Interview with Ted Anderson

Dublin Core


Interview with Ted Anderson


Hanford Site (Wash.)
Richland (Wash.)
Chemical engineering
Radioactive wastes
Radioactive waste disposal


Ted Anderson moved to Richland, Washington in 1969 to work on the Hanford Site as a Chemical Engineer.

An interview conducted as part of the Hanford Oral History Project. The Hanford Oral History Project was sponsored by Mission Support Alliance on behalf of the United States Department of Energy.


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities




Those interested in reproducing part or all of this oral history should contact the Hanford History Project at, who can provide specific rights information for this item.




The Hanford Oral History Project operates under a sub-contract from Mission Support Alliance (MSA), who are the primary contractors for the US Department of Energy's curatorial services relating to the Hanford site. This oral history project became a part of the Hanford History Project in 2015, and continues to add to the US Department of Energy collection.

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Robert Franklin


Ted Anderson


Washington State University - Tri Cities


Robert Franklin: Okay. My name is Robert Franklin. I am conducting an oral history interview with Ted Anderson on May 11, 2017. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I’ll be talking with Ted about his experiences working at the Hanford Site. And for the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?

Ted Anderson: [LAUGHTER] Okay. Theodore. Dahlin. Anderson. That’s T-H-E-O-D-O-R-E. D-A-H-L-I-N. A-N-D-E-R-S-O-N.

Franklin: Great. Thank you so much. And you prefer Ted, right?

Anderson: Yeah, yes.

Franklin: Okay.

Anderson: Well, there’s a little story here to that. Theodore is a compound name. Theo—it’s from the Greek. Theo is God; Dore is gift. So Theodore is gift of God. Ted, on the other hand, is to spread hay or manure. [LAUGHTER] Okay.

Franklin: That’s good. So, Ted, tell me, how and why did you come to the Hanford Site?

Anderson: How? Well, I’d had on-campus interview in 1967 with a representative from the Site here.

Franklin: And where was this interview?

Anderson: University of New Mexico.

Franklin: Okay.

Anderson: I didn’t take a site trip. But then I went to work for DuPont back in Virginia, and became somewhat unhappy there. Having gone to school in Albuquerque with all sorts of desert, basically, around and mountains and stuff. That’s where Hanford sort of is. So I gave a call to Dr. Watson, who was the recruiter here, and said, you still interested in me? Oh, yeah, when can you get here? So then I came cross-country with my wife, my daughter, and two cars.

Franklin: Wow.

Anderson: So, that was 1969.

Franklin: And when you were—so you did your—which degree did you do at—

Anderson: Chemical engineering.

Franklin: Chemical engineering, and was that a bachelor’s?

Anderson: Yes.

Franklin: Okay. So what job did you come to do at Hanford in ’69?

Anderson: [LAUGHTER] Came to work at Hanford. They were going to put me—well, I went to work in Tank Farms. But when I started out, all I knew was I was going to work at a nuclear reservation. Which, of course, at the time, there was a lot of secrecy. So they’re not going to tell you a lot until you get here.

Franklin: Mm. So not knowing much about what exactly you’d be doing, what attracted you to come work at Hanford?

Anderson: Basically, that it was desert, like New Mexico. And it was something new and different. I was probably a bit curious. I liked being in New Mexico where you could see for 50 miles, rather than in Virginia, where you’re lucky if you could see for a quarter of a mile. So, came out here. And of course, when we were first coming down from Spokane, and it’s June, late June coming up on July, and the wife is starting to look at all this brown country, because it’s desert. And she’s sort of looking at me, like, where have you brought us? Anyhow, that’s how I got here.

Franklin: I think I and my wife had the same experience when we first moved out here.

Anderson: Yeah.

Franklin: Where am I? This is not the Washington I signed up for.

Anderson: Yeah, where’s this “Evergreen State”?

Franklin: So, you eventually went to work in the Tank Farms. So, I’m wondering if you could tell us, quickly, what the Tank Farms are, but then what your job, what your duties were there.

