West Valley Employs Video Technology to Improve Waste Tank Inspection 

Office of Environmental Management, March 5, 2024 —

 WEST VALLEY, N.Y. – EM crews recently completed a virtual inspection of an underground tank that once stored liquid waste from spent fuel reprocessing operations at the West Valley Demonstration Project in the 1960s and ‘70s. 

The work is part of an ongoing effort by EM and its West Valley cleanup contractor to beter characterize residual waste, including sludge sampling and analysis. Results of the analyses will help determine disposition alternatives for the remaining content in the tank. 

“Obtaining beter samples is an important part of the characterization process,” said Stephen Bousquet, West Valley assistant director of Project Management. “Beter samples lead to improved characterization, which leads to safer planning and execution. Comprehensive planning combined with solid information leads to a safe and successful outcome.” 

EM crews had retrieved and solidified waste from that tank and two others through a process called vitrification from 1996 to 2002. Over 98% of the curies were removed from the waste tanks and vitrified. A curie is a unit used to measure the intensity of radioactivity in a sample of material. The 278 stainless steel canisters of resulting vitrified waste are being held at a temporary onsite storage pad until a permanent repository is available for their disposal. 

For that vitrification effort, workers had neutralized the waste from the tank recently inspected, known as 8D-4, and blended it with other high-level waste in a second, larger tank called 8D-2. That allowed crews to use Tank 8D-4 to support vitrification efforts. The vessel received condensate and other liquids from vitrification. 

Following vitrification activities, EM crews used the 14,300-gallon Tank 8D-4 to support deactivation of the site’s Vitrification Facility, which EM crews successfully demolished in 2018. The tank currently has about 3,900 gallons of residual liquid waste or sludge from the facility deactivation. 

Although EM had completed initial liquid and sludge sampling from the tank in 2012, an additional archived sludge sample was shipped offsite for analysis last year. Additional samples were needed to beter characterize the tank’s content for future disposition and cleanup. The camera inspection provided additional insight on the liquid level and depth of the sludge, which will help workers obtain beter depth sludge samples for offsite analysis. 

EM acquired a high-definition, radiation-resistant video camera and light assembly used in nuclear and non-nuclear applications. The camera, which also has pan and tilt capabilities, was lowered into the tank with sleeving to minimize camera and cord contamination. Once workers obtained video footage inside the tank, the camera was removed, surveyed as clean and released for future use. 

Three liquid samples were sent offsite for analysis last month. More samples are expected to be dispatched for analysis. 

“Our team continues to use their collective knowledge to find ways to improve processes, planning and execution of challenging work,” said Peggy Loop, manager of Waste and Site Operations for EM’s West Valley cleanup contractor, CH2M HILL BWXT West Valley. “Comprehensive planning improves safety, quality and compliance.” 

For more information

on the West Valley Citizen Task Force, please contact:

Nancy Raca, Facilitator
West Valley Citizen Task Force
c/o Highland Planning