Vit Plant FAQ
The Hanford Tank Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant is also known as the Vit Plant. It is being designed, built, and commissioned by Bechtel National, Inc. for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection. Its purpose is to solidify 56 million gallons of liquid radioactive waste stored in 177 aging underground tanks.
The 177 single- and double-shelled tanks range in age from 40-70 years. Their design life is 40 years. More than 60 of Hanford’s single-shelled tanks have leaked a total of about one million gallons of liquid into the ground in the past. The Vit Plant is necessary to stabilize the liquid waste in a form that is suitable for long-term storage and in the process, protect workers, the public, and the environment from exposure to radioactive material.
Vitrification involves mixing liquid radioactive wastes with glass-forming materials and heating them in a high-temperature melter. The process incorporates the waste into the glass itself. It is poured into canisters, allowed to solidify and cool. Then it is transported for disposal. For more information, visit Vitrification 101.
The waste still will be radioactive, some of it very radioactive, for a very long time. However, it will be solidified, or vitrified, in a glass matrix, preventing the radioactive material from entering the environment.
The low-activity waste containers will be transported for permanent disposal at an engineered disposal facility located on the Hanford Site. The high-level waste canisters will be stored at Hanford until a national repository is identified for high-level waste.