Home » Bechtel tests molten glass facility for storing radioactive waste

Bechtel tests molten glass facility for storing radioactive waste

by Mark Cantrell
Molten glass has been poured into a stainless steel container in a successful first test of a facility intended to safely store radioactive and chemical waste

Molten glass has been poured into a stainless steel container in a successful first test of a facility intended to safely store radioactive and chemical waste in Washington State, in the United States.

The process, known as vitrification, mixes the hazardous waste with glass melted at high temperature. Once cooled, the material is locked away within the solid structure of the glass.

Design by engineering, construction, and project management firm, Bechtel, the waste treatment and immobilisation plant is said to be a one-of-a-kind facility that will use two melters to treat low-level chemical and radioactive waste. In so doing, it is intended to protect the nearby Columbia River from waste that is said to date back to the Second World War, and the Cold War.

In the test, conducted in the summer of 2023, the Bechtel team heated the first of the two 300-ton melters in the low-activity waste (LAW) facility to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit (1148C). Once at that operating temperature, 30,000 lbs. of frit, or small glass beads sourced from a local business, were added to the melter to form a pool of molten test glass.

Last month, the team celebrated the successful filling of the first container with clean test glass, marking a major milestone for the project.

Brian Hartman, project director and Bechtel senior vice president, said: “The Bechtel team has made history by filling the first stainless-steel container with molten test glass from the world’s largest nuclear waste melter.

“This accomplishment stands as a testament to our unwavering dedication to safety, excellence, and collaboration. Our team has worked tirelessly to achieve this milestone. Their tenacity and dedication are truly inspiring.”

The test glass poured is “clean,” which means it only includes the molten frit with no chemical simulants or radioactive waste.

The first of the specially designed stainless-steel containers that will eventually hold vitrified low-activity chemical and radioactive tank waste has now completed its journey through the LAW acility.

Dena Volovar, president of Bechtel National, Inc, said: “I am immensely proud of our team for the attention to detail and dedication to safety that has led them to this milestone. This sort of focus will be vital as the team begins the rigorous cold and hot commissioning processes, and applying lessons learned from the heat-up of the first melter to the second. The mission to clean up waste and protect the local community and environment is one Bechtel is proud to support.”

Main image: Looking into the steel container holding the poured glass. Courtesy of Bechtel


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