Anderson: Well, there was radioactive waste that was created through the processing of spent fuel to get plutonium. The aqueous waste went into underground tanks. They’re nominally in the neighborhood of a million gallons. The first ones were 750,000 and later ones are actual full million gallons, 75 feet in diameter. They were basically concrete tanks with carbon-steel liners. So that’s where the waste went from reprocessing.

Franklin: Were these tanks from like the World War II era on?

Anderson: Yes.

Franklin: Okay, so these were the single-shell—

Anderson: Well—

Franklin: What were known as the single—

Anderson: Later on there were double-shell tanks, but initially what I was looking after was—I think there was some—I don’t remember if there were any double-shell tanks when I first started. There may have been, but—

Franklin: So what was your job with the tanks?

Anderson: I was shift engineer.

Franklin: Okay.

Anderson: Rotating shifts. There was a number of units—I had specific responsibility for two of them, which was ITS, In-Tank Solidification Units number 1 and 2. But I covered the entire Tank Farms, both East and West Area. So any time there was issues with waste transfers—they had another evaporator, 242-T, over in West Area. So I would make my rounds of Tank Farm operations. If there was any problems, try to troubleshoot. If it was something I couldn’t troubleshoot, then I’d make a little note of it and turn it in to the powers-that-be at shift change.

Franklin: Which contractor was running the Tank Farms when you got here?

Anderson: That was the Atlantic-Richfield Hanford Company.

Franklin: Okay. So what was the primary—what was the goal of managing—like, when you say managing the tanks, what were the goals of that, what were the outcomes of tank management?

Anderson: Oh, we were still producing a lot of aqueous waste. I mean, PUREX was in full operation. B Plant was processing waste to remove the cesium and strontium to try to get to a point where we could solidify waste. So, yeah, we were trying to accommodate the waste from—this is Cold War, of course. So there’s some pressure to make plutonium.

Franklin: Sure.

Anderson: Although, I think we did way too good a job at it. Eventually, when you think the first bomb was talking about grams, and eventually we produced something over 16 tons, we learned altogether too well how to—but anyhow. For just the start of things, we’re trying to make space for the aqueous waste that’s produced primarily from fuel reprocessing but also from other processes.

Franklin: Right, because there were several processes of the waste, right? There were several different chemical—distinct chemical processes for reprocessing spent fuel.

Anderson: Oh, yeah, yeah. The first was what was referred to as BiPO-4. That’s bismuth phosphate, Bi-P-O-4. And that, they were just after the plutonium. So that was the initial thing. That’s how we got our plutonium for the first bomb. Then they decided that there was an awful lot of uranium that was going out with the aqueous waste. So they had, among other things, what they called a heavy metal recovery program, where they would reprocess the waste that was already in the tank and try to remove the uranium so it could be made back into fuel assemblies.

Franklin: Were the tanks designed for the waste to be pumped in and out of them in this fashion?

Anderson: They were made to transfer between tanks. Recovery—because partly what went out was liquid and part of it was solids. The uranium was in the solids, so you had to have some sluicing in the tank. And, no, the tanks were not built with the idea that you would remove solids from them.

Franklin: To reprocess.

Anderson: To reprocess. We did, but—then there was some over things that—they had what they called a space recovery program. So they hit waste in several tanks in East Area with a cyanide solution that precipitated, pretty quantitatively, the radioactive material out. And then they pumped the supernatant across the road to what they called BC Crib Area, which was open trenches, a specific retention site. The waste was pumped into there until they had—specific retention meant they didn’t want it to go all the way to the groundwater. So they calculate what the soil column could hold. When it reached that level, they moved it. So that was another thing they did.

As I said, B Plant was in operation when I got there. There, they were separating the strontium and cesium from tank waste and encapsulating it. At the Waste Encapsulation and Solidification Facility, WESF. Again, the idea was that eventually they wanted to solidify the tanks with the waste inside, and that was going to be the permanent disposal. Which, to tell you a little story here, the initial work they did, they took samples out at the tanks. Very small samples, because it’s hot, radioactively. And they sent it to what was in those days PNL. That’s before they got the extra N.

