Clean Up Resumes At Hanford's K-Basin - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Clean Up Resumes At Hanford's K-Basin

Cleaning up radioactive K-Basin sludge and debris has given Hanford workers a number of headaches.  But engineers have developed a new way to get rid of the radioactive waste, and clean up work is starting to pick up.

Cleaning up the K Reactor Basin turned out to be a much more difficult project than people at Hanford originally thought.  At first glance the K-Basin looked like an easy clean up, but once they started removing sludge they found a lot of obstacles on the basin floor.  

Hanford workers found more debris sitting on the bottom the K East Basin floor than any other reactor.  Workers found junk like old tools, scaffolding, even a computer monitor. Trying to vacuum up the sludge around the debris became extremely challenging.

"We started without a lot of research and characterization of what was in the basin just because records were poor,” said Pete Knollmeyer, Vice President of K Basins Closure Project. “We've encountered a lot of things we didn't expect.  A lot of obstacles to overcome."

Removing sludge came to a halt.  Workers couldn't see what to clean up.  They needed a new approach if they wanted remove the radioactive waste from the basin.  

"We put together a strategic plan with some improvements involving getting the debris out first, recommencing our sludge operations with some significant improvements in the system," said K East Sludge Project Manager Rob Gentry.

Engineers devised using a magnet to pick up debris, making it easier for crews to see what they are doing.  Personnel said the new system now gives workers a concrete date when they will finally finish removing sludge for both the K East and K West Basins.  And that's big news for Hanford's overall clean up.    

"Our number one priority for the K-Basins, when the sludge is out of K East and K West, we'll definitely be one large step closer to cleaning up along the Columbia River," said Knollmeyer.

Crews will transfer all the sludge in the K East Basin through a nearly completed hose system, where workers will then turn it into solid waste. 

 Hanford will begin transferring the sludge this summer, and plans to finally complete the removing the K-Basins sludge by February 2007.