Located in the 200 East Area of the Hanford Site is the 242-A Evaporator. Built between 1974 and 1977, the Evaporator receives radioactive liquid wastes which are pumped through underground pipes from double shell waste storage tanks on the Site. 242-A’s mission is to take that waste, referred to as “feed”, and boil off as much of the liquids as possible. The remaining waste goes back into the waste storage tanks while the water products that were removed through the Evaporator operations is sent to other facilities for treatment and safe disposal.
The 242-A Evaporator is critical to Hanford’s cleanup mission since there are no current plans to build more underground waste storage tanks at the Site, and the space within the existing double shell tanks at Hanford is limited. By boiling off the liquids, the Evaporator process creates space in the existing tanks which will be used to store waste being retrieved from the aging single-shell tanks. The space is needed as Waste Treatment Plant operations designed to vitrify the wastes are not set to begin until about 2018.
The facility was originally built for a ten-year mission, but major upgrades were done to the Evaporator in 1987, and again between 1989 and 1994. Upgrades are continuously performed to extend the life of the Evaporator into the early 2040’s.
Since the Evaporator began operations in 1977, it has completed over sixty campaigns to reduce the volume of the waste in Hanford storage tanks by more than 65,000,000 gallons.
In addition to these campaigns to reduce waste volume, “cold” campaigns also be conducted providing opportunities to train workers and test Evaporator machinery.