ANNETTE CARY Tri-City Herald
Dec 30, 2019 Updated Dec 30, 2019
RICHLAND — The initial staff has arrived at the Analytical Laboratory, the first of the four major facilities at the Hanford $17 billion vitrification plant to have a Washington state permit to operate.
The inaugural team of eight chemists is setting up shop there as the plant prepares to start treating Hanford’s radioactive waste by the end of 2023.
Bechtel National, which is building and starting up the plant, plans to hire 32 more chemists and laboratory staff over the next 18 months to support work at the plant’s Analytical Laboratory.
Hanford has 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical waste held in underground tanks after producing plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program from World War II through the Cold War.
The initial lab staff now at the vitrification plant in the center of Hanford began training in 2018 at a lab set up at Columbia Basin College in Pasco to allow them to start training on equipment that was moved to the Hanford laboratory in recent months.
When the vitrification plant begins treating some of the least radioactive waste in the tanks as required by a federal court deadline of 2023, the lab will be used to analyze about 3,000 waste samples each year.
The Analytical Laboratory is the size of a football field and stands about four stories high.
Chemists and other lab employees will help develop a “recipe” of glass forming materials for each batch of waste and also confirm that a high-quality glass is produced.