Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business Hanford Specialty Publication

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Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019


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Subscriptions Submit Business News ON THE COVER Top row, left to right: Effluent Management Facility Evaporator Tower (Bechtel National Inc.); 116-K East demolition (U.S. Department of Energy); Chiller Compressor Building (Bechtel National Inc.); 224-U demolition (U.S. Department of Energy); 284-W Powerhouse demolition (U.S. Department of Energy). Second row, left to right: Fuel stored underwater in K East Basin (U.S. Department of Energy); 618-10 burial aerial of vit plant (Bechtel National Inc.); Installation of Mobile Arm Retrieval System (U.S. Department of Energy); Gov. Jay Inslee visits Pretreatment Plant (U.S. Department of Energy). Third row, left to right: Glovebox removal from Plutonium Finishing Plant (U.S. Department of Energy); Effluent Management Facility (Bechtel National Inc.); railcars moved to B Reactor (U.S. Department of Energy); Joe Guyette, quality assurance at 100-HX Groundwater Treatment Facility (U.S. Department of Energy); B Reactor control room (U.S. Department of Energy). Fourth row, left to right: 200 W Groundwater Treatment System (U.S. Department of Energy); Soil sampling (U.S. Department of Energy), Waste container (U.S. Department of Energy), Low-Activity Waste Facility (Bechtel National Inc.); Effluent Management Facility vessels (Bechtel National Inc.).

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Advertising Account Manager 509-737-8778 ext. 1 The Hanford specialty publication is a supplement of the May 2019 issue of the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business. All rights reserved by TriComp Inc.

Photos courtesy U.S. Department of Energy The basin of the K East Reactor, shown here, was demolished a decade ago, but it remains in surveillance mode for now, awaiting final cocooning, or stabilizing.

Waste cleanup story unfolding Hanford site cleanup has been underway 30 years; contamination still exists By ARIELLE DREHER

for Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

There’s no question plenty of contamination remains at the Hanford site. But let’s pause a moment to reflect on how much has been cleaned up: 2,300 tons of spent nuclear fuel resting near the Columbia River moved to dry storage. 20 tons of leftover plutonium stabilized and shipped off site. More than 20 billion gallons of contaminated groundwater treated. 489 tons of contamination removed. 889 of 1,715 facilities demolished. 1,342 of 2,032 waste sites remediated. Six reactors cocooned, or stabilized. It was 30 years ago when the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology sat down and signed a comprehensive agreement that brought the Hanford nuclear site cleanup efforts into compliance with several federal environmental standards. The document, called the Tri-Party Agreement, contained cleanup commitments, responsibilities and an action plan with milestones. It was signed May 15, 1989, and since then, substantial progress has been made. The Department of Ecology regulates work done at the Hanford site, ensuring compliance with environmental protection laws and looking out for the wellbeing of the Columbia River, environment surrounding the former nuclear site and inhabitants. The Department of Energy, largely

There are five groundwater treatment facilities, like this one shown above, in this 2013 photo that use resin to remove contaminants from groundwater before it reaches the Columbia River.

through the help of corporate contractors, is responsible for the cleanup work, which ranges from cocooning nuclear reactors, digging and transferring toxic sludge and groundwater, and figuring out how to transfer toxic waste to a soon-tobe opened facility that can treat it for permanent storage. Hanford is one of 16 Department of Energy nuclear waste sites nationwide, and it is the largest in size at 586 square miles. Scientists produced plutonium at Hanford through the 1980s. It was used to make atomic weapons during World War II through the Cold War. That production left behind tons of waste in a previously sparsely-populated part of hthe state. The first priority of the Tri-Party Agreement is to protect the Columbia River, and the river corridor. The 220 square miles along the river were used during plutonium production days and

are a primary focus of cleanup. When the Tri-Party Agreement was signed, 2,300 tons of spent nuclear fuel and 20 tons of leftover plutonium rested near the Columbia River. All of that has been moved to dry storage or stabilized and shipped off site. Water treatment facilities are operating along the river corridor to treat potentially contaminated groundwater from entering the Columbia River. Groundwater at Hanford is not used for public drinking water. And while not all of the groundwater contamination has been treated, more than 20 billion gallons have been and 489 tons of contamination have been removed. Nuclear energy requires a lot of water, hence the initial placement of nuclear reactors near the Columbia’s edge. There were nine former reactors along the riverbanks. Today, six of those reactors uWASTE, Page 19


Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019



Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019


Transitioning workforce on horizon Wave of retirees expected, DOE evaluating methods to hire qualified workers BY ROBIN WOJTANIK

for Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

Hanford’s workforce is made up of more professional support staff than engineers, scientists or technicians. More than 9,000 people are directly employed with efforts at the Hanford site, based on recent U.S. Department of Energy data. That’s more than the individual population of three neighboring cities: Prosser numbers 6,125, Connell 5,460, and Benton City 3,405. Employment at Hanford and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory accounted for about 12 percent of total employment across Benton and Franklin counties, based on the most recent data through 2017. This represents about a quarter of the total wages earned in the region, with an average annual wage of $97,000 for jobs related to Hanford and PNNL. The Hanford site is gearing up for a regional “silver tsunami” that will see thousands of retirements and a turnover in its aging workforce. Nearly 60 percent of those in jobs connected to Hanford are older than age 50, and more than a third are eligible for

Courtesy Bechtel National Inc. The U.S. Department of Energy and Hanford contractors are making efforts to recruit qualified workers, as a third of the workforce connected to Hanford will be eligible to retire within the next five years.

workforce retirement within the next five years. “When we hear the statistics about average age, it is cause for concern,” said David Reeploeg, vice president of federal programs at Tri-City Development Council. “When we think of losing that institutional knowledge, we want to make sure someone can take that and build on it.” This has created a need for the

Department of Energy and its prime contractors to look for ways to replace retirees with a qualified workforce. The Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection reports efforts to recruit replacement workers include partnering with nearby schools and universities, in addition to holding an annual community forum to build awareness of the workforce needs at the site. “We want a thoughtful and strategic

transition from one generation of Hanford workers to the next,” Reeploeg said. Under prime contractor Bechtel National Inc., about 2,600 employees work on the project to create the world’s largest radioactive waste vitrification plant. That number is expected to be cut in half as the work transitions from construction and startup to its commissioning phase, which will cover daily operation of the plant. A workforce described as “steady” is expected to include about 1,500 to 1,800 employees, once direct feed low-activity waste operations begin. The Department of Energy says its contractors tend to categorize employees into one of nine divisions, with not all nine categories represented by every employer: managers, engineers, scientists, professional administrative staff (accountants, attorneys and human resources), administrative assistants, technicians, health care, union members represented by the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council, and union members represented by building and construction trades. The perception of the Hanford site often includes workers heavy in professions related to science, technology, engineering or math fields. Yet, professional administrative staff often represent the uWORKFORCE, Page 17

Urgency, momentum progress at Hanford

A sense of urgency is building at the Hanford site as we get closer to delivering on our commitment to safely, efficiently and effectively treat tank waste and close Hanford tanks; continue to remediate waste sites and facilities; and reduce risk to our employees, the public and the environment. As the manager of both the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of River Protection and Brian Vance Richland U.S. Department of Operations Energy Hanford Office, I am site manager pleased with our momentum over the past year and expect our momentum to continue building. This is a time of tremendous change and opportunity for the Hanford site, as we prepare to start tank waste treatment as early as 2022, about a year earlier than our consent decree milestone of December 2023. We are also shifting our operational culture to prepare for roundthe-clock tank waste treatment operations, while also focusing on being a demanding and fair customer to our con-

tractors; enforcing ethical standards and conduct; building and maintaining constructive relationships with Hanford stakeholders; and driving our performance to higher standards. To foster this transition, in February I was named the acting manager for the Richland Operations Office in addition to my role as manager for the Office of River Protection. Under this single-manager leadership, we have an opportunity to drive positive change that safely delivers cost-effective cleanup, reduces risks and provides the best return on the taxpayer’s investment. This change, however, does not represent a recombination of the offices. Our plan to treat the less radioactive tank waste, known as direct-feed lowactivity waste, requires strong teamwork between DOE and all of the site’s contractors. Design is underway on a system called tank-side cesium removal, or TSCR, which will remove cesium and solid materials – the higher-level waste components – from the liquid tank waste, providing a low-activity waste stream for vitrification in the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant Low-Activity Waste Facility. uPROGRESS, Page 6

Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019



Alternatives explored to reduce costs DOE explores methods to treat waste that could cut expenses, save time


for Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

Cleanup of the nuclear waste-contaminated Hanford site will cost another $323.2 billion to $677 billion and continue until at least 2078, according to the latest projections released by the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s why the Department of Energy is exploring new approaches that could reduce both the timeline and costs associated with the cleanup of the 586-squaremile site, said Geoff Tyree, external engagement lead with the Department of Energy at Hanford. “We’re looking for ways that we can reduce the cost of cleanup while making sure we’re meeting the regulatory requirements and that it’s still safe and protective of people and the environment,” Tyree said. The Department of Energy reported the projections in its 2019 Hanford Lifecycle Scope, Schedule and Cost Report, a document released in February that serves as the foundation for preparing federal budget requests and informational briefings to affected tribal governments and Hanford stakeholders. The report is required annually under the TriParty Agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington State Department of Ecology and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Costs associated with the nearly 30 years of cleanup that have taken place thus far totaled $53 billion as of September 2018. Work completed during that time included the movement of 2,300 tons of spent nuclear fuel from near the Columbia River to dry storage, stabilization of 20 tons of leftover plutonium that was shipped off site and treatment of 20 billion gallons of contaminated groundwater. The footprint of active cleanup now stands at 76 square miles compared to 586 square miles in 1989. The Department of Energy’s previous lifecycle report released in 2016 estimated the remaining cleanup cost at $107.7 billion and saw most of the work being done by 2060. The increased cost and delayed schedule included in the latest report were not unexpected, but they highlight the need to look at things differently, Tyree said. “(The report) definitely shows that the current approach will leave waste in the tanks for too long, it will expose workers to unnecessary risk and require taxpayers to pay too much, and so the report supports the department’s exploration of other approaches to treating tank waste to complete the Hanford cleanup,” Tyree said. One of the alternatives the Department of Energy is exploring is a process known as the test bed initiative, which looks to mix some of the less radioactive tank

Above: Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant is preparing to start treating tank waste as early as 2022. Left: Workers exit the C Tank Farm after operating equipment that cuts a larger hole in the top of an underground waste tank. The bigger hole allows more waste retrieval equipment to fit inside. Photos courtesy U.S. Department of Energy

waste with a grout-like mixture for it to be disposed of as low-level waste outside of Washington. The Department of Energy is also considering new ways for treating the more radioactive, high-level waste, Tyree said. At the same time, Bechtel National Inc.’s construction of the vitrification plant remains on schedule to begin turning the 56 million gallons of high-level waste in Hanford’s 177 underground tanks into glass by 2023. “I know the (Department of Energy) is looking at a number of different options, and I think all of those options, from my perspective, are worth a lot more examination and might be a really good direction to move in,” said David Reeploeg, vice president of federal programs for the Tri-City Development Council. However, dealing with nuclear waste

policy and disposal inherently holds a wealth of challenges, one of the most significant being securing the necessary funding for it, Reeploeg said. The Department of Energy’s 2020 congressional budget proposal designates $2.1 billion toward the Hanford cleanup, an amount that is $417 million less than what was allotted for the cleanup in 2019. “This is an era of limits on how much Congress is going to be able to afford to spend every year and how much work, realistically, can be accomplished every year,” Reeploeg said. Further complicating the situation is the fact that the longer it takes to complete the cleanup, the more expensive it becomes to maintain the site for nuclear safety, said Alex Smith, program manager of the state Department of Ecology’s

Nuclear Waste Program. “We’re getting to a tipping point where just the costs to maintain the site are eventually going to eclipse the whole budget for the site,” Smith said. The Department of Ecology supports the Department of Energy’s efforts to shorten the timeline and reduce the costs associated with the Hanford cleanup but also has concerns about new methods that may be used to do so, she said. “Although we agree that it needs to be cleaned up—and the faster it’s cleaned up the better all-around—we’re worried that methods that aren’t as protective of health and the environment will be used in order to do it more quickly rather than to do it right,” said Randy Bradbury, communications manager for the Department of uALTERNATIVES, Page 10


Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019


Contracts worth billions in transition Several major Hanford contracts to be awarded in late summer BY ROBIN WOJTANIK

for Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

Contracts worth tens of billions of dollars are being systematically awarded for work to be performed at Hanford, covering prime responsibilities at the nuclear waste site and operating under new models. “It’s an important and critical time for collaboration,” said Mark Heeter, public affairs specialist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Richland Operations Office. This includes three major contracts, which are in the review process with awardees to be announced in late summer. The largest two contracts will be awarded using the new “end-state” model and will cover the tank farms and central plateau area of the site. This model is completed through a twostep process in which the Department of Energy uses a sample task to find the “best value partner,” and then “openly negotiates future task orders with the right ‘end-state’ requirements and regulatory framework that appropriately shares risk.” Heeter said this risk will now be fairly balanced between the contractor and the federal government, marking a change to past contract language. The upcoming contract with the highest value is for work currently performed by Washington River Protection Solutions, whose contract is set to expire at the end of the fiscal year, in September 2019. Most of the new contracts have new titles, reflecting a difference in how work is viewed at the site. Currently known as the Tank Operations Contract, this contract’s new title is now the Tank Closure Contract, as it reflects a change in efforts to close the tanks once waste is eventually processed through the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. Requests for proposals were due in March and are being evaluated with an awardee likely announced in late July or August. The contract is valued at up to $13 billion over a 10-year span and will be awarded under the new end-state model that

Workers install a pump in C-109, a single-shell tank that once held 63,000 gallons of waste. The pump was a critical tool in removing the waste from the tank and transferring it to a newer receiving tank for storage. Courtesy U.S. Department of Energy


PROGRESS, From Page 4 Understanding the status of older tanks and preventing contamination that has already leaked from tanks in the past from moving deeper toward groundwater are also priorities. The tank operations contractor has completed integrity assessments on all 149 single-shell tanks and in 2018 constructed a surface barrier over SX tank farm, to prevent precipitation from driving contamination in the soil deeper. Near the Columbia River, we are at the halfway point of transferring 35 cubic yards of radioactive sludge from the K West Reactor Basin away from the river and expect to complete this significant achievement this year. We are also making good progress on installing remote-controlled equipment in a former nuclear laboratory north of Richland to excavate highly contaminated soil beneath the 324 Building. On the central plateau, lower risk demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant has resumed, and we will work at a safe and deliberate pace to ensure we are protecting workers, the public, and the environment. Workers have finished filling a second waste storage tunnel near the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant with grout to prevent a potential release of contaminated material from a collapse.

Courtesy U.S. Department of Energy Brian Vance, U.S. Department of Energy Hanford site manager, in blue helmet, speaks to Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, during her visit to the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant on April 24.

Across Hanford, we expect once again to exceed our goal of treating nearly 2 billion gallons of contaminated groundwater and removing tons of contaminants, reducing risk to the Columbia River and shrinking the size of contaminated groundwater areas. However, even as we continue to make good progress, we also are facing stark realizations regarding the schedule and cost to achieve this cleanup. Hanford receives about $2.4 billion

annually, which enables our more than 9,000 federal and contractor staff to safely advance our cleanup mission. These staff are highly trained with unique skills and capabilities. But with decades more to go our success lies in the next generation of cleanup employees and leaders. Through engagement with our area colleges and universities, the department and our contractors are helping to develop this next generation. I’d also be remiss if I did not mention

the importance of our community businesses and stakeholders, who continue to support our cleanup efforts. Our prime contractors reported more than $785 million in subcontracting last year, including over $500 million going to local businesses and about $400 million going to small businesses. I’m proud to say Hanford enjoys the support of many stakeholders, and we don’t take that for granted. The recently released Hanford lifecycle report showed a significant increase in the estimated cost of future cleanup, which further demonstrates that new approaches are needed for the mission at Hanford. We do not accept the status quo and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with Congress, tribal governments, regulators and Hanford stakeholders to change course and enable our future success. Across all of our projects, my role is to reinforce a sense of deliberate urgency as we look to achieve a safe, affordable and protective cleanup for the community and the American taxpayer, and I look forward to discussing this more with you and hearing your input at our meetings throughout the year. For more information on progress at Hanford, please visit  Brian Vance is the manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Hanford site.


Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019



Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019


Small businesses tap into government work

Subcontracts create way for businesses to expand BY JENNIFER L. DREY

for Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

The U.S. Department of Energy’s prime contractors awarded nearly $785 million in subcontracts in fiscal 2018, a figure representing more than 30 percent of Hanford’s roughly $2.4 billion budget that year, according to a recent Department of Energy report. While most of the prime contractors have aggressive small business subcontracting goals written into their contracts, many of the primes have found that the relationships go beyond simply meeting obligations. “These small businesses are an extension of the work we do. We really view them as partners who are critical to our success here at the site because they provide the talent and the skills that we need in order to complete the mission here at Hanford,” said Rob Roxburgh, deputy manager for communications and public relations at Washington River Protection Solutions. Tasked with safely maintaining the tank waste at the Hanford site until ready for disposal, WRPS relies on the local supplier base for resources when they are not internally available, said Jose Legarreta, procurement services manager for WRPS. Since its contract with the Department

Courtesy Washington River Protection Solutions Participants at the annual Washington River Protection Solutions-sponsored Bridging Partnerships Small Business Symposium learn about maximizing opportunities available through government subcontracting.

of Energy began in 2008, 64.8 percent of WRPS’ subcontracts have gone to small businesses, exceeding the company’s overall small business goal of 58.2 percent. “There is a requirement on our part to seek and do business with small businesses, but beyond that, we also like to call ourselves a good corporate citizen in that we like providing the local area with business opportunities, employment opportunities and training opportunities,” Legarreta said.

Hanford prime contractor Mission Support Alliance also views the Department of Energy’s small-business subcontracting requirements as a positive factor for both sides, said Rae Moss, director of communications and external affairs for Mission Support Alliance. MSA handles key activities at Hanford including analytical services, emergency response, information resource management, maintenance, property disposition, security and utility services. “The Department of Energy’s goal is to

encourage us to work with local businesses and small businesses to help the community and to offer jobs,” Moss said. “So, we’re not going to be bringing in corporate people to fill these jobs, we’re going to use local people.” On the small business side, companies that choose to work as government subcontractors often gain the opportunity to expand their knowledge base by working alongside a variety of people, while getting the know-how to do future work in all levels of government, Moss said. MSA benefits from its relationships with small business subcontractors because they allow the company to focus on what it does best, while eliminating the need to be an expert in all areas, she said. “We’re able to get people with a high level of expertise for very specific projects that we’re working on, so it’s really a benefit to us and to the Hanford site because we’re able to hire-in very specifically what’s needed for isolated projects,” Moss said. However, on the small business side, the idea of getting involved in government work can be intimidating, given its reputation for bureaucratic procedures, paperwork and additional requirements not found in the private sector. Those stigmas do, in fact, often prove true, Legarreta said, but at the same time, learning to do government work can be a uBUSINESSES, Page 18

Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019



Vit plant ramps up for next phase Facility to start processing low-level waste by 2023


for Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

Round-the-clock staffing is in place at the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant as Bechtel National Inc. prepares to process low-activity waste by 2023, but possibly as soon as 2022. There hasn’t been 24/7 staffing at Hanford in more than 20 years. Earlier this year, the analytical laboratory at the plant entered its startup phase, marking the first major facility to begin full systems testing mode. “We are in phases we have never been before,” said Staci West, Bechtel’s communications manager for the plant. The overall goal is to process nuclear waste at the site using vitrification, a method of permanently disposing of waste by mixing it with glass-forming materials. The planning and construction of the plant got underway nearly 20 years ago, at an expected cost of $17 billion, with the end result being the world’s largest radioactive waste treatment plant. A project commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy, the completed vit plant will process 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste currently stored in underground tanks, following decades of plutonium production at Hanford. The existing tanks are not a

long-term solution for the waste, as dozens are leaking and pose a threat to the environment. The decadeslong project is a multiphase operation, beginning with construction, followed by startup procedures, and an eventual transition to commissioning and operation. For example, the analytical laboratory on the vit plant site was only ready to move into the startup phase after 34 systems were tested, with the last being electrical. From there, the equipment and systems will be tested meticulously to ensure they are in working order before the lab enters the commissioning phase, which includes operations. Startup testing at the lab is expected to finish this year. The first set of 22 commissioning technicians are on the job in the control room of the low-activity waste, or LAW, facility. Working alongside eight supervisors and four engineers, the staff will eventually grow to nearly 350 employees in the next 18 months. Commissioning technicians are crosstrained on more than 200 systems in the LAW facility, effluent management facility analytical laboratory and other support facilities. Training is done in a 17,000-square-foot building with a fullscale functional replica of the LAW control room. uVIT PLANT, Page 20

ABOVE: Construction and hiring is underway at the massive Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, known as the vit plant. The plant will use a vitrification process to dispose of waste by mixing it with glass-forming materials. LEFT: Two vessels, weighing 160 tons each and standing 40 feet tall, arrive by barge at the Port of Benton to be offloaded by Lampson International then delivered to the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant jobsite for eventual installation in the Effluent Management Facility. Photos courtesy Bechtel National Inc.


Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019

ALTERNATIVES, From Page 5 Ecology’s nuclear waste program. The Department of Ecology is working with the Department of Energy to advance the test bed initiative, while at the same time closely monitoring that it doesn’t pull money or attention away from the central mission of vitrifying the high-level waste that it believes needs to be vitrified. “To the extent we can do it without sacrificing environmental protection in our jurisdiction, we’re happy to support those efforts but not if they come at the expense of (DOE) meeting its obligations,” Smith said. Completing the cleanup to a standard that all stakeholders are comfortable with but at a cost that is affordable for Congress and palatable to the community is a challenge that will require open minds on all sides, said TRIDEC’s Reeploeg. “As a nation, we have this legal and moral obligation to clean up the Hanford site. That being said, we also recognize that we are in an era where there are limitations to funding. The budgetary environment is not one where there’s a whole lot of extra money lying around, so the lifecycle report certainly presents some new challenges,” Reeploeg said. Another challenge will be getting all parties to reach agreement on the proper balance between quantity of work and standard of work, he said. “Is it better to get a lot of work done to one standard — to at least get waste out of the tanks and get waste solidi-

“The budgetary environment is not one where there’s a whole lot of extra money lying around.” - David Reeploeg, vice president, federal programs, Tri-City Development Council

fied — or to have a much higher standard but you only get a fraction of that waste solidified or pulled out of the tanks? I don’t know that anybody knows what the exact right answer to that is. None of these are easy answers, but I think those are some of the conversations that are beginning to take place and that we probably need more of,” Reeploeg said. The Department of Energy is still early in its process of analyzing alternative waste-treatment options, so any potential new path and related cost reductions likely will not be reported for a couple of years, Tyree said. “We’re not trying to rush this. We want to make sure we take the time to talk about these options and to be able to demonstrate that they will still be protective of people and of the environment,” he said.

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HANFORD CONTRACTS, From Page 6 includes a goal of reducing risk while accelerating cleanup. The Department of Energy asked for input from potential contractors in late 2018 when the bid process began, Heeter said. “We wanted a spirit of cooperation to make sure we get these contracts right,” he said. “To look at these contracts and the way we look at the site, it’s the time to do it differently.” Heeter said there are opportunities built into the contract for both the contractor and the federal government to revisit and potentially renegotiate the terms. “Everyone is trying to get to the same finish line,” he said. A prime contract, the Mission Support Contract, one of the largest at the site, is now called the Hanford Mission Essential Services Contract, or HMESC. It’s expected to be awarded by August. It’s currently held by Mission Support Alliance and was set to expire in late May, but the company recently received a sixmonth extension through November 2019. MSA, made up of Leidos, Jacobs Engineering and Centerra, began work on the contract in May 2009. Heeter said the new contract is likely valued at $4 billion to $6 billion. This reflects the cost, plus an award fee, cost reimbursement, and is of indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity, or IDIQ, which includes a fixed timeline. IDIQ is frequently used for contracts by the federal government. A four-month transition period is built into the new contract to allow for the possibility of one contractor departing and a new one entering. The Department of Energy is reviewing all proposals for the 10-year contract. The HMESC covers all support services at the site, including maintaining all infrastructure. This includes security and upkeep of hundreds of miles of roads, including all utility lines. It also covers firefighting capabilities, land management, information technology and management of the HAMMER Federal Training Center. An announcement on the awardee of the HMESC contract is expected around the same time as the Tank Closure Contract — this summer. A third prime contractor is currently completing a decade-long contract, plus a one-year extension written through the end of the 2019 fiscal year. Once called the Plateau Remediation Contract and held by CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., it now is called the Central Plateau Cleanup Contract and it focuses on the decontamination and demolition of buildings, excavation of