Franklin: Right.

Anderson: Then they concentrated it. And they said it was concentrated by a factor of four and allowed to cool. It became a solid mass. Then they extrapolated that, or tried to, to million-gallon tanks. It didn’t really work that way. [LAUGHTER]

There was multiple challenges. For instance, ITS-2, which was in Tank 112B-Y, used big immersion heaters, like million-watt immersion heaters, to heat the liquid in the tank and boil it. Then it was moved from 112B-Y to a series of what they called bottoms tanks where it was supposed to cool and solids settle out. We were going to create more space for more waste so we don’t have to build more tank farms. Trouble is it didn’t really happen like that; you had selective precipitation. It didn’t just set up all at once. Certain compounds would settle out and they formed a crust on top of the liquid, which didn’t help with the cooling, because the idea was that this hot stuff would go out into these tanks and the tanks were ventilated and you would evaporate more water. So that didn’t work. Then they put in airlift circulators which were supposed to open up the surface. That worked for a while, but eventually, you get down to maybe ten feet in diameter for the airless circulators. So it was an ongoing challenge.

And there was some really funny chemistry. For instance in, well, no, 2B-Y, which was, yeah, in-tank unit 1. I was there; I was in-charge engineer, where we’d take a sample and send it over to the 222-S Lab. Well, the sample—and, you know, you didn’t want to get real close to it. We’d ship it in these pigs, lead-shelled containers. Went over to the lab, and I filled out the sheet that says here’s what the characteristics were, which was a clear, yellow liquid. Then I get a call a couple days later from the lab that says, your sample sheet says it was a clear, yellow liquid. What we’ve got has lots of solids in it. Well, it had cooled, okay? So, you know. Put a magnetic stirrer in it—and this is all going to happen in a hot zone. Put the magnetic stirrer on it and heat it up. Steve Buckingham was the lead engineer then, lead chemist. Bucky as he was fondly known. And he called me up and he said, it’s been on there for two days. Still full of solids.

So what had happened, apparently, was there was an irreversible precipitation. In other words, it wasn’t just a compound that precipitated out that could be re-dissolved; there was a chemical reaction that had happened when it cooled. Very strange material, because there were so many chemicals in it—and we tried to replicate the waste so we could do cold testing. They were never able to get physical characteristics and chemical characteristics in the same surrogate. You could mimic the physical characteristics; you could mimic some of the chemical characteristics; but you couldn’t do both in a cold sample. So, yeah, some really strange stuff.

Franklin: Yeah, no kidding. Wasn’t—this precipitating out of water, I understand that to kind of get the material to be more of a solid, to save space—would that water have carried any kind of radioactive traces with it as it was precipitating out?

Anderson: Oh, yeah. So, as it came off, like, 112B-Y, we had condensers to cool it down. And then the air was put through a HEPA, High Efficiency Particulate Air filters. So that, again, what was released had minimal if any contamination in it.

Franklin: Mm. Oh, sorry, go ahead.

Anderson: I said, HEPA filters were nominally good for about 106 decontamination factor. So, yeah. It cleaned up the air pretty good.

Franklin: Well, that’s good. What would be done with these filters, because I assume after a while they would be radioactive themselves, right?

Anderson: Oh, yes, yeah. You could flush them. But ultimately, they didn’t really—there were things that plated out on them that would increase the delta pressure, dp as it was known, to the point where you can’t clean them enough to—and they were only good for maybe six inches dp before they could be ruptured, pulled through.

So, yeah, another little story from—there was something called AR Vault, which was used when you recovered stuff from A Farm, AX Farm Tanks, it would go into AR Vault. They were recovering sludge. When they got enough of it, then they would pump it over to B Plant, okay. The way this was set up, there was four tanks in this semi canyon building. There’s a big open door at the end of it, where if you needed to bring equipment in, you could. Okay, well, there’s cover blocks, so once you bring the equipment in, you close the doors, then you could take the cover blocks off. So there’s two different speeds on the HVAC, heating ventilation air conditioning, system. One was the normal, when that door at the end of the thing was closed. And the other was when it’s open, you really crank it up.

