Environmental Health and Remediation
Prior waste generation activities dating back to the 1940's nuclear weapons mission paired with the impact of contaminants in the environment have resulted in the necessary ability to make critical cleanup decisions. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory develops and delivers science-based and risk-informed solutions to make water, soil, and air cleaner. Our goal is to enable cleanup for complex challenges in waste processing and environmental remediation and stewardship with a depth of expertise and objectivity that promotes public confidence in the country's ability to manage the nuclear legacy and achieve environmental protection.
To achieve this, we are integrating our fundamental science-based understanding with applied research to deliver systems-based solutions. Our approaches enable predictive understanding of system performance for managing and monitoring residual DOE tank waste, waste processing, immobilization and disposal, environmental remediation, restoration, and stewardship (see interactive web feature). Equally important, we facilitate interactions with stakeholders, regulators, and the public by providing scientific and technical understanding necessary to provide solutions and inform the risks, liabilities, and economics of complex cleanup challenges as the nation strives to achieve environmental protection.
The Environmental Health and Remediation focus areas include: Chemical and Nuclear Processing, Subsurface Science and Engineering, Energy-Water Nexus, Radiation Measurements and Irradiation, Climate Change Modeling and Decision Science, Landscape Scale Management and Resilient Coastal Systems. We also are building capabilities through PNNL's Nuclear Process Science Initiative.
Technetium-99 is one of the toughest challenges faced by the Department of Energy in cleaning up millions of gallons of legacy nuclear waste at the Hanford Site in southeastern Washington State. PNNL researchers think they may have an answer in a promising technique would be to use metal organic frameworks or MOFs, to safely remove technetium-99 selectively from Hanford wastes.
Slow-decaying technetium, which can volatilize when heated, must be held tightly in the heat-intense vitrification process that produces glass logs for long-term nuclear waste storage. Scientists showed that adding cobalt to the glass increases the amount of technetium held. This study accelerated a technology that will help meet the federal targets for waste immobilization by understanding what happens inside the glass.
Some of the brightest young minds in robotics are coming to PNNL—and they're going to build highly advanced robotics systems designed for extremely contaminated areas that pose a high risk of exposure to human workers. Under the new program, Carnegie Mellon University will send graduate students for two-year internships under the guidance of national lab staff.