RICHLAND, WA - Big news out of the Hanford site today as assembly of the two largest nuclear waste melters in the history of the U.S. is done.
The melters will be a part of the direct feed low-activity waste approach DOE is taking, and will vitrify the waste...which means the waste will be heated to extreme temperatures and turned into glass.
The first melter was finished in May and the second was finished at the end of summer.
Once operations actually start, the melters will produce a combined 30 tons of glass every day, but the process of immobilizing the waste goes farther than just turning it into glass.
"You might think about these melters as the heart of the low-activity waste facility," said Bechtel's project director, Peggy McCullough. "These two melters, this is where the waste is mixed with glass formers; it's heated to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, and then it's poured into stainless steel canisters, and that's what actually immobilizes the waste, so that it can't migrate anywhere, can't get into the groundwater."
The low-activity waste processed at the law facility will be stored at a location on-site, so transporting that waste off-site won't factor into the process at all.
We're still a few years away from beginning the treatment on the low-level waste...that's set to begin sometime in 2022.