So I was shift engineer and talking to the operator there. At that point, AR Vault was not actively being used. There was a little lull in our processing. So he’s running on to me, he said, they really need to change those filters out on radiation levels. Not just wait for the differential pressure to go up. And I said, yeah, good point. So I wrote up a little, what we called DSIs. Don’t Say It, write it. I left that for management; said, here’s my recommendation. Well, about three years later, I’m working on low level waste management, and I heard that they quote-unquote sucked the filter at AR Vault. I thought, oh, well, hmm, okay. Not too long after that, I get a call from somebody that said, I’m just reading your memo here. Why didn’t they take action on that? I said, did you look at the date on that? Oh, that was quite a while ago! [LAUGHTER]

Because what had happened is, with AR sitting there basically not doing a lot of processing, but you’re still ventilating, still getting some particulate, it kept loading the filters. But the airflow rate was low. So now they’re going to open up the canyon doors and they jack the airflow up. And of course, delta-p is not linear; it’s an asymptotic thing, with airflow. So when they jacked airflow up, it sucked the filter.

Well, now, the filter was supposed to be contact-maintained. That is, you could go in and manually take it into a disposal container. Well, as the operator had pointed out, they didn’t change it out on radiation readings, and now it’s too hot to do it manually. So now what they had to do—and we’re talking about a rather large assembly. So now what they had to do is go in a considerable ways away from this filter assembly and open up the line, and build a parallel one and reroute it around to go through a whole new filter thing. And then they had to take the whole old filter thing out and bury it. So, you know, it’s things like that that there tended to be not a lot of thinking about what the potential is. So anyhow. One of the little stories.

Franklin: That’s great, that’s a great story. So how long did you work as a Tank Farm shift engineer?

Anderson: Well, initially, I did it for—let’s see, ’69 to like sometime in ’72. And then I was on days for a while. And then I think they thought I was a bit persistent on some things. So then they—you know, please don’t throw me in the briar patch—they put me on shift work. I like shift work. You can shop when the stores are not crowded. Things like, we had a popcorn club for the operators. Of course, I’m—you hang out with the operators. So, yeah, they’d buy popcorn in 50-pound bags. They’d buy popcorn in 5-gallon tanks. You paid a couple bucks a month; if you wanted to make popcorn, you went down to CR Vault—CR Tank Farm, rather—and got popcorn and oil and went back to where your lunch room and made popcorn. I mean, it was—there’s a lot of camaraderie when you’re working with people like that. So, yeah. I liked working shift work. When my daughter finally got into school, it was not quite as much fun. Because she and my wife could sort of adjust when she didn’t have to go to school. But then when she was in school, it started getting a little more challenging. But anyhow, that’s—I went back on shiftwork. Worked on shift work probably until, I’m thinking early ’75. Then back on day shift again. And finally, August of ’75, I decided I’d had enough and I quit.

Franklin: So you quit the Tank Farm?

Anderson: I quit the job.

Franklin: Quit the job.

Anderson: Yeah. I was, at that point, farming quite a few acres and had some rentals, and was looking forward to just doing my thing, thank you.

Franklin: Yeah. Was there a particular incident that led you to quit, or—I’m wondering if you could kind of describe what happened to come to that decision.

Anderson: Well, one of the problems was is that, again, management tended to be shortsighted, as in the AR Vault incident. I was told that my resignation letter, it was probably at one time or another in hundreds of files out there because people thought it was such a wonderful letter. But, you know, just—very shortsighted, wouldn’t listen to good technical advice. And again, not well-managed. So I basically out of frustration just said, you know, I don’t think I need this.

Franklin: Mm-hmm. Do you think that was particular to the Tank Farm, the tank unit, or would that have been like a contractor-wide issue?

Anderson: To some extent, it was contractor-wide. I think the Tank Farms may have been—but then again, maybe it’s just because I had that personal knowledge of Tank Farms.

Franklin: Sure.

