The Hanford Site in Washington State is a decommissioned nuclear production complex operated by the US federal government. In 1943 the site was home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor. Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb that was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan. By 1987 all of the reactors had been shut down and in 1989, the Tri-Party Agreement was created by the State of Washington, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the US Department of Energy (DOE) to issue a timeline for clean-up of the facility and area.

In 2000, the DOE selected Bechtel to engineer, build, and commission a multi-facility complex at the Hanford site to address the threat of the leaking tank waste. Bechtel is an engineering, construction and project management partner to industry and government organizations. They serve the energy, infrastructure, mining & metals, and nuclear, security & environmental markets. Bechtel aligns their capabilities to their customers’ objectives and has completed more than 25,000 projects in 160 countries on all seven continents.

When Bechtel was brought on board at the Hanford site, they looked to Whiting Corporation for many of their material handling needs. Bechtel and Whiting have had a strong relationship for the past 20 years which is how long Bechtel has been using Whiting overhead cranes. This particular project required thorough and stringent testing since it involved handling and storing radioactive waste. Bechtel contracted Whiting to modernize two of their cranes with new technology, which required both new engineering design and project management support.

As with many projects, the requirements changed after initial kickoff. These included both scope and timeline. Several of these changes required longer lead times and deviations from typical processes and procedures, such as doing project activities concurrently. Whiting and Bechtel worked well together to ensure that it all went as efficiently as possible and Whiting stayed flexible to accommodate the changes as they happened.

Whiting Services (WSI) was contracted to oversee the project implementation. WSI supported Bechtel in an advisory role to support their startup technicians. They provided additional observations and recommendations to ensure best in class processes and usage of the equipment.

In the end, the cranes were operational within the new system parameters sooner than expected. Whiting accommodated the changing business needs and requirements to support Bechtel’s mission to treat radioactive and chemical waste. Excellent communication and flexible thinking made the project go smoothly and seamlessly. The Hanford crane modernization was very much a team effort by Bechtel, Whiting Corp, and WSI and enables Bechtel to do their part to address the threat of the leaking tank waste and make the area safer for us all.