This study explores the development of a mechanical based system to retrieve single-shell tank waste at the Hanford site, located in Richland, Washington, without the addition of water. Out of 177 tanks at Hanford, there are 149 single-shell tanks (SST) and 28 double-shell tanks (DST). There are currently 67 SSTs that have leaked radioactive waste to the surrounding groundwater in the past or assumed to have questionable tank integrity. Leaking tanks continue to be a major concern as it was recently announced in February 2013 that six SSTs are leaking, even though they were believed to have been stabilized back in 2005. There are also several tanks with significant in-tank obstructions, such as air-lift circulators, where an arm-based retrieval would not be possible.
All current methods of waste retrieval deployed involve the addition of significant amounts of water to generate a slurry that can be pumped out of the tank. This water, however, can exacerbate the leak and risk the potential of leaking more waste into the surrounding soil, subsequently contaminating the groundwater. It also reduces available waste storage space in DSTs, and increases the risk of dangerous buoyant displacement gas release events (BDGRE) in the headspace of DSTs.
Focusing on leaking tanks, tanks with significant in-tank obstructions, and utilizing existing risers in Hanford’s tanks, this study evaluates commercially available dry technologies, such as augers and high-powered vacuums, for feasibility, safety, and efficiency of waste retrieval at Hanford.