FOLDTRACK Could Get Hanford Tank Cleanup Back on Track - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

FOLDTRACK Could Get Hanford Tank Cleanup Back on Track

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RICHLAND, Wash.- The Energy Department is trying out a new tool they say may cut the time it takes to clean out tanks of waste in half.

DOE has run into problems in the past getting the final bits of debris out of those tanks.

They say the new FOLDTRACK could be the solution and get tank farm cleanup back on track to meet Tri-Party Agreement deadlines.

It's only been on site for a week, but the Energy Department says the FOLDTRACK is showing promising results.

"With this device we have a strong tool, we can move debris, like pipes and so forth out of the way,so that we can get at our waste, and then we have the water jets to more effectively spray up the waste," said Ryan Dodd, Vice President of Closure Operations at CH2M Hill. 

Controllers can remotely drive the FOLDTRACK, with cameras as their only eyes.

Its military tanklike treads let it maneuver over things old tols couldn't, like debris and hardpack, and a bulldozer front end lets it move and spray those obstacles.

"Motor around inside the take to piles of waste and be able to push the waste towards the pump in the tank," said Ken Wade with the Department of Energy's Office of River Protection. 

Agreements say DOE has to have more than 99%of the materials out of the tanks before they're declared clean, but they've fallen behind pace, and now work in the tank farms is shut down as DOE investigates July's spill.

When work restarts they hope the FOLDTRACK will be the trick that gets them back on track.

"The hardest waste, that last 10 to 15 percent has been a challenge for us using our current retrieval technologies. With this device, we can break up the chunks of waste and get more of that debris," Dodd said.

The machine will go into it's first tank in February.

FOLDTRACK is also unique in that it's the only tool DOE is using that can be removed from the tank and reused.  All of the other methods just get left in the tanks and become waste themselves.