Low-activity waste at Hanford site

The National Academy of Sciences has published our committee’s final report, in which we address the public comments on our previous reports and the study overall. Our committee provided oversight for a team of scientists from several National Laboratories. In response to a congressional mandate, they examined various alternatives for treating low-activity waste at the Hanford site in the state of Washington. The purpose was to provide Congress with a basis for decision making.

The primary waste stream is to undergo vitrification. That is, it will be made into glass. Construction of the vitrification plant has been underway for some time. However, the plant is not adequate for all of the radioactive waste in the underground tanks at Hanford. The scientists considered vitrification, grouting, and fluidized bed steam reforming as possible methods for treating the waste.

All three technologies need further development before implementation at Hanford. In addition, the estimates of cost and schedule are uncertain. However, it is clear that grouting would be the simplest and least expensive alternative.

The public  and representatives of several Native American tribes have expressed concern about long-term storage of low-activity waste at the Hanford site. There are alternative sites in Utah and Texas which may be more suitable.