However, yesterday DOE senior adviser David Huizenga announced that, thanks to serious technical issues with the vitrification plant raised by folks like Alexander, and recently verified by a technical panel tasked with reviewing the situation, the DOE will delay plans for coming up with a new cost and schedule for the vitrification plant - a delay that's expected to take more than a year, and cost tens of millions of dollars.
Specifically, serious concerns have been raised regarding erosion and corrosion in tanks and piping inside the plant, which will eventually convert the highly radioactive waste at Hanford into stable glass. Dr. Alexander first spoke out about these very issues in Seattle Weekly.
The issues are significant because the problem areas are inside so-called black cells, which will be closed off and inaccessible due to high radioactivity after the plant begins operating.
At least according to Huizenga, the DOE is attempting to acknowledge these troubling concerns now, and deal with them, instead of waiting for costly (and potentially dangerous, one assumes) maintenance issues in the future.
Now the plant is legally required to start operating in 2019 and is projected to cost $12.2 billion, but DOE will not be able to finish it by then and at that price.
DOE had instructed its contractor Bechtel National in February to propose a new cost and schedule for the vitrification plant, which was due in August.
But with technical questions to be addressed for parts of the plant that will handle large quantities of high level radioactive waste, Bechtel will proceed only with a cost and schedule revision for the plant's Low Level Waste Facility, the Analytical Laboratory and about 20 support facilities.