Author – John Eschenberg, Amentum Sr. Vice President and President, Central Plateau Cleanup Company, LLC
The Amentum-led Central Plateau Cleanup Company (CPCCo) is well into its third year of operations at Hanford and is boldly making substantial strides in achieving our cleanup priorities at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Washington state. The overarching strategic plan, VISION 2028, provides a five-year roadmap that defines key objectives to support the sitewide cleanup effort and achieve mission success..
Since joining CPCCo last spring, I’ve witnessed experienced and talented employees make significant cleanup advancements on the Central Plateau and along the Columbia River Corridor. These achievements are even more noteworthy considering the shift in our post-pandemic workforce profile.
For the past two years, CPCCo has observed attrition rates not previously experienced at Hanford, an aging workforce retiring en masse and increasing demand for talented individuals throughout all industries. With these challenges comes an exciting opportunity to cultivate the next generation of mission-driven nuclear workers.
We are actively recruiting the best and brightest to tackle the challenging work before us. In fact, we welcome a new group of energetic and enthusiastic employees every other week, many of whom are hired from outside of our industry because of their interest in the nobility of our mission. We’re committed to attracting, retaining, and developing the very best team at CPCCo to deliver safe, efficient, and cost-effective solutions to support our DOE customer’s long-term cleanup mission.
Cleaning up the Columbia River Corridor
Over the past year, our team transformed the skyline along the River Corridor, the largest cleanup territory on the Hanford Site.
Last fall, we celebrated the completion of the K East Reactor “cocoon,” marking a significant accomplishment in our mission to finish cleanup near the Columbia River. Just over a year after breaking ground, the project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.
The steel structure – rising more than 120 feet tall and 150 feet wide – protects the facility while radioactivity in the deactivated reactor core decays over the next several decades, making it safer and easier to complete disposition in the future.
The K East Reactor is the seventh of Hanford’s eight former reactors to be placed in safe storage. The ninth – B Reactor – is the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor preserved as part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. CPCCo continues to manage this historic facility for public access as part of DOE’s National Park Program. In 2022, more than 5,600 people visited the reactor from all 50 states and 26 different countries.
At the nearby K West Reactor, the final reactor destined for cocooning in the coming years, CPCCo is isolating and stabilizing radioactive debris in the 1.2 million-gallon spent fuel storage basin. These are among the final steps needed to safely dewater, grout, and demolish the basin.
Reducing risk in the Central Plateau
The center of the Hanford Site, known as the Central Plateau, contains hundreds of legacy structures and waste sites. At one of our high-priority projects in this area, we are developing specialized equipment and techniques to safely transfer approximately 2,000 radioactive capsules from an underwater basin at the Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility to a nearby dry-storage area.
Optimizing groundwater cleanup
Cleaning up contaminated groundwater is also a priority for CPCCo. Our six pump-and-treat facilities operate 24/7 to remove hazardous chemical and radioactive constituents from the groundwater, reducing risk across the site. We are on track to treat more than 2 billion gallons of contaminated groundwater for the ninth consecutive year and continue to add to our total of nearly 700 tons of contaminants removed from soil and groundwater over the life of our site-wide treatment program.
These efforts have not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year, several members of our team and their DOE counterparts were honored with a Secretary of Energy Achievement Award, the Department’s highest form of employee recognition, for their contributions to the ongoing success of our groundwater treatment operations program.
Supporting site-wide Hanford operations
Our work in the Central Plateau is also critical to the success of Hanford’s tank waste cleanup mission. Specifically, we are taking the final steps to complete the Integrated Disposal Facility (IDF) to support the site’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste program, a key DOE priority.
This engineered landfill provides permanent, environmentally safe disposal for containers filled with vitrified (immobilized in glass) low-activity tank waste from the nearby Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant and mixed low-level waste from other Hanford operations.
Earlier this year, crews completed construction of two 400,000-gallon wastewater storage tanks at IDF by installing the domed covers. The tanks will hold runoff from rain, snow, and dust-suppression activities. The runoff will be monitored and sent to a nearby treatment facility to ensure the protection of groundwater. IDF is expected to be operational by the end of 2023.
Here at CPCCo, the name of the game is environmental remediation. To that end, it’s our policy to be responsible stewards of the environment while meeting our mission. We’re working to shrink our carbon footprint over the next decade by reducing our electrical and infrastructure demands, our reliance on field vehicles and efficiency upgrades.
Partnerships with local small businesses are critical to the success of our cleanup mission. Since the inception of CPCCo’s contract, we’ve partnered with 150 small businesses throughout the Tri-Cities region, investing nearly $180 million in subcontracts.
To Amentum and CPCCo, excellence means safely and efficiently achieving cleanup mission milestones on the DOE Hanford Site while supporting our customer, employees, and the Tri-Cities communities. It’s a responsibility we take seriously, and we continue to work hand in hand with the DOE and other companies to make that vision a reality.