Energy Secretary Says Construction Pace Will Pick Up Again at Hanford Waste Treatment Plant

Work on a new waste treatment plant at the Department of Energy's Hanford site will pick back up after construction problems delayed progress on some of its facilities.

Undated photo of the Hanford high-level waste facility. Source: DOEIn a statement Tuesday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said work over the last several months has put the project on a path to resolving the technical issues that have slowed construction. They added that, "Based on insight gathered from a number leading scientific experts, the department is now confident construction activities at the high-level waste facility can begin to be ramped back up."

Issues that slowed progress at the plant included an audit last April alleging inadequate quality control documentation in parts of the vitrification facility that will be inaccessible once it is in operation. The DOE also ordered additional testing in response to concerns by a Hanford scientist related to the potential effects of corrosion on the plant's design.

The project, which prime contractor Bechtel recently described as more than 65 percent complete, involves four nuclear facilities spread across 65 acres designated for treatment of liquid tank waste at the former Cold War site.

In their release, the governor and the energy secretary also announced that DOE is "seriously and expeditiously evaluating" options to send waste directly to the low- and high-level waste facilities at the plant in order to begin operations before completion of a pre-treatment facility.

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