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PermaFix proposes new evaporation system to Richland plant

PermaFix Northwest is proposing adding an evaporation system to its suite of systems used to treat and package radioactive waste at its Richland plant near Hanford.

As an early step in the process to gain state approval, PermaFix is holding a public meeting at 5 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Richland Public Library, 955 Northgate Drive.

The evaporation system would be used to treat water contaminated with low-level radioactive waste and hazardous chemicals.

"It could come from any location, but the real driver is water from Hanford," said Richard Grondin, general manager of PermaFix Northwest.

Hanford uses the Effluent Treatment Facility in central Hanford to treat up to 28 million gallons of wastewater each year. The contaminated water comes from groundwater projects, solid waste disposal facilities and the 242-A Evaporator, which reduces the liquid in Hanford's underground tanks holding radioactive waste.

However, the Effluent Treatment Facility has some apparent maintenance or repair issues and also is being planned for use to treat secondary waste from the Hanford vitrification plant under construction.

Possible repairs or upgrades may limit the amount of wastewater the Effluent Treatment Facility can treat. However, the Department of Energy, contacted by the Herald on Friday, did not provide information about its plans for the facility by late Monday.

The evaporator system PermaFix is proposing would be added inside its Mixed Waste Facility, which has adequate space without an expansion, Grondin said. The system would include two evaporators, with one available as backup. The evaporators would be about 6 by 4 by 4 feet.

They would heat wastewater to boil off liquid. The remaining brine would be solidified and treated for disposal. If the waste came from Hanford, it would be returned to Hanford for disposal.

The system would also include five 10,000-gallon storage tanks.

Grondin would like to start operating the proposed system in about a year and expects to hire up to five more employees.

The Washington State Department of Ecology has just started to review the PermaFix proposal, said Ron Skinnarland, a Department of Ecology manager.

It will consider what waste could potentially be sent to the evaporator, what contaminants it might contain, whether the emissions-control system is acceptable and whether the proposed tanks are sound.

The state will issue a draft modification to PermaFix's existing permit and then hold another public comment period.

The first public comment period extends through Oct. 31. Comments may be submitted to

PermaFix's existing capabilities include systems to repackage waste contaminated with plutonium, systems to compact or grout low-level radioactive waste mixed with chemicals, and systems to reduce the volume of low-level radioactive waste by burning or compacting.

-- Annette Cary: 509-582-1533;; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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