Hanford Vitrification Plant Progress - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hanford Vitrification Plant Progress

HANFORD, Wash. - Bechtel National, Inc. boasts a big accomplishment in Hanford clean up. Construction crews installed the exhaust stacks, Friday, for one of the Vitrification Plant's key buildings.

After crews finished lining up the stacks, the vit plant project is now nearly one third complete. It's still a long way to go, but the stacks mark a major milestone.

Watching the construction, you could barely notice the exhaust stacks moving, but little by little they're on their way to standing 200 feet tall. And vit plant workers consider them this year's crowning achievement.

"This is a great day for Hanford site. This is going to actually treat the waste one day, and this plant is needed to treat the waste," said Roy Schepens, Dept. of Energy Manager.   

Building the Vit Plant complex is the country's largest and most expensive construction project. The latest estimate is about 12 billion dollars. But once done the two waste treatment buildings will turn Hanford's radioactive waste into solid glass.

The project hasn't moved as fast as workers would like, but they said it's just a massive job.

"On this project, at one time we had about 1,100 engineers who were designing everything for the structure, to mechanical systems, to electrical systems, the drainage systems," said John Eschenberg, Waste Treatment Plant Project Manager. 

Each step of the way requires a lot of planning. Even something seemingly simple like lifting stacks off the ground and putting them on the roof.

"There's been probably well over 400 man hours or job hours expanded to plan this pig."

And workers said the pig plays an important role. The stacks will remove 99.99 % of hazardous toxins before they get into the air.

Crews plan to complete construction of the Vit Plant in 2012 and plan to start cleaning up waste in 2019.