waste sites, groundwater cleanup and management of transuranic waste. The CPCC is expected to be awarded at the same time as the HMSEC and TCC, in July or August. It is valued at up to $10 billion over the next 10 years. Proposals for this contract also were due in the spring and are being reviewed. CH2M began the current plateau remediation contract in October 2008, with a focus on cleanup and groundwater. Bids are expected for a fourth contract that focuses on samples taken mostly from the tank farms, currently called the 222-S Analytical Laboratory Services. Its name has been shortened to 222-S Laboratory, and it is expected to be awarded between December 2019 and February 2020. The contract has been held since fall 2015 by Wastren Advantage Inc., which was recently acquired by Veolia, based in France. Veolia tests about 25,000 samples a year in the 200 West Area. The new 222-S laboratory contract is valued at $600 million to $1 billion. “As small-business contracts go, this is a larger one,” Heeter said. Heeter said the work has been tied closely to WRPS since the largest part of the portfolio is analytical work from the tank farms. The new contract also will cover the cost plus an award fee, as well as cost reimbursement. It is considered a hybrid fixed price and is also IDIQ. A contract already is in place with Bechtel National Inc. to build the massive Hanford Tank Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. This contract is valued at $14.7 billion and Bechtel began work on it in December 2000. The contract is written through 2022 and has no option period. Bechtel is required to have the plant ready to treat some waste by 2023, but the company is expected to remain working on the plant through the 2036 deadline when it’s required to be fully operational. The contract most recently awarded at the site was for Occupational Medical Services and given to HPM Corp. As the incumbent provider of work-related medical services since 2012, this was written using the new end-state contract model and is being used as a guide for other contracts to be executed at the site. The new contract with HPMC went into effect April 1, 2019, and is valued at $152 million over seven years. As new contracts are awarded, Heeter said the Department of Energy “has a great opportunity to play straight into things and build a high-performance Hanford team,” allowing the federal government to “be a fair and demanding customer” to all its contractors.

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Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019


Risks linger with plant’s demolition Plutonium Finishing Plant removal poses challenges to avoid exposure to remnants of radioactive material


for Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

The Plutonium Finishing Plant used to be called the Z Plant when the Hanford nuclear site produced plutonium because it was the end of production of the radioactive material before it was shipped to weapons production facilities. The PFP was a group of 60 buildings, which began operating in 1949, where workers produced “buttons” of solid plutonium, the size of hockey pucks. PFP was the last stop for plutonium on the Hanford site before it was built into nuclear weapons elsewhere in the country. Today, the demolition of the Z Plant poses one of the greatest challenges to U.S. Department of Energy workers and contractors tasked with demolishing it without exposing themselves, the environment or others to the radioactive remnants unearthed. During summer 2017, bioassay results found 31 workers had ingested, inhaled or absorbed radioactive contamination after a spread was detected due to work around PFP. Demolition continued, however, until December 2017, when workers noticed their air samplers detected elevated radiation levels. CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., the contractor responsible for demolishing the PFP, called a stop-work at that time to conduct surveys and samples. These surveys snowballed into the revelation that contamination had spread from PFP demolition zones to not only workers directly engaged in the work but to areas outside of the demolition zones. Areas outside of mobile administrative offices as well as vehicles — both personal and government — had traces of low-level radiation. More than 300 workers requested bioassays following the December contamination spread, and 11 of them were found to have ingested, inhaled or absorbed some radioactive contamination. In total, in 2017, 42 Hanford site workers had internal contamination as a result of

Photos courtesy CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company In April, workers finishing the demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant began to demolish a vault left from the 66-building complex, as a part of low-risk work that resumed last fall.

working on or near demolition of PFP. CH2M Hill maintained its stop-work order, which lasted eight months. It brought in an outside assessment group to review its controls program, and eventually, in summer 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy launched an independent concurrent assessment as well. The Department of Energy’s review raised several concerns about CH2M Hill’s practices, including a lack of quality on work permitting and radiological controls. “Information needed for proper completion of the tasks was not always provided, including taking appropriate background measurements, evaluation of potential radon interference, proper techniques for collecting transferability samples, and methods for ensuring sample integrity,” according to a 2018 Department of Energy memo. The Department of Energy did note that CH2M Hill improved its practices as its assessment continued, however, and said that improvements to both the control and

survey programs were made. Department of Energy planned to continue to conduct independent assessments, as it deemed necessary when work was set to begin. CH2M Hill was cleared for low-level risk demolition work on PFP in fall 2018. “We really engaged the workforce to come up with a revised strategy for getting back to work and came up with a phased approach, starting with the lower-risk demolition work, and that work resumed last September 2018,” said Dieter Bohrmann, communications specialist at CH2M Hill. “Under these number of enhanced controls for workers’ safety, increased boundaries, additional monitoring, better communication with the workforce and neighboring projects—so a whole slate of enhanced measures that would allow the project to proceed safely and deliberately—we got back to work.” uDEMOLITION, Page 17


Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019


PUREX tunnels stabilized after collapse Tunnels used for rail car transportation when plant made plutonium in WWII

BY ARIELLE DREHER for Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

Nearly two years after a 20-by-20 foot portion of the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant’s Tunnel 1 caved in, both it and its larger sibling, Tunnel 2, have been stabilized. On May 9, 2017, U.S. Department of Energy workers discovered the 20-foot collapse of Tunnel 1, after noticing a background increase in radiation levels. Officials declared an emergency lockdown once they discovered the collapse, and no one was hurt. No radioactive materials were released in the collapse. The hole was filled immediately, and plans to stabilize the tunnels and investigate Tunnel 2 for sturdiness followed. The Washington state Department of Ecology issued an enforcement order on May 10, 2017, following the collapse. The two-year unraveling of the collapse and subsequent grouting of not only Tunnel 1 but also Tunnel 2 helps paint a picture of just how tedious, toxic and urgent work at the country’s largest nuclear waste site can be. The PUREX tunnels were initially used as rail car tunnels back when the Hanford Nuclear Plant was producing plutonium used in the country’s nuclear program during World War II and through the Cold War. The rail cars were used to store and transport failed equipment and chemical waste at the Plutonium Uranium Extraction plant, which an expert panel report that helped guide what should be done with Tunnel 2 described as “the workhorse of the nuclear materials production facilities.” The tunnels were built at the end of the PUREX plant to push malfunctioning or failed equipment and materials out of the way. Tunnel 1 was constructed between 1954-56 with wood timbers. Tunnel 2 was constructed of steel and concrete in 1964. When the plutonium production plant ceased operations, the rail cars were abandoned — potentially contaminated equipment and containers of waste included — inside the tunnels. Tunnel 1 holds eight rail cars; Tunnel 2 holds 28 rail cars. The initial intent was for the tunnels to connect to an extension entrance to another disposal facility, and plans for a third tunnel never came to fruition. Instead, rail cars full of items like failed “concentrators” or “miscellaneous jumpers in box and two tube bundles” were stored in Tunnel 1 as early as 1960 or scrubbers and vapor lines stored on rail cars in Tunnel 2 in 1971. Following the May 2017 tunnel collapse, CH2M Hill began work to grout Tunnel 1, within a month after the Washington State Department of Ecology issued an enforcement order demanding immediate action. CH2M Hill and its subcontractors finished grouting the tunnel, stabilizing it by Nov. 1, 2017. In the

Photos courtesy CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. Above: About 4,000 truckloads of grout were used to fill PUREX Tunnel 2, which needed to be stabilized after Tunnel 1 collapsed in 2017.

Left: A pump truck grouts PUREX Tunnel 2, which was stabilized in April, by workers at the Hanford site.

meantime, the U.S. Department of Energy investigated Tunnel 2, fearing for its structural integrity after its sibling’s collapse. Officials concluded that although it was built a decade later, Tunnel 2 was also at risk for collapse. Both tunnels did not meet structural standards, an analysis found. The race was on to secure Tunnel 2 before it met a similar fate to Tunnel 1. One CH2M Hill presentation explaining its plans said that “structural failure must be anticipated.” The Department of Energy convened an expert panel and solicited public comment about possible action plans for this tunnel, and the panel decided that grouting this tunnel was the best, most efficient option. On April 29, 2019, grout work on Tunnel 2 finished, meaning both PUREX tunnels are now stabilized for the time being. Grouting, while not a permanent solution for containing toxic waste, is a sufficient temporary solution, and enables workers to go in later and dispose of the materials. Ultimately, the expert panel believed that grouting left future work options open to the Department of Energy. “…the panel concluded that stabilization with grout facilitates future options for disposition, whether those options involve in-situ disposal or removal of

materials,” according to a September 2017 report. Ultimately, the expert panel concluded that the Tunnel 1 collapse was likely due to the deteriorating wood used to construct it, and water loading from snow and rain. Weather is no small factor in determining the pace of work at the Hanford site. The project to grout Tunnel 2 had 23 days of weather delay after record snowfalls in southeastern Washington this year. “We had a few delays—we had a pretty rough winter stretch in February and early March, with lots of snow that caught us by surprise,” said Dieter Bohrmann, communications specialist at CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., the contractor on the PUREX project. While finishing grouting means the tunnels are stabilized for now — future work remains to be determined. “There could be further decisions down the road with what to do with it, but it’s stable now, it’s safe,” Bohrmann said. Long term, the tunnels will ultimately need to be cleaned out since they contain radioactive waste and contaminated equipment, but Mark Heeter, public affairs specialist with the Department of Energy’s Richland Operations Office, said those decisions will be made in the future.

