Cutting a 55-in.-dia. hole into concrete is hardly rocket science in construction, but when the hole is being cut into the concrete shell of a huge underground tank that has been storing highly radioactive plutonium waste for more than 60 years, that action could be the equivalent of a space-shuttle trip into the unknown.
At month’s end, however, a U.S. Dept. of Energy contractor crew at the Hanford nuclear- waste cleanup site in Washington state will begin slicing into the C-107 tank to install a new robotic arm that will sweep or chisel out waste remnants that have been there since the structure was built before the Cold War. It will be the largest cut ever made into one of the site’s aging and leak-prone tanks as well as one of the most significant cleanup efforts to date, officials say.