E., T. W., Fogwell Consulting



Title:  Technology Development for Radioactive Sludge Treatment at the Hanford Nuclear Cleanup Site

Highly radioactive sludge resulting from the storage of degraded spent nuclear fuel has been consolidated in Engineered Containers (ECs) in the 105-K West Storage Basin located on the Hanford site near the Columbia River in Washington State.  CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) is proceeding with a project to retrieve the sludge, place it in Sludge Transport and Storage Containers (STSCs) and store those filled containers within the T Plant Canyon facility on the Hanford Site Central Plateau (Phase 1).  Retrieval and transfer of the sludge material will enable removal of the 105-K West Basin and allow remediation of the subsurface contamination plumes under the basin.  The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is developing technology to treat and dispose of this K Basins sludge (Phase 2) as Remote Handled Transuranic Waste (RH TRU) at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) located in New Mexico.  A formal approach is being taken for the development of the technology, which entails development in specific stages according to US Department of Energy guidelines for such projects.  This process is presented in detail. 

The K Basin sludge currently contains uranium metal which reacts with water present in the stored slurry, generating hydrogen and other byproducts.  The established transportation and disposal requirements require the transformation of the K Basins sludge to a chemically stable, liquid-free, packaged waste form.  The Treatment and Packaging Project includes removal of the containerized sludge from T Plant, the treatment of the sludge as required, and packaging of all the sludge into a form that is certifiable for transportation to and disposal at WIPP.  Completion of this scope will require construction and operation of a Sludge Treatment and Packaging Facility (STPF), which could be either a completely new facility or a modification of an existing Hanford Site facility.  The U.S. Department of Energy’s Richland Field Office (DOE-RL) has approved a recommended technical approach.  The baseline process is broken down into the following main process steps:  (1) STSC transfer from T Plant to the Sludge Treatment and Packaging Facility (STPF).  (2) Retrieval of sludge from the STSCs and transfer to the Receipt and Reaction Tank (RRT).  (3) Preparation for immobilization by oxidation for those batches that require it and concentration by evaporating water at about atmospheric pressure in the RRT.  (4) Immobilization by using additives to eliminate free liquids and packaging of the treated sludge into drums.  (5) Inspection and handling of the filled drums prior to transfer to a separate storage and shipping facility.  (6) Handling of vapor, condensate, and other waste streams generated by the process.  Each of these steps is discussed in the paper, together with the current state of progress in developing the technology and requirements for continued development.

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