Anderson: Because there was other things that—it was always a short-term solution. Not looking out and saying, okay, how’s this going to work ten years from now, 20 years from now? It was more like, how is this going to work next month. So anyhow, yeah. And then of course eventually I went back to work for PNL. I was doing the initial waste vitrification demonstration.

Franklin: So, tell me, how did you come to go back to work—you said you wanted to kind of do your own thing for—you know. But how did you end up coming back to waste management?

Anderson: [LAUGHTER] Well, I was drawing unemployment because I had—well, another story. I quit and then I filed for unemployment and ARCO was going to dispute that. And I thought, oh, good, because I had lots of documentation of not being employed to use my chemical engineering education. Which is, you know, if you quit with cause and you can demonstrate the cause, you get unemployment. You have to wait seven weeks, or you did then, but you—you know. So I had done that. Then the wife and I—there was supposed to be a hearing in, I think, December. And the wife and I had gone off to Hawaii for a little bit of vacation. Came back, and lived in Benton City at that time, which had no home delivery of mail. You had to be a post office box. So we went up to the post office box, and here’s a stack of unemployment checks. ARCO dropped their—apparently, they decided that they didn’t want to get any legal go-arounds. So then I drew unemployment for as long as I could. When I got into my final 13-week unemployment thing, they were really insisting that I do some serious interviewing. Of course, I have to confess that one of the things that I thought made me unemployable was I had tried to unionize the engineers.


Anderson: Yeah, okay.

Franklin: Yeah, that kind of will sometime earn the ire of management.

Anderson: Well, they wouldn’t have dared to do anything like fire me, but they wouldn’t have dared to do anything like hire me back.

Franklin: Right, right.

Anderson: So anyhow I was interviewing with Jack McElroy, who was PNL. And they wanted me to help with—they were doing a waste vitrification demonstration project. They needed help, and I had a lot of background. He said, all I ask is one thing: promise you won’t engage in any unionizing activities—organizing activities. And I said, you got it. So, then I was working for PNL.

Franklin: So, sorry, I’m very curious. I want to go back a bit because you just mentioned this unionizing thing now. What led you to that kind of activism when you were at your job at ARCO? Why did you try to unionize?

Anderson: Because other people were having the same problems I was. The people—good people tended to be leaving. So your overall quality of the people you work with can tend to go down with times. And there’s a lot of people that, you’d talk, and they’d talk, but they don’t do anything. And I’ve never been one to—if you’re going to talk the talk, walk the walk. So I got together, we—what was it, the Hanford Employees—anyhow, we had a whole bunch of people with names that were interested in doing this. We quickly decided that we really couldn’t afford to do this if we were being challenged in court, because we didn’t have the resources.

So then we contacted some professional unions, for instance, Boeing, their union. Their engineers are unionized, and we talked with them. Campbell’s Soup Company, of all things, was unionized and had their technical people in that. So, yeah, we were moving down that road. One of the things that stopped us was we didn’t want to be sucked up into another organization. It was beginning to look like you’re going to have trouble maintaining your independence if you get the help you need to fight the corporate people.

Franklin: Right, because they’re going to want—another union would want your membership to bolster their ranks.

Anderson: Yeah, and of course, none of them really understood Hanford, which was going to be another problem. So, that was basically—we said, no, this probably, it’s not the right time, maybe it’s not the right—you know. But apparently we had scared the tar out of management. I was told that there was some really serious conferences down in the Federal Building, fondly known as the Fed Shed, of people wondering what to do if we actually officially tried to unionize. I didn’t know I’d caused all that consternation, but—[LAUGHTER]

Franklin: I guess word about you had spread.

Anderson: Well, actually, there was three of us. I’m trying to think who the other two were. I can’t think of their names just offhand. But we actually were on TV, interviewed. You know, this is what we’re thinking about. Okay. But they’d say, these are engineers you’re working with who tend to be horribly practical. You know, you look down the road and you say, you know, I don’t know how this is going to work, and if we give up our independence, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to attract enough people to really get a viable vote. So we finally said, okay. Heavy sigh.

