Pioneering cutting-edge technologies to solve a decades-old problem.

When the cold war ended, a fundamental shift occurred as Hanford moved from plutonium production to environmental cleanup. This monumental effort required an inventive approach, with engineers and environmental scientists developing new creative ways to safely manage the tank waste.

When the cleanup effort began in 1989, technologies were pioneered to remove the waste from Hanford’s oldest tanks and transfer it to newer double-shell tanks. The development of new techniques and technologies continues today under WRPS management.

There are 149 aging single-shell tanks, dozens of which have leaked as much as 1 million gallons to the surrounding soil. Most of the pumpable liquids have been removed from the aging single-shell tanks and transferred to Hanford’s 28 newer and safer double-shell tanks, leaving behind mostly dry saltcake and mud-like sludge.

The tanks range in size, from 55,000 gallons to more than a million gallons in capacity. And each tank is different, containing a mixture of radioactive and chemical waste. To make waste removal even more difficult, the tanks are buried underground and all work inside the tanks must be performed remotely. A variety of tools is used in each tank. No single tool can adequately remove waste to meet regulatory standards.

WRPS has extensive experience working under such constraints and is applying technological innovation combined with ingenious engineering to safely and successfully complete this hazardous and complex task.

MARS Control room
A robotic arm offers the potential to increase the efficiency of waste removal from Hanford’s single-shell tanks. This retrieval system is referred to as the Mobile Arm Retrieval System (MARS).