From: Annette Cary Her, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.
Published October 27, 2004 12:00 AM

Florida-Based Firm to Treat Radioactive Waste at Washington State Nuclear Site

Oct. 27—Perma-Fix Environmental Services has been awarded a contract valued at up to $23 million to treat Hanford low-level radioactive waste mixed with organic solvents.


The contract, awarded by Department of Energy contractor Fluor Hanford, will help meet requirements by regulators that 600 cubic meters of that type of waste be treated by late 2007.


Much of the waste is equipment, tools, protective clothing and other items that have been contaminated by work with radioactive waste from Hanford's huge tanks of underground waste. Hanford has 53 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste left from the past production of plutonium.


Perma-Fix, which is based in Florida and has nuclear services in Oak Ridge, Tenn., has just completed a smaller contract at Hanford to treat drums of uranium shavings packed in oil. The 520 drums were discovered buried just yards from the Columbia River starting in 1998.


"We like to specialize in all the harder-to-treat technologies," said Lou Centofanti, chief executive.


A pilot project to test Perma-Fix's technology on the Hanford waste has been completed, and the first shipment of waste sent to Oak Ridge under the contract.


Perma-Fix will sort the waste at Oak Ridge and treat it there or in a north Florida facility.


Physical and chemical separations processes will be used on the waste, then a thermal procedure will be used to destroy organics.


The radioactive waste then will be packaged for permanent burial at Hanford. It's expected to be packaged in drums, with cement or other materials used to fill empty spaces in the barrels.


Hanford now has 800 cubic meters of low-level waste with small amounts of organic chemicals in it that will require thermal treatment. Most of it is stored at the Central Waste Complex, said Dale McKenney, Fluor Hanford vice president of waste stabilization and disposition.


About 160 cubic meters of that type of waste have already been treated, which includes the uranium shavings waste. But Hanford officials expect to have a total of about 2,000 cubic meters over the lifetime of the Hanford cleanup project.


Fluor continues to look for other subcontractors to process the waste to give it more flexibility, McKenney said.


To see more of the Tri-City Herald, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.tri-cityherald.com.© 2004, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.


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