But meanwhile, they made some changes for the engineering. Because engineering wage increases had been lagging the craftworkers, the union members. They were getting like 5, 6% a year, and we were getting like 4%. Which was one of the sticking point, you know. The squeaky wheel gets oiled, so let’s us be a squeaky wheel.

Franklin: Do you know of any other—I assume you did your research in some of these other companies. Did you find any other atomic sites that had had engineers that had unionized?

Anderson: Not that I recall, no. I’m sorry. There was one other professional union we had talked to. I want to say that maybe it was 3M but I don’t recall. I know Campbell’s and Boeing were the two for sure that we talked to.

Franklin: Yeah, Campbell’s is very interesting. I wouldn’t have—

Anderson: Oh, and United Auto Workers, also. That was another one.

Franklin: Ah.

Anderson: They’re union—their engineers were unionized. So yeah.

Franklin: Cool, well, thank you. I’d not heard of that attempt before, so it’s really, that’s interesting.

Anderson: Oh, okay, well, good.

Franklin: One last question, too, before we go to your time at PNNL, about the Tank Farms. I’m getting the sense that, from your perspective, that there was much more of a—that tank waste management at that time was more about finding more room for waste to continue production than it was about ensuring the safety—or kind of the safety and stability of the tanks. Or, it seemed like there was more short-term focus than long-term planning.

Anderson: Well, yeah.

Franklin: Because that waste would have to sit there. Was there any talk of where that waste would go? Whether it be a repository or what would happen to it?

Anderson: No, the assumption was it was going to be solidified in the tanks and left.

Franklin: Oh. Really?

Anderson: Yeah.

Franklin: Okay. As in—from an engineer’s perspective, would that have been a feasible project?

Anderson: It would’ve taken—for instance, what you wound up with, with the successive evaporations, is a very caustic solution. When it cools it doesn’t really solidify, it just gets thick. Sodium hydroxide, basically, lye. So one of the things that was talked about was the fact you get the tank to a certain point and you load it up with grout, cement, basically. We also did some experiments with fly ash, because that would absorb liquid. But again, in those days, there was no talk of the waste coming out of the tanks. Vitrification was not on the table.

Franklin: Had there been any—had all the tanks maintained their stability at that point? Had there been any—

Anderson: Oh, no, no. I’ll tell you the story about the tar rings.

Franklin: Okay.

Anderson: Okay. I say, these tanks are basically concrete tanks with carbon steel liners. Okay, well, we were developing in-tank photography. A good friend of mine, Jerry Everett, was the lead on that. He was with PNL, a photographer. So they developed techniques for lowering a camera into the tank and rotating it. So you got—and you could build a montage of the interior of the tank. Well, about the second tank they did that to, you could see there were black rings around certain points. Okay. Well, the tanks between the carbon steel and the cement was mastic, as they called it—tar. Because that was meant to basically seal it tight between the—okay. Well, now, if you’re seeing tar, that indicates that the carbon steel integrity is gone. Okay.

And it was all sorts of theories about how that could happen. Potentially, they talked about microorganisms that could withstand the radiation and oxidize. And of course, young engineer and I expounding on some of these to one of the old operators. And he said, iron-loving biota, my ass. Oh? What happened? He says, they just jumped an un-neutralized batch out. Because the processing was done on the acid side. And then you hit it with caustics so it would be compatible with the carbon steel. And he said, so, you know, if you didn’t get the caustic added to the batch, it would go out to the tank, it would potentially float on the surface and eat up the carbon steel. And I said, so, is that written down some place? And he looked at me like I was an idiot. He said, hell no! I said, what did you do? Put the caustic down the pipe after it! [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: With no mixing.

Anderson: No. Of course, then the record shows you’ve used caustic. Here’s, we used however many gallons. [LAUGHTER] Okay, so there’s stories like that that I’m sure nobody would really want to admit, even today, but that’s what the operators said occasionally happened. You’d send an un-neutralized batch out.