“The grout was designed to be able to be remediated or removed along with the equipment that’s in there, so while this stabilizes the tunnel, it does not represent a final decision on the disposition of the materials inside those tunnels,” he said. In recent years, the PUREX tunnels have received much attention and prioritization at the site, especially following the collapse, but projects across the Hanford area are constantly being evaluated for prioritization. CH2M Hill, as a contractor of the Department of Energy, is reliant on the annual funding that flows to the agency through a budget approved by Congress every year. Currently, CH2M Hill is cleared and funded to wrap up their work on the PUREX project by Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends. Bohrmann said the final cleanup numbers of the grouting project on Tunnel 2 were impressive, with close to 40,000 cubic yards of grout filling the nearly 1,700 foot long Tunnel 2, completed in less than a year. Grouting the PUREX tunnels is not the first time the method has been used at Hanford, Heeter said, adding that grouting is a good example of where the Department of Energy has continued to evolve as the agency learns how to best treat and dispose of waste. Grouting is a method used at other Department of Energy nuclear waste sites as well, like in South Carolina at the Savannah River plant as well as at the Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility and U Plant at Hanford.

Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019



Emptying waste from tanks a taxing task Toxic materials first put in tanks when plutonium was actively being made


for Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

In a way, when it comes to tank waste at the Hanford site, the easy stuff has been done. Toxic liquid waste can be transferred until it’s disposed of with a pump. But what about solid waste? What about a million-gallon tank with solidified toxic waste sitting inside? What about 177 of those tanks and 56 million gallons of waste? The toxic waste stored out of sight in the tank farms on the Hanford site serve as a reminder of progress made, but also how many decades must pass before cleanup is complete. Just ask officials at Washington River Protection Solutions, a subsidiary of AECOM Corp., the contractor tasked with management of and waste retrieval from the 177 tanks. The company has been on the job for more than a decade, with 18 tanks emptied and one currently under way. As a mandate of the Tri-Party Agreement, workers must remove 99 percent of the material from each tank. “We’re coming to the end of our contract here, and it’s exciting to see what we’ve accomplished, and it will be interesting to see what’s going to be accomplished in the years to come,” said Peter

Courtesy Washington River Protection Solutions Workers at the A and AX tank farms prepare for a waste retrieval at night. Work pumping out waste from these tanks could begin this summer.

Bengtson, communications manager at WRPS. WRPS is an LLC, which will dissolve when the contract ends at the end of September, but AECOM has bid on the tank farms contract once again. Most of the tanks contain a waste byproduct from a part of the plutonium production process that occurred when workers needed to dissolve the fuel rods to retrieve plutonium. The chemicals used to dissolve the fuel rods would become radioactive and very hot during this process and could not be re-used. Scientists at the time opted to build

55,000-gallon to 1 million-gallon underground carbon steel shell storage tanks to store the waste chemicals after this process. Even using carbon steel, it is estimated that 67 of the 177 underground tanks have leaked. The tanks are grouped into 18 farms, and the majority of them are single-shell tanks. The site also contains 28 double-shell tanks, which are the preferred storage method for the waste. The tanks originally held both liquid and solid chemical waste, but from 1998 to 2004 more than 2 million gallons of liquid waste was transferred from the single-shell tanks to the

double-shell tanks, leaving behind the daunting task of emptying the tanks of solid chemical waste with consistencies ranging from peanut butter to salt cakes. The tanks are only accessible remotely and through pipes with small diameters, creating engineering challenges. WRPS uses up to 10 waste retrieval methods to clean out solid to sludge-like waste from the tanks. Methods typically use water in different ways, from sluicing to high pressure, to dissolve the cakes or sludge into a pumpable liquid. This is not always easy, however, and engineers have developed crawler-tractor devices to push or break up solid waste in tanks for it to be dissolved and vacuumed or pumped out. All this work is done remotely because the tanks are roughly 30 feet underground, with the domes and top points of most tanks resting seven to 10 feet underground. WRPS does more than just retrieve waste; it also monitors all 177 tanks for leaks, chemical consistency and content. Typically, the group works on retrieving waste from one tank at a time, with another work group assessing and preparing the next tank for work. An added challenge for WRPS is that no two tanks are the same. “Each one of those waste types may require a different type of removal or retrieval from the tanks, which is where our engineering comes in and works together with the tank operators to develuTANKS, Page 16


Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019



Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019


Tri-City leaders look to economy after Hanford BY ROBIN WOJTANIK

for Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

to large investments paid off with the addition of AutoZone’s 444,000-squarefoot distribution center, which opened in 2017. “That was really an achievement,” White said. “We put the roads in, we got it all ready, and it sat there for a long time. But then, they came.” White said AutoZone has the ability to expand its footprint by 50 percent at its location. As new jobs are created, leaders also are pressed with the need to retain workers who are here already. “A lot of people when they retire here, stay here, and they need health care services,” Reeploeg said. But the cities also want to keep a close eye on attracting the younger generation. Wallner has noticed a cultural shift in the way people are looking for jobs and the communities they’re moving to. “A shift from finding a job and locating to an area, to now, ‘I want to locate to that area, then I’ll find a job.’ ” Reeploeg said he sees a gap in the sort of amenities that can draw people to a large city versus a smaller metropolitan area. “We need to continue to develop more cultural activities to retain younger workers. Current efforts have been successful, but there’s not to say we can’t do more,” he said. Building on the diverse strengths of each city, the communities are increasing their ability to create new employment opportunities for their citizens outside of Hanford. Any reduction in the workforce connected to a shift in the Department of Energy project isn’t predicted to be as catastrophic as it once was. “It wouldn’t be as impactful as a similar change 20 to 30 years ago. There are now a lot of other economic drivers in the community, and the community has grown,” Reeploeg said. A report commissioned by PNNL in 2009 found that since 1994, “area employment, total income, population and residential real estate sales and building permits have increased significantly despite very few changes to Hanford levels. The data indicate that recently the Tri-Cities has become increasingly independent of Hanford.”

