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Saturday, February 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Business

Rail system being built at Hanford to safely move radioactive waste

By Tri-City Herald

Work has begun on a custom-designed rail system to safely move samples of radioactive waste through the laboratory at Hanford’s vitrification plant.

The Analytical Laboratory will be used to analyze about 10,000 samples annually from throughout the plant as waste now stored in Hanford’s underground tanks is turned into a stable glass form for disposal. The samples must be analyzed to ensure the glass meets regulatory standards.

The transportation system being installed now will be used to move high-level and low-activity radioactive wastes through the lab.

“(It) required precision engineering and fabrication and will require the same precision in installation,” Heidi Schuette, a deputy project engineering manager for Bechtel National, said in a statement.

A small crane will lift an empty 55-gallon drum onto a cart called a bogie. The bogie will travel on the rail through a door that’s shielded to protect against radiation and up through a hatch to the lab’s hot cell.

Samples that have been analyzed inside the hot cell will be loaded into the drums using remotely controlled mechanical arms. The drum then will be lowered back through the hatch and into a maintenance area for removal from the lab.

Crews began installing the hatch last week and will continue installing the rails, bogie and shielded door throughout the spring.

Components were made by Premier Technology Inc. in Blackfoot, Idaho.

The Analytical Laboratory, one of the four largest buildings at the $12.2 billion Hanford Waste Treatment Plant, is 320 feet long, 180 feet wide and about four stories high.

“The external structure of the lab was topped off in 2007, and we continue to make significant progress on the interior of the facility,” Raleigh Amos, a Bechtel Hanford superintendent, said in a statement. “The installation of the waste-transfer equipment is just another step toward operations in 2019.”

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