Of course, there was other things that went on. Like, S-X Farm over in West Area. It had initially been bottoms tanks for REDOX. And then they decided that they were going to try to use them further. REDOX was the first solvent extraction predecessor to PUREX. So the material that was coming out, then, was a lot more concentrated as far as radionuclides. Well, they were in a hurry to build the S-X tanks; because REDOX was coming online, you need a place to put that stuff. So the earlier tanks were built with a slightly convex/concave, whichever way you look at it, bottom, so it was a bit rounded on the bottom. Well, S-X, they built them flat, because it was faster. I mean, trying to weld carbon steel and get that—okay. Well, then, lo and behold, here’s this really hot waste, sludge, in the bottom of the tank. And of course, the concrete has some residual moisture in it. It evaporated the residual moisture and the tanks buckled up like this.

Franklin: And cracked, right?

Anderson: Well, cracks formed. They buckled up as much as eight feet.

Franklin: Wow.

Anderson: Well, it’s a 75-foot-diameter tank.

Franklin: Sure, yeah, yeah.

Anderson: But, yeah. So that was another thing. Eventually, what they did was try to move as much supernatant from the tanks that had the—it was 108S-X and 107S-X, I think.

Franklin: So had they been concave, would they have buckled?

Anderson: Nah. Well, likely not. Because you’ve got a lot of weight from the aqueous and the sludge. So the moisture probably would have, under some pressure, worked its way out. But, you know. They were in a hurry.

Franklin: Right, got to have somewhere to—

Anderson: Put. It’s the Cold War. We’re thinking we’re going to be in a nuclear war with Russia any time soon, so—

Franklin: It’s so interesting to me that now we’ve been in this cleanup mode for almost three decades. It’s the constant topic of conversation and planning for the future and worrying, and it seems like that’s the complete opposite of the first 40 or so years, when waste was always the after thought and the idea was, well, let’s just make more room so we can pack more of it down there. It’s always like we’ll get to this later, like, constantly tabled issue.

Anderson: You just keep pushing it off, pushing it off, because we have our short-term priorities.

Franklin: Right. I think it’s hard for people now to understand, how couldn’t they have been planning? Understanding, knowing the basic science of how long these radioisotopes would take to decay, but then also knowing the chemicals that were used in this process, you know.

Anderson: Well, one of the things that was explained to me and it makes perfect sense is, there was no experience, no history. So what they did was followed standard industrial practice. If it’s no good anymore, you bury it. Again, without the experience, what they had to go on was what had been going on forever in industry. So just transfer that to the nuclear side.

Franklin: No, it’s perfectly rational. In its own way. But I guess with hindsight, it’s like, wow.

Anderson: Well, hindsight is always 20/20.

Franklin: Right, it’s kind of a scary rational decision in some ways.

Anderson: Oh, yeah.

Franklin: So in ’85, right, you—no, sorry, before that.

Anderson: ’75.

Franklin: ’75 you went to work at—

Anderson: PNL.

Franklin: This kind of new—was vitrification a new—was this kind of an emerging idea then, or was it already established for nuclear waste?

Anderson: It was emerging. This was some of the work that supported DWPF, Defense Waste Processing Facility, back at Savanna River. Which I became intimately involved with. It was—yeah. I spent a good part of my life working on waste vitrification design and startup.

Franklin: So the idea, then, instead of removing moisture, putting in tanks, is to turn the waste into a solid and encapsulate it, correct?

Anderson: Yeah. It’s a vitreous product, glass. And then, well, Savanna River’s using these two-foot diameter stainless steel, that eventually, the intent is that it goes to a repository. But some of the early work looked at, what’s the place over in Africa where they had the natural reactor?

Franklin: Oh, I can’t—I know—

Anderson: It’s Oklo, or something like that?

Franklin: Something like that, yeah.

Anderson: Anyhow, what they found is that there’s enough heat there that a lot of material was vitrified. Now you go back thousands and thousands—hundreds of thousands of years later, and it’s still there. It hasn’t migrated. So yeah, you put it in glass and it’s not going anywhere. So that was the earlier work in. What PNL was doing was chop-leech of commercially irradiated—from West Valley, as I recall.

Franklin: And that’s in New York, right?