Tri-City leaders remain focused on efforts to diversify the economy, create jobs and expand employment sectors beyond Hanford and the roles offered by the U.S. Department of Energy and its contractors. “TRIDEC has made this a top priority for decades,” said David Reeploeg, vice president of federal programs at the TriCity Development Council. The effort moves beyond the need to depend on Hanford as the sole economic driver it once was. Reeploeg recalled a time when downsizing at Hanford created a ghost town in the Tri-Cities community. Photo by Kristina Lord “Layoffs were incredibly disruptive in Tri-City leaders continue to focus on building an economy with higher-paying the ’80s and ’90s,” Reeploeg said. Since then, local community leaders in jobs that don’t rely on Hanfiord, Richland are focusing on building up its industrial center, while Pasco directs its mix it with fresh water, and then chemi- resources and expertise in the energy secattention to its food processing, agricul- cally analyze it for safety. Following that, tor, while retaining and recruiting busitural and distribution base, and Kennewick the water can be safely sprayed onto the nesses and jobs that promote solutions to 14 circles owned by the city, which are current and future energy challenges.” increases its retail core. Reeploeg said the MCEI is “uniquely “We continue to march northward with leased back to farmers. “The system has been very successful positioned to grow in that area.” This our industrial park, in hopes of landing and it’s at capacity,” White said. includes attracting businesses in renewfuture employment opportunities for resiWhile they can now chalk it up to a able energy resources. dents,” said Kerwin Jensen, community “We would be a good candidate for development director for the city of proven success, White said the project was a risk at the time. “I’m not sure if it research and development with the nucleRichland. “It’s a big part of creating priwas folklore or fact, but the story goes ar generation,” Reeploeg said. “(Pacific mary sector jobs in the future.” that the first payment on the project was Northwest National Laboratory) is creatJensen said the city doesn’t want to due one month before the first processor ing new technologies every day. It’s one focus entirely on retail, since higher-paysigned on,” he said. key element of the economic future of the ing jobs are the goal in the industrial Duplicating the city’s current success Tri-Cities.” center. This is where companies like Richland is aware of the need to attract Lamb Weston, Preferred Freezer and isn’t as easy in 2019, as agriculture has grown into a strong economic sector. new residents to fill potential jobs created Packaging Corporation of America are “You can’t find farmland to buy because by these investment opportunities. located. we’ve looked,” White said. “The workforce is tight,” said Mandy “The city of Richland wants to target Even with agriculture and food proWallner, marketing specialist for the city north Richland as a primary employment cessing at the core of its economic base, of Richland’s economic development center,” Jensen said. Pasco still pays attention to the ebb and department. “We want to recruit new The city also is carving up smaller flow of Hanford employment. people in rather than recruiting away parcels, amounting to up to five acres, in “We are a board member of the Trifrom one local company to another, so the portion of the city known as the Horn Cities Research District, even though the you’re not just creating a vacant space Rapids Business Center, which could be majority of that activity occurs in the Port elsewhere.” used for small businesses. Wallner said with the Tri-Cities’ popuPasco has been making public invest- of Benton,” White said. The district consists of about 2,900 lation soon to hit the 300,000 mark, it ments in its infrastructure since the midacres designated as an innovation ecosysbecomes an important threshold for 1990s as a way of leveraging private tem in 2007. Its focus is on clean energy attracting new businesses in Richland and investment in agricultural, distribution innovation and includes the Midaround the Tri-Cities. and processing industries. This included a “The next big piece is making sure that forward-thinking plan put in place 25 Columbia Energy Initiative, or MCEI. The initiative is described as an effort to zoning and infrastructure are all done in a years ago to buy land at the north end of “focus on economic development that way that’s meaningful,” White said. the city. Pasco’s efforts to make itself desirable capitalizes on local infrastructure, “The city bought 14 (agricultural) circles, representing 640 acres. They put in a pumping facility and piping facilities and partnered with the Port of Pasco and Franklin County and TRIDEC to establish the food processing centers that are there now,” said Rick White, community and economic development director for the city of Pasco. It wasn’t just a ready-made system. Pasco had to create a method to allow food processors to operate efficiently. “The big obstacle in establishing the center was what to do with all that wastewater,” White said. “They use a ton of water every day. The volume is too much to send to the treatment plant, and would make it more expensive for existing rate5790 W. Van Giesen St. payers who would have to pay for the expansion.” West Richland, WA 99353 To solve the wastewater issue, Pasco (509) 946-8701 built a system to receive the gray water,

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Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019

TANKS, From Page 13

op different approaches and tools that match the profile of the tanks,” said Rob Roxburgh, deputy manager of communications and public relations at WRPS. He said crews will determine the overall health of the tank and then develop a specific approach for how to best retrieve waste from within. The immediate goal is to transfer waste from the single-shell tanks to the double-shell tanks, but eventually the waste is supposed to be transferred to a waste treatment plant that will sort the waste into high-activity and low-activity waste. The low-activity waste, which will make up the majority of the tank waste, will be vitrified, meaning it will undergo chemical processes to be turned into glass logs and then shipped away for safe storage. The vit plant, which is being built near the tanks for easy flow from tank storage to treatment, should be operational to treat tank waste by 2023. In the meantime, 159 tanks still need to be emptied. Besides the painstakingly slow pace, WRPS constantly fights aging infrastructure as it works to remove waste, too. “One of the challenges we deal with out here is the aging infrastructure and managing that in cooperation with managing the tank waste,”

Bengtson said. “So the double-shell tanks are supposed to remain intact and hold that waste until it can be treated at the vit plant.” The single-shell tanks are not compliant to regulatory standards, Bengtson said, which poses an obvious threat for more leaks, especially when 149 of the 177 tanks are single-shell tanks. Even the doubleshelled tanks are not always reliable, however, Bengston noted that one of them had leaked into its outer wall. With new technologies, WRPS is beginning retrieval work on a new farm and the 19th tank currently. WRPS spokespeople believe the process will go quicker on the next farm. “For this next round of retrievals, which is going to be a collection of 10 tanks, in A and AX farms, we are taking a more holistic approach this time where we are putting hopefully all of the systems in place so that we can go in and move at a faster, more efficient rate,” Roxburgh said. “… We’ve done all of the research for that collection of tanks, and we’re taking a far, wide holistic approach.” WRPS will only exist, in name, through the completion of its contract come the end of September, at which point the Department of Energy could select a new contractor or AECOM may continue the work on the tanks.


Methods tested to speed waste withdrawal BY JOHN STANG

for Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business

Washington River Protection Solutions is considering cutting new holes in Hanford’s single-shell tanks — openings that could potentially reach up to six feet in diameter. Currently, the holes in the tops of Hanford’s underground tanks are very narrow with extremely long pipes connecting the surface with the radioactive sludge and fluids in the tanks. Collapsible equipment has to be inserted through those skinny tubes to be unfolded by remote control inside the tank to install sensors and pumps in those interiors. Consequently, working inside the tanks and pumping out the waste is a very slow process. This concept of cutting bigger holes could enable bigger and more complex machinery to be inserted in the site’s underground radioactive waste tanks to speed up pumping the material from the single-shell tanks into newer and safer double-shell tanks. WRPS believes it is likely Hanford that will adopt this approach. But a timetable for making a decision on the concept and a creating a budget estimate has not been set yet, said WRPS Chief Engineer Karthik Subramanian. It will take an undetermined number of years to nail down and implement this approach, he said. “We’re in the infancy of doing this,” Subramanian said. Hanford has cut bigger holes in tanks twice in the past — Tank C-107 in 2010 and Tank C-105 in 2013. In 2017, WRPS asked the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to study whether cutting wide holes in the tops of the tanks would

increase the likelihood of the tanks collapsing from the resulting underground tension and compression on the concrete and stainless steel of the tank. The physics is similar to that of a dome on top of church. WRPS’ potential holes are much bigger than any existing openings in the tanks, said Ken Johnson, the PNNL engineer in charge for the structural analysis team. A typical Hanford tank can hold up to 1.2 million gallons. Most tanks are 75 feet in diameter, 75 feet in height, with 15-inch-thick stainless steel walls, a concrete top and usually are under 7.5 feet of soil. Toxic and radioactive fumes are inside the tanks. So far, 17 of Hanford’s 149 single-shell tanks — all well beyond their design lives — have been emptied into 28 newer and safer double-shell tanks that are flirting with the ends of their design lives. Overall, the 177 tanks hold about 56 million gallons of waste. Johnson said the study showed in 2018 that cutting a new access hole of up to six feet in a 39-foot-in-diameter circle in the center of the top of the tank would have no effect on the structural integrity of a tank. Now the ball is back in WRPS’s court. “This is just the first step to see if this is a concept to be considered,” Johnson said. WRPS still is hunting for the right equipment that can be inserted through wider holes to speed up pumping, Subramanian said. Also, safe ways of cutting new holes in the tanks need to be studied since sparks in a potentially flammable atmosphere and escaping fumes have to be considered, he added. “This is a long-term process,” Subramanian said.

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Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019



DEMOLITION, From Page 11

Courtesy Bechtel National Inc. Jobs tied to Hanford are the largest source of employment in the Tri-Cities. Among this workforce are a mix of professional administrators, scientists, technicians, engineers and a large number who work in the trades, such as welders, electricians, crane operators and other crafts.

WORKFORCE, From Page 4 highest number of employees used by prime contractors, with Mission Support Alliance, CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. and Washington River Protection Solutions each dedicating about 20 percent of their workforce to roles like auditors, communications and cost estimators. Bechtel does not break this number out of its workforce total, instead including these workers in the catch-all category “all others.” While most WRPS employees fall into the professional support staff category, the contractor employs about the same number of managers as it does engineers, totaling about 375 each as of the end of 2018, or about 16 percent of its workforce. All contractors are stocked with hundreds of managers, representing 13 percent to 22 percent of their staff, depending on the employer. Bechtel reported the fewest number of managers, with 365, or 13.6 percent of its staff, while CHPRC is the most top heavy, with 354 managers among its 1,600 employees, or 22 percent. While the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant remains a hub of new construction, to build both the plant itself and many support buildings, the number of trade workers is the highest for Bechtel across the site’s largest contractors. The company employs about 1,100 trade workers out of its 2,668 employees, or more than 40 percent of its workforce. Since MSA holds the contract responsible for security and infrastructure at the site, it also employs a high number of people in trade or craft jobs. A quarter of MSA’s workforce is comprised of roles like pipe fitters, welders, electricians, crane operators and other similar roles. Many of those in trade or craft roles are represented by labor groups, includ-

