Tag Archives: clean up

Addition of vitrification plant stacks changes Hanford’s skyline

Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald, October 28th, 2006

Hanford vitrification plant workers secure 130-foot stack
The skyline at Hanford’s vitrification plant changed Friday.
Bechtel National spent about four hours slowing lifting 125 tons of emission stacks 70 feet into the air to place them on top of the plant’s Low Activity Waste Facility.
“This is the first time we’ll see LAW looking like it will always look,” said Mike Lewis, manager of construction for Department of Energy contractor Bechtel National.
The building stands 70 feet tall and the 130-foot emission stacks bring the structure to 200 feet tall, about the height of a 17-story building.
The $12.2 billion vitrification plant is being built to immobilize Hanford’s worst radioactive waste inside glass logs for permanent disposal. The Low Activity Waste Facility will be the third-largest of the four large buildings at the plant, which will be surrounded by 25 support buildings.
The plant is planned to treat much of the 53 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical waste now stored in underground tanks. It’s left from separating plutonium from irradiated fuel rods to produce plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program from World War II through the Cold War.
Wastes will be separated at the Pretreatment Facility into low-activity radiation and high-level radiation components. The low-activity radiation waste will contain mostly hazardous chemicals with as much of the radioactive constituents removed as possible.
High-level radiation wastes can emit up to 5,000 rems of radiation an hour as measured on contact with the outside of a stainless steel container. The low-activity waste can have 0.4 rems per hour. That’s roughly the amount of natural background radiation a person would receive annually just by living in Washington state.
Silica and other glass-forming materials will be added to the waste and then the mixture will be melted to form glass.
That’s part of the need for the stacks raised Friday.
Gas from the two melters in the Low Activity Waste Facility will be cleaned and then released from the stacks, along with other air from the building’s ventilation system.
There’s no comparison to what was released from Hanford’s stacks during the plutonium production years, said Roy Schepens, manager of DOE’s Hanford Office of River Protection.
Emissions from the Low Activity Waste Facility will be filtered to remove small particles and sent through a scrubber that will use steam to settle out heavier particles before the air is released from the stacks.
The air emissions will have to meet standards of the Washington State Department of Ecology, the State Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Regulatory permits have been approved for the design of the stacks, but they still must receive operating permits.
The stacks will handle more than 110,000 cubic feet of air per minute that will be monitored and sampled before leaving the facility once operations begin.
The stack assembly that was lifted Friday includes three individual emission stacks, each between 4 and 5 feet in diameter, encased in an open steel framework.
Bechtel National used two cranes to lift the stack assembly to a standing position. The smaller crane slowly crawled toward the larger one holding the bottom end of the stacks as the larger crane lifted from the top of the stacks until the assembly was suspended.
“Slow and easy,” Lewis said as work began.
Then the 270-foot-tall crane lifted the stack assembly high enough to clear the building and swung it into place on the roof.
Bechtel National chose Friday for the lift because workers build at the site on 10-day shifts from Monday through Thursday. That cleared the area of all but 50 of the approximately 700 people usually at the construction site.
The contractor also carefully planned the lift with detailed drawings, computer calculations of the weight on both cranes, load tests of the components in the slings and a check of the credentials of those working on the project.
This week workers also finished the roofing and siding on the building. It’s “dried in,” as they say.
Now they’ll continue work inside where it’s warm and dry on electrical, heating and other systems, working toward a construction finish date for that building in 2012.
“If you go inside, it’s starting to look like a plant,” Schepens said.
Every day the look of the vitrification plant seems to change, said Dave Smith, president of the Central Washington Building and Construction Trades Council.
But “major milestones like today’s add emphasis to the accomplishments,” he said.

Energy Department drops appeal of fine for Hanford waste handling

From Mike McGavick, Monday, October 9, 2006
RICHLAND, Wash. — The federal government has dropped its appeal of a $270,000 fine over the handling of radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear reservation, two years after the fine was first imposed.
The issue arose in 2004 when the Department of Energy shipped 83 drums of laboratory equipment, protective clothing and other debris, which was contaminated with Hanford waste, to Hanford from South Carolina’s Savannah River National Laboratory.
The laboratory had tested treatment methods on waste samples from Hanford’s underground tanks, which hold 53 million gallons of hazardous chemical and radioactive waste left from decades of plutonium production for the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal.
Federal law allows the waste to be shipped to South Carolina for study and returned to Hanford, exempting it from provisions of state and federal hazardous-waste regulations. But the state contends those exemptions do not apply to waste generated at Savannah River – debris such as equipment, clothing and supplies that may have been contaminated in the testing process.
Waste brought to Hanford also falls under state regulations for hazardous waste, which mirror federal regulations, state officials said.
The state fined the Energy Department and two contractors for not following regulations, which include requiring trained workers observe the packing of the drums, verify the type of waste and place a tamper-resistant seal on the drums.
The Energy Department contended that the waste produced during laboratory testing could be returned to Hanford under an exemption that allows waste residue to be returned after offsite testing.
However, the agency has dropped its appeal of the fine.
“We felt it was time to move on,” said Colleen French, an Energy Department spokeswoman.
The Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board had agreed with the state Department of Ecology, finding in a summary judgment ruling that the 83 drums could not be considered residues from the original waste stream.
The penalty was the largest ever that the state had issued to the Energy Department, which manages cleanup of the highly contaminated Hanford site. The fine was paid by Fluor Hanford, a contractor hired to clean up parts of the site. The Energy Department still must consider whether it is a reimbursable cost under Fluor’s contract.

Supreme Court orders unpaid compensation money to be given to survivors: celebrations in Bhopal, gloom in Midland, Michigan

19 July, 2004, Bhopal In a major victory for the Bhopal survivors, the Supreme Court today ordered the Government of India to distribute the balance of compensation remaining from Union Carbide’s settlement among the 566,876 Bhopal survivors whose claims have been successfully settled. The balance of the hitherto undistributed compensation has accumulated interest and grown to Rs. 1,505 crores (some $327 million).

Survivors whose claims may have been wrongly dismissed or who were underpaid were directed by the court to file a separate application, and seek compensation from the Government of India. The case, argued by Advocate S. Muralidhar, was filed on 5 March 2003 by 36 petitioners representing one gas-affected wards each.

While this is a real victory for the survivors and their supporters, they have been made to wait nearly twenty years since the night of terror. The average payout will still only amount to $570 per person which, despite Dow-Carbide’s now famous dictum that “$500 is plenty good for an Indian”, comes nowhere near meeting the costs of medical treatment that survivors have already had to fund for themselves, much less compensating for two decades of illness, loss of livelihood and fear for what new horrors may emerge in their bodies.

It is a further setback for the Dow-Carbide corporation and its political accomplices in India, who are on record as demanding that this money, meant for the relief of the survivors, should be used to clean up the company’s abandoned and polluted factory in Bhopal. Last month, the Government of India threw its weight behind a court action to force Dow-Carbide to bear the full costs of cleaning the plant. (See stories below)<br
Needless to say, today the Bhopalis are jubilant. This evening, the city will be in a celebratory mood – a large, colourful juloos is planned. The media has set upon them, and a press conference is being held at 5 p.m. Bhopal time.

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