Anderson: Yeah. We brought them here, disassembled them, chop-leeched the fuel elements, dissolved out the—

Franklin: So, sorry, what was that word you just said, chop leech?

Anderson: Yeah.

Franklin: What—can you—

Anderson: Oh, okay. What you did is there’s—and I did the design for this. The fuel assemblies are fairly complicated, typically like a 12x12 array. But it varies depending on whether it’s a PWR, BWR, and those change at times. But developed techniques to take the head plate off so you can get at the fuel rods. And then you had a little clamping device comes out and pulls it into a hydraulic press. So you pull it like four inches through, you chop off two inches. You pull it another four inches through—so you get two two-inch pieces with each chop. Then it falls from there directly into a tank where you leech out or dissolve out the uranium and plutonium, whatever’s there. Then that’s going to be mixed with glass formers and turned into glass logs.

Franklin: Okay. And this is done with the old, with the fuel rods?

Anderson: Yes.

Franklin: Okay. And so West Valley sent these rods to PNNL?

Anderson: Yeah.

Franklin: Okay.

Anderson: West Valley was shut down. And they didn’t quite know what to do with the spent assemblies that were already there. So we helped them get rid of a couple of them.

Franklin: Right. Was West Valley, was that a commercial—those commercial power reactors?

Anderson: Yeah, it was intended to be a commercialization of fuel reprocessing. There were two places in the Untied States where that was supposed to be. That was basically a prototype. I mean, it was going to be commercial, but—and then the Morris Plant, GE’s Morris Plant, which was in Illinois. Morris Plant never got beyond early testing. They got it contaminated, but not badly. West Valley actually had processed fuel. And the problem there was that the powers-that-be kept changing the rules. They built the plant to the rules that existed at the time they built it. And then the government changed the rules, and then they tried to update. And the government changes the rules again. And they finally just sort of threw up their hands, and—Bechtel, actually, was the company that built West Valley.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Anderson: So they had some pretty practical knowledge of what was in there. In fact, I worked with a guy, Jack Nelson, who was one of the chief engineers on that. And Jack is still alive, down in the San Francisco Bay area. He occasionally sends little humorous things with another friend of mine down there who shares them with me.

Franklin: Oh, that’s cool. So how come PNNL or PNL then, I guess—it seems like there’d be a national lab much closer to West Valley to send those—

Anderson: Well, it wasn’t initially to process West Valley. We needed fuel assemblies. And they started casting around for where we might get them. Commercial reactors weren’t necessarily—they still had the idea that they were going to be able to reuse them. So we’d get them for free, basically, I think the idea was we’d pay shipping.

Franklin: I’d imagine still is no small feat for used fuel assemblies.

Anderson: Yeah. Anyhow, yeah, that’s how we got—

Franklin: So how come that—why was the decision made to start vitrification with this commercial or reprocessing fuel assemblies rather than something at Hanford, like some sort of waste from Hanford?

Anderson: Well, first of all, the Hanford waste, a lot of it, was slugs. Okay, if you look at what was in B Reactor, C Reactor, the earlier reactors, they weren’t fuel assemblies. What they had is tubes that they loaded metallic slugs in, I think they were like two feet long. Anyhow, if you go out to—you know about BRMA, B Reactor Museum Association?

Franklin: Yeah, I’m actually a member, a board member of BRMA.

Anderson: Okay, well, I’m a member. I pay my dues, but—

Franklin: Okay.

Anderson: So you can see there what the fuel slugs look like.

Franklin: Yeah, we have some of those in our collection.

Anderson: Yeah. Cold ones, but—

Franklin: Yes, yes. We do not have hot ones. Let me just say that on camera: we do not have actual—

Anderson: Radioactive materials.

Franklin: We have the testers and the displays.

Anderson: So anyhow, those weren’t really conducive to—because we were looking for something to apply to commercial nuclear fuel. What existed at Hanford was—it wasn’t going to be typical.

Franklin: So these fuel assemblies then, are maybe similar to the Fast Flux stuff where they were these longer rods, okay.