ing those employed with CHPRC, MSA, WRPS, Bechtel and Veolia Nuclear Solutions-Federal Services. In year-end 2018 totals, union-represented employees made up about 42 percent of the workforce for CHPRC and MSA, two contractors under the Department of Energy’s Richland Operations Office. Thirty-eight percent of the representation comes from the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council, while MSA is the only Department of Energy prime contractor with workers covered by the Hanford Guards Union. Another 5,000 employees are working for those contracted with the Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection, including employees with WRPS, Veolia and Bechtel. Each contractor has union-represented workers, including members of both HAMTC and the building and construction trades. The split is a 2-to-1 ratio, non-union versus union. Union employees for WRPS and Wastren Advantage Inc. are represented by the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council, and account for about 42 percent of the overall workforce for WRPS and Veolia. Bechtel/Waste Treatment Completion Co. employees have union representation from the building and construction trades, and are employed by WTCC. About 30 percent of those working on the vit plant are represented by the 16 union affiliates that make up the building and construction trades. While most people working on the Hanford site are employed by a private contractor, there are about 360 who work directly for the federal government and are employed by the Department of Energy. More than half are at the Richland Operations Office, with the remaining 150 at the Office of River Protection. The contractors employing the fewest

number of employees at the site include the 80 who work for HPM Corp. and the five dozen who work for Veolia. HPM has held the contract to provide occupational medical services at the site since 2012. Workers at Veolia are responsible for testing samples from the tank farms. The French company acquired Ohio-based Wastren Advantage, which has held the contract for the 222-S Analytical Laboratory Services since 2015. It employs 63 people at its Richland location. Neither HPM nor Veolia responded to requests for the classification of its employees, totaling just fewer than 150 people. Collectively, jobs connected to Hanford remain the largest source of employment in the Tri-Cities. A report from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory done in 2009 found that jobs at Hanford represented 16 percent of total jobs in the local economy between 1970-94. The same report recalled downsizing at the site in the mid-’90s that reduced employment from a peak of 14,462 in 1996, to 6,706 in 1998. Today’s numbers hover just over 9,000, which doesn’t include the 1,100 workers at Energy Northwest or the 4,500 at PNNL, which puts Battelle atop the list of the largest employers in the Tri-Cities. Since work first got underway at the Hanford site in the 1940s, the intention of the workforce has shifted as the decades rolled on, resulting in today’s overall focus on cleanup. Yet after more than 75 years of concentrated progress at the site, the demand for a constant workforce has not changed and is expected to remain for decades to come. “A person graduating from high school or college soon could still have a long and successful career at Hanford,” Reeploeg said.

The largest part of lower-risk work on demolition is removing securely covered or stabilized debris left on the ground after demolition happens, Bohrmann said, and for most of the time since work has resumed at the PFP plant, crews have been removing debris. Recently, they started demolition again, this time on a vault. “This is a big risk-reduction effort at the Hanford site, and one of the highest priorities in the central part of the Hanford site,” Bohrmann said. Figuring out how to safely remove all of the plutonium from the PFP took about 20 years to complete, said Mark Heeter, public affairs specialist with the Department of Energy’s Richland Operations Office, pointing out that actual demolition of buildings began in November 2016. PFP has always been a high priority on the Department of Energy’s list, Heeter said. “For many years, it was a very high priority because it was one of the most hazardous facilities in that complex,” he said. “… In fact if you looked all across the country, it was a big target for what we were looking close to finishing up.” Before CH2M Hill can begin to demolish anything deemed high-risk work again, the independent management assessment must be finished to determine whether it can proceed. That assessment began at the end of April. If approved, CH2M Hill might be able to meet current scheduled deadlines to complete demolition by the end of September 2019. The original milestone attached to demolition of PFP was set for 2017, but after the contamination spreads, that deadline was adjusted accordingly. The goal, Bohrmann said, is to be slab-ongrade with the main processing plant knocked down and debris removed by the deadline. However, work at PFP is not so much deadline-driven as it is safety-driven. “One of the effects of (the December 2017 contamination event) is that we recognized and reaffirmed the fact that we have to do this at a safe and deliberate pace,” Heeter said. “The safe and deliberate pace to ensure that we can do everything we can to prevent the spreads of contamination … is critical.” Higher-risk work to complete demolition of the plant includes pulling out pipelines underneath the processing facility, as well as removing a pile of rubble with the remains of parts of the PFP. For now, CH2M Hill representatives are optimistic the work can be finished in this fiscal year, which ends in September. Heeter said the management assessment represents closing the feedback loop for workers, as well as regulators and labor unions as work processes are decided going forward. “We continue to take in information and use that to guide or help guide our decisions on the work that remains,” Heeter said. Bohrmann believes the progress made so far on debris removal on PFP since last fall speaks to renewed collaborations amongst all parties involved in the work. “It’s been a group effort,” he said.


Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019



gateway to increased opportunity with compensation coming in the form of higher profits for companies that are undaunted by the additional requirements. Companies wanting to maximize the opportunities available through small business subcontracts at Hanford should begin by doing their research, said Kelly Brazil, contracting officer and small business program manager for the Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection. “We always encourage people to read the mission of the office they’re going to contact first. Check out the website and see what types of work they’re doing and what types of work they subcontract for,” Brazil said. “It’s really important to understand the mission of an office before you contact them. That’s just going to make it more meaningful on both sides.” Brazil, who also leads the Hanford Small Business Council, serves as an advocate for small businesses looking to do business with the Office of River Protection. When contacted by local companies that are just getting started on their quest to find work at Hanford, she often recommends they begin by reaching out to the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, which offers paid and no-cost services, including assistance with developing a capability statement that can be submitted as part of a proposal for government work. For companies that have done their research and are ready to work at Hanford, small business program managers and advocates can serve as a resource for get-

Courtesy U.S. Department of Energy Small businesses help prime contractor Mission Support Alliance keep the Hanford site’s hundreds of roadways functioning and safe

ting information in front of the right people, she said. “We’re just here to help them as much as we can,” Brazil said. “When they contact me, I do the best I can to make a match for them or redirect them to one of the prime contractors on the Hanford site.” When work isn’t immediately available, Brazil said companies should plan to follow up somewhere between once a quarter and twice a year as long as they still are interested in the opportunity. Roxie Schescke, president of Pascobased subcontractor Indian Eyes LLC, said she was able to break into Hanford after identifying an opportunity and aggressively demonstrating that Indian Eyes was a qualified small business with

the know-how to meet the stringent requirements that come along with working for the Department of Energy. The company had previously done work at the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado. “As a small business, when you first start, everyone says, ‘Don’t do that shotgun effect,’ but you have to be aggressive when you identify a customer that you feel like you have a niche for and that you can provide a solution to,” Schescke said. WRPS small-business program manager Talia Ochoa said one important key to getting into government subcontracting is to learn and understand the processes that are involved. She recommends that potential subcontractors take advantage of community outreach opportunities,

such as the annual Hanford Small Business Council’s and Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Bridging Partnerships Small Business Symposium and the chamber’s Women in Business conference, both of which WRPS helps to sponsor. Another potential opportunity for small businesses to learn the ropes of working with the government is by applying to the Department of Energy’s Mentor-Protégé Program, which seeks to foster long-term business relationships between small disadvantaged businesses and Department of Energy prime contractors. Both WRPS and MSA, as well as most other prime contractors, have mentorprotégé programs in place. WRPS has a mentor-protégé business relationship with Tri-City-based Elite Construction & Dev., a partnership that has enabled Elite to adopt new procedures that allow government agencies to seamlessly interface with the company, said Chandler Wade, chief marketing officer for Elite. The partnership also has offered Elite new insights into the latest safety techniques and procedures, as well as specific skills related to doing work for the government. However, in Elite’s eyes, the most important aspect of the partnership is the networking opportunities it has provided and relationships it has fostered, both of which are priceless for Elite’s future growth and success, Wade said. “The benefit to a business that is selected as a protégé is ultimately an increased amount of business opportunities,” Legarreta said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”

Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019

HANFORD WASTE, From Page 2 have been cocooned, with two more to go. One reactor is preserved for future visitors. Most of the work in the river corridor is finished, except for removing some radioactive material from one of the remaining reactors and from the 300 Area, said Geoff Tyree, Department of Energy external engagement lead for the Hanford site. The remainder of work at the Hanford site is in the central plateau area where the plutonium was created and processed, composed of 1,715 facilities. So far, 889 facilities have been demolished, and more than half of the nuclear waste sites have been remediated — 1,342 of the 2,032 waste sites, according to a 2018 progress fact-sheet from the Department of Energy. A lot of the work on the central plateau is focused on safely destroying the former plutonium-production facilities, as well as the chemical waste left behind. “There were a lot of leftover materials,” Tyree said. A lot of that waste was stored in tanks — 177 tanks worth, to be exact. While destroying and safely demolishing the actual buildings where plutonium was created, processed and treated presents its own challenges, figuring out how to treat the toxic waste leftover and stored in nowdecaying tanks is a crucial focus. During the plutonium production process, scientists had to destroy the metal fuel rods used to access the plutonium in the final stages of production. The chemicals used to destroy fuel rods became toxic during this process and could not be reused. They were stored in underground tanks ranging in capacity from 55,000 gallons to 1 million gallons. Workers retrieved all the liquid waste from these tanks in the early 2000s, but it’s the solid and sludgelike waste that presents real challenges. Workers have retrieved waste from 18 of the 177 tanks. Developments at the Hanford site signal quicker progress in the future for tank waste treatment, however. Department of Energy contractor Bechtel National Inc. is scheduled to open a vitrification plant in 2023 on the Hanford site that can treat the low-activity tank waste with a process that turns it into glass. Washington River Protection Solutions officials believe that the next tank farm waste retrieval process will go quicker than previous operations. So, in short, progress is being made. The rate of that progress, however, is slow, and slip-ups as well as full-out stops occur, sometimes for months. In 2017, a section of the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant Tunnel 1 collapsed, leading to two years of intensive focus and full-grouting of both that tunnel and the larger Tunnel 2, to prevent potential contamination exposure. Similarly, destruction of arguably one of the most dangerous buildings left standing in the central plateau, the Plutonium Finishing Plant, ground to a halt after 42 workers inhaled contaminated material following two spreads outside the demolition zone. That work has resumed with renewed surveillance and more safety in place, but not before an

eight-month hiatus. The reality is cleaning up materials that formerly produced toxic chemicals, as well as the waste left behind, is daunting work. “We still have a long way to go, but we’ve made tremendous progress,” said Peter Bengtson, communications manager with Washington River Protection Solutions. WRPS currently holds the tank waste contracts at the Hanford site, through the end of September, when it expires. “It’s dangerous, hazardous work. There are a lot of unknowns. Just providing and installing new infrastructure around old tank farms, we find old cables or wires or pipelines that none of the drawings have on them.” Beyond the hazards, the work is costly. Hanford is funded solely through federal dollars on an annual basis, meaning contractors and regulators are relying on Congress and the president — to some extent — every year to see if achieving their agreed-to milestones is feasible with the available funding. Randy Bradbury, communications manager for the Department of Ecology’s nuclear waste program, said he believes funding is at least partially to blame for the constant delays and back-ups at Hanford. Funding in the last five years, he said, has not met the minimum milestone deadlines. For the upcoming fiscal year, the Trump administration proposed cutting the Department of Energy’s funding to the Hanford site by $417 million. In fiscal year 2019, the site received $2.52 billion in federal funding and has requested $3.25 billion for fiscal year 2020. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Current Department of Energy budget documents predict the cleanup at Hanford to finish by 2078, with a 50 percent to 80 percent confidence level. In its 10-year contract, WRPS has removed waste from 18 tanks. Even if that pace were more than doubled, to say about 40 tanks in a decade, it would take four more decades to remove all of the waste from the underground tank farms at Hanford. The ominous end-date represents yet another pushback to the cleanup efforts initially scheduled to finish in 2020, then the 2040s. Bradbury said the more time it takes, the more infrastructure problems will continue to crop up. Indeed, 67 of the single-shell tanks used to store waste material have leaked, and the majority of the tank waste is stored in identical single-shell tanks built in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The Department of Ecology recommends extra funding now that would ultimately save a lot of money in the long run, so that the Department of Energy would not have to repair temporary infrastructure, as well as pay for treatment and permanent storage for remediated materials. “What we’ve been recommending for a while is that plus-ups now will make a big difference in the long run,” Bradbury said. The potential for budget increases, however, is subject to political winds, blowing in whatever direction they blow. For now, progress continues forward, albeit at a measured pace.



Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business • May 2019

VIT PLANT, From Page 9 The purpose of the lab is to confirm that glass produced meets regulatory requirements and standards. Processing will take place during direct feed lowactivity waste, or DFLAW, operations, bringing the waste directly from the tank farms, which are managed by Washington River Protection Solutions, and to the LAW facility. It requires the two to work in concert with each other. “WPRS is also working to design and build the systems necessary to supply the vit plant with a steady diet of waste to support eventual operations,” said Robert Roxburgh, deputy manager of communications and public relations for WRPS. “The tank-side cesium removal system will separate both cesium and undissolved solid materials from radioactive tank waste, providing a low-activity waste stream that can be sent to the WTP for vitrification.” Benefits of a DFLAW approach are touted as safe storage of long-term waste, reduction of any short-term risks to the environment by targeting mobile constituents, and the creation of additional double-shell tank space. The analytical lab was intentionally built next door to the LAW facility, where technicians within the lab are expected to analyze about 3,000 samples each year. Since not all waste is identical, the process will determine what materials should be mixed with each sample to create a glass log that meets regulatory requirements. The logs will be stored on the Hanford site until a

national repository is identified. Bechtel and the Department of Energy are working to meet a court-ordered deadline at the end of 2023 to begin treating low-level waste. This date was determined through a consent decree in 2016, which set a legally-binding schedule to retrieve waste from the tanks and continue construction of the plant. Plant operations were originally expected by the end of 2018 but after problems arose with the high-level waste and pretreatment facilities, the project shifted focus to DFLAW configurations instead. This now includes the Dec. 31, 2023, deadline for treating LAW, and a Dec. 31, 2033, deadline for treating highlevel waste. Goals for the remainder of 2019 include delivering all DFLAW major equipment and bulk materials, completing the startup of the analytical laboratory and installing equipment necessary for the final support structure, the effluent management facility, or EMF. There are 20 support facilities that make up the Balance of Facilities, or BOF, on the campus, with 14 dedicated to low-activity waste and the remaining six to be built in future phases to treat highlevel waste. The EMF is part of the DFLAW process, receiving secondary liquids generated from the LAW facility to be treated and transferred to the liquid effluent retention facility, which sends back any remaining concentrate to go through vitrification. Bechtel is planning to simulate a loss of power during a test planned in fall 2020 to ensure the facility’s melters

HANFORD would remain functional despite a blackout. Bechtel leadership calls this a “crucial” test toward moving into the operation phase for the LAW facility. The melters are considered the heart of the vitrification process since they heat the waste and chemicals so they may be turned into glass form. The loss-of-power test is one of many processes described as “methodical,” encompassing a series of reviews paired with rigorous documentation. “As we meet different milestones, we can do the next set that we haven’t done before,” said George Rangel senior communications specialist at the vit plant. Rangel said as crews prepare to hand over any facilities from startup testing to the commissioning phase, “workers are hands on to develop processes and procedures that will govern their work.” As the procedures roll along, the plant’s workforce needs also shift. Right now, about 2,600 people work at the site, but eventually that number is expected to fall to 1,500 to 1,800. “Once we start operations, there will be a steady workforce for DFLAW,” West said. “It will be smaller than what was required to build it, but there will still be a steady workforce.” This includes transitions from construction workers to chemists, who will be needed on the commissioning team. Some of these chemists currently are working inside a lab at Columbia Basin College to ensure workers train on the same equipment they will eventually use in the analytical laboratory. “In the next one to two months, some

of those workers will begin working out of the lab for the first time,” West said. Startup and testing also recently got underway for four utility buildings that are part of the support infrastructure that make up the BOF on the vit plant site, containing 56 systems. The utility buildings include the anhydrous ammonia facility, former glass storage facility, chiller compressor building and steam plant building. All are scheduled to complete the startup phase within 2019. Bechtel promotes that once complete, the BOF will have a chilled water system that could cool 23,500 houses, a fuel oil storage that could fill the gas tanks of 11,500 cars and a compressed air system that could fill the Goodyear blimp in three minutes. About half of the BOF systems are in the commissioning phase, another 24 are in the startup phase and the final five are preparing to be turned over from construction to startup. When complete, the “first-of-a-kind project” will cover 65 acres and include four nuclear facilities covering pretreatment, the analytical laboratory, LAW facility and high-level waste facility, besides other operations and maintenance buildings, utilities and office space. The footprint of the plant itself is equivalent to the size of 1.5 football fields and 12 stories high. Bechtel describes the vit plant as a “feat of engineering and construction at an unprecedented level,” making it the “largest undertaking of its kind and one of the Department of Energy’s most technically challenging cleanup projects.”