Hanford workers cut hole in radioactive waste tank - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hanford workers cut hole in radioactive waste tank

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RICHLAND, Wash.—KNDU has been following the very latest with  the Mobile Arm Retrieval System, also known as MARS, designed to remove about 53,000,000 gallons of radioactive waste that is stored in Hanford's 177 underground tanks.    

Over the weekend, a 55-inch diameter hole was cut into an active waste storage tank to allow MARS into the C-107 single-shell tank.  It's the largest cut into an active Department of Energy radioactive waste storage waste tank.  The process took less than 24   hours to cut through 15 inches of concrete and steel rebar.

A year of planning has led up to cutting a tank with radioactive waste from 1945, and workers say now that the first tank is cut, they have reached a huge milestone.

"Cutting a five foot hole into the top of concrete is not a big deal.  Doing it on top of an active waste tank that contains almost a quarter million gallons of high level waste is a very big deal," says Kent Smith, Deputy Manager Single-Shell Tank Retrieval Systems (WRPS).

The next tank will be cut within the next two years.  Work with MARS is expected to begin in July.  Until then, workers are learning how to use the largest robotic arm developed to date for removing radioactive waste from tanks.