Hanford Site Tag

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Two teams at Washington State University Tri-Cities have partnered with Washington River Protection Solutions to procure and program an autonomous vehicle and develop a form of ultra high-performance concrete to help protect workers in radioactive areas at the Hanford Site and safely immobilize solid secondary wastes.

Srinivas Allena and students

Engineering professor Srinivas Allena and students work with in the concrete lab at WSU Tri-Cities.

WRPS is the U.S. Department of Energy’s Tank Operations contractor responsible for managing Hanford’s 56 million gallons of highly radioactive waste and preparing it for delivery to the Waste Treatment Plant on the site. The partnership for the projects will provide WRPS with customized technology to fit their needs, in addition to further improving the safety capabilities of its employees and environmental impact stemming from the tank farms at the Hanford Site.

Robotics to analyze radioactive vapors

WRPS provided a WSU team with an initial contract to procure and program an autonomous vehicle that would be used for measuring vapors, or chemical gases, within the tank farms.

The WSU team consists of Akram Hossain, vice chancellor for research, graduate studies and external programs; Scott Hudson, professor of electrical engineering; John Miller, associate professor of computer science; and Changki Mo, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The team plans to purchase a pre-fabricated, compact and programmable vehicle, which has the capacity to hold 40-50 pounds of equipment. The team will then eventually outfit, customize and program the vehicle for its desired purpose within the tank farms. The vehicle must be able to follow a defined path, dock itself to charge its battery, withstand long-term use, be able to run autonomously, as well as allow manual override operations.

“This vehicle will be going into areas, minimizing personnel entries, so we need to assure that it can operate reliably and it won’t break down,” Miller said “We have to make certain that the quality is of impeccable standards and that the system can demonstrate operational longevity in these areas.”

The design of the autonomous vehicle marks the first phase of what will potentially turn into a multi-phase project. WRPS has also expressed interest in having the robot detect obstacles in a changing environment, change filters at the site and monitor radiation. Miller said those challenges will most-likely be addressed in future phases of the project.

“This is a great opportunity, both for WSU, as well as for our students,” Miller said. “It creates opportunities for undergraduate research, as well as providing funding for graduate research. It is the perfect opportunity for us.”

The team plans to have the first phase of the autonomous vehicle completed and demonstrated to WRPS in the next few months. The team will conduct demonstrations and additional phases of development over the course of the year. When fully developed, the autonomous vehicle would be deployed in tank farms to support construction and operations.

Ultra high-performance concrete to encapsulate nuclear waste

Srinivas Allena, WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, received a contract to develop an ultra-high performance cementitious

Cementitious material created by Srinivas Allena and his team

Cementitious material created by Srinivas Allena and his team at WSU Tri-Cities.

material to potentially be used as a grout to encapsulate solid secondary waste from the Hanford tank farms.

“WRPS is currently using a grout that they obtain from a local concrete supplier, which uses a regular cement mix with sand and some other chemical additives,” Allena said. “But the goal with our research is to use locally available materials to create a composite with low permeability, superior durability and greater stability that would perform at the same level as the commercially available pre-packaged ultra high-performance concrete.”

Allena said there is currently limited types of ultra high-performance concrete available on the market with high operational costs associated with use of the material. He said by using locally available materials and by optimizing mixture constituents with those that are more environmentally friendly with his team’s composite, however, they would be able to keep the costs low, while maintaining the same quality in the concrete and reducing the impact to the environment.

“We will be able to compare our grout materials with properties that WRPS is currently using and show the improved properties,” he said. “The goal is to provide a cheaper, more environmentally friendly option that will compete with the best product on the market.”

The team plans to have initial mixtures ready with their mechanical and durability properties evaluated by September.

The projects are a part of solving some of the world’s Grand Challenges. They pertain particularly to developing sustainable resources and smart systems by harnessing technology to improve quality of life. The projects are also in line with WSU’s Drive to 25.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Hanford Site groundwater monitoring and remediation will be the focus of a presentation by the U.S. Department of Energy and Washington State University Tri-Cities, 3-4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25, in the East Auditorium at WSU Tri-Cities.

The lecture is the fifth presentation in a series on the Hanford Site, presented by WSU Tri-Cities and DOE. Attendance at former lectures is not necessary to appreciate information in the upcoming lecture. The presentation is open to the public.

Mike Cline, director of the Soil and Groundwater Division at DOE in Richland, will deliver the lecture focusing on the current sampling and monitoring program on the Hanford Site and the groundwater remediation that is being performed. Additionally, he will discuss the process for selecting current and future remedies at the site.

The Hanford Site, part of the DOE nuclear weapons complex, encompasses approximately 580 square miles along the Columbia River in southeastern Washington state. During World War II and the Cold War period, the government built and operated nine nuclear reactors for the production of plutonium and other nuclear materials.

During reactor operations, chemical and radioactive wastes were released into the environment and contaminated the soil and groundwater beneath portions of the Hanford Site. Since 1989, DOE has worked to remediate the contamination.

A live AMS broadcast has been scheduled on the WSU Pullman, Vancouver, Everett and Spokane campuses. To find the locations, visit the WSU AMS calendar at: ams.wsu.edu/RequestForm/EventsCalendar.aspx.

For more information, contact Tish Christman at tish.christman@wsu.edu.

RICHLAND, Wash. – The progress and future of cleanup efforts at the Hanford Site will be the focus of a presentation by Tom Fletcher, deputy manager of the Department of Energy’s Richland Operations Office, 3-4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, in the WSU Tri-Cities East Auditorium.

This is the fourth in a series of lectures focusing on the Hanford Site and is cohosted by Washington State University Tri-Cities and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Fletcher, a WSU alumnus, will focus on the Richland Operation Office’s priorities for continuing the Hanford Site cleanup while strictly adhering to safe, environmentally-acceptable and responsible management practices.

The Richland Operations Office has an annual budget of approximately $1 billion. It oversees multiple contractors working on the cleanup project that stretches over the 580-square-mile site.

“We are pleased to welcome Mr. Fletcher and his expertise” on the Hanford cleanup project, said Akram Hossain, vice chancellor for research, graduate studies and external programs at WSU Tri-Cities. “This is an exceptional opportunity for our students, faculty and all of the community to learn what is currently happening at the Hanford Site, as well as how this is accomplished from an operations perspective.”

Fletcher became deputy manager of the Richland Operations Office in December 2016. He oversees daily operations, program planning, project execution, budgeting and compliance with the Hanford Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order. He has more than 20 years of experience managing nuclear operations, construction, deactivation, demolition and environmental remediation projects.

Fletcher holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from WSU.

 

Contacts:

Tish Christman, WSU Tri-Cities administrative assistant, 509-372-7683, tish.christman@wsu.edu

Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333, maegan.murray@wsu.edu