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CH2MHill Article: Working on the Railroad Reduces Waste-Handling Costs

“We are trying to give ourselves more maneuverability in how we handle waste,” said Ty Blackford, CH2M HILL Director of Waste Services. He was explaining an initiative now being tested to use Hanford rail lines for shipping large waste items from the 200 Area to a treatment site operated by Pacific EcoSolutions, or PEcoS, in north Richland. In the past, most large items classified as low-level waste or mixed low-level waste had to be disassembled or cut into smaller pieces, packaged for shipment by truck, and unpackaged at the PEcoS facility. It was costly and time-consuming. Beginning last January, CH2M HILL re-evaluated the waste handling processes in an attempt to find a better way — one that wouldn’t involve the same amount of labor and risk. The ideas that emerged from discussions with several industry organizations were mostly disappointing — business-as-usual proposals involving variations of traditional packaging and trucking methods. However, PEcoS and representatives of the Tri-City & Olympia Railroad Company (TCRY), which manages the formerly government-owned rail lines on the Hanford Site for the Port of Benton, took the time to interface with CH2M HILL and partner on some alternative ideas. The result was a proposal to use the rail system and a specialized railcar for oversized contaminated equipment. The railroad company agreed to obtain a car, modify it, get it certified and obtain the necessary approvals from federal and state regulatory agencies. CH2M HILL agreed to open the rail lines in the 200 West Area, while PEcoS agreed to facilitate the off-loading at their facilities. “There was no cost to CH2M HILL or the government for supplying and equipping the car,” Blackford said. “The Tri-City & Olympia Railroad is pleased to offer to CH2M HILL Hanford Group the nuclear waste transportation alternative afforded by rail,” said Dave Samples, Director of Business Development for TCRY. “As a small business headquartered in Richland, we share in the desire to achieve site cleanup in a safe, cost-effective, and timely manner, and transporting materials via rail will make a major contribution.” Opening the rails proved to be a challenge, as about 200 yards of track was closed in 200 West because of a contaminated area. With excellent cooperation between Waste Services Operations and the Radiation Control organization, the rails were functional within two weeks of the discovery. Finally, on June 7, several large contaminated control panels left over from saltwell tank pumping were loaded and shipped to the PEcoS facility. Waste Services estimates that the cost to reduce the size of these panels for traditional packaging and truck transport would have been $57,000. The actual cost was around $16,000, saving $41,000. CH2M HILL expects to realize similar cost savings with each future shipment and is actively pursuing increased capabilities to support tank closure and cleanup projects. “Everything about that test shipment went pretty much as planned,” said Waste Services Transportation and Packaging Manager Jim McGrogan. “With this special railcar, there’s no disassembly required for most large waste items — that’s why, for these types of shipments, rail is the preferred mode of transportation in the waste cleanup industry.” For more information, please see the article at:

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