U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
Hanford, WA, U.S.

Hanford K-Basins Nuclear Remediation

One of Fluor's projects at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Hanford Site in the State of Washington involved the cleaning and closing the K-Basins, which held tons of radioactive spent nuclear fuel.

Nuclear Remediation Site Cleanup
Client's Challenge

One of the primary missions of the DOE is to ensure the environmental cleanup of the national nuclear weapons complex. The DOE's Hanford Site played a key role in the nation's nuclear defense program. The 586-square-mile site contains a plutonium production complex comprising nine nuclear reactors and associated processing facilities.

The K-Basins are two indoor, concrete rectangular structures 125 feet long, 67 feet wide, and 21 feet deep located less than one-quarter mile from the Columbia River. Until 2004, these structures contained the DOE's largest collection of spent nuclear reactor fuel. The fuel had been stored underwater for years, leaving a thick sludge of dirt, debris, and canister-corrosion products, ion-exchange resin, and polychlorinated biphenyls. In addition to removing the spent nuclear fuel, Fluor faced the challenge of capturing and treating 52 cubic yards of radioactive sludge, removing debris, and ultimately demolishing the basins.

Nuclear Remediation Site Cleanup
Fluor's Solution

Fluor designed, built, and operated first-of-a-kind equipment and processes in the existing K-Basin facilities to move, process, and dry the spent nuclear fuel that had resided in 1.5 million gallons of water. To dry the nuclear byproduct effectively, the company designed, constructed, and operated the Hanford Cold Vacuum Drying Facility, a first-of-a-kind, 12,000-square-foot structure. Fluor successfully removed the spent nuclear fuel over a four-year period, completing the first stage in November 2004. At completion, Fluor workers had removed more than 4 million pounds of fuel, 370 tons of debris, and 50 million curries of radioactivity.

The next phase of the K-Basins cleanup project included the removal of radioactive sludge that had accumulated in the K-Basins' storage structures. Fluor developed innovative tools to vacuum the sludge and consolidate it in underwater containers. The project successfully met the milestone established by federal and state regulators.

The final phase involves draining and transporting the million gallons of water stored in the basins. The K-East Basin has been drained and is undergoing demolition, while K-West Basin maintains safe underwater storage of the sludge pending removal and treatment.

The project has achieved a significant health and safety success on some of the highest risk work at the site. Over a four-year period, Fluor employees worked 4 million hours without a lost-day case.


New Innovative Remediation Technologies Developed by Fluor for Environmental Cleanup

The K-Basins project represented a unique challenge for DOE as it was the first highly radioactive waste treatment and cleanup of its kind. The spent nuclear fuel has been packaged and stored in a secure facility where it no longer poses a threat to the Columbia River.

For this project, Fluor developed new innovative remediation technologies that can benefit future environmental / nuclear cleanup projects. Fluor continues to develop innovative remediation solutions for unique waste streams resulting from the K-Basins Closure Project.