Step by step, the Hanford Vit Plant is approaching its planned startup. The project team has turned over four more structures to startup and testing as it readies the processing of radioactive waste.

The Dept. of Energy-owned Hanford site in southeast Washington is in the process of creating the Vit Plant, a $16.8-billion project to turn 56 million gallons of chemical and radioactive waste into vitrified glass. The vitrification process will allow the long-term safe storage of the waste—the result of more than four decades of plutonium production—contained in the plant's underground tanks since World War II.

While the Vit Plant structure serves as the pinnacle of the project, Bechtel crews also need to complete an array of about 20 other support buildings and labs.

The Anhydrous Ammonia Facility, Glass Former Storage Facility, Chiller Compressor Building, and Steam Plant Building have all recently entered the startup phase, where they are verified and tested as complete and in safe working order. The startup phases are scheduled for this year.

“We are steadily progressing on our path to completion as we turn more and more systems and facilities over from construction to startup and commissioning,” Valerie McCain, Bechtel principal vice president and Vit Plant project director, says in a statement.

After startup, systems will undergo a commissioning phase to ensure they can support future plant operations.

The Balance of Facilities includes 56 systems, everything from electrical power distribution to water purification and compressed air to communications of control. Of the 56 systems, 27 have successfully completed startup and testing and have transitioned to the commissioning phase. Another 24 are in the startup phase and the final five are nearing turnover from construction to startup.

Another key recent milestone includes turning over all the systems from construction to start up in the Analytical Lab, the first nuclear facility to turn over all systems to start up.

Crews are also taking occupancy of the low-activity waste facility annex, which houses offices and the control room that will run and monitor the plant. As part of the process, by February, Bechtel plans to turn the jobsite into a 24/7 schedule.

Bechtel and the U.S. Dept. of Energy plan to have the site treating low-level waste in 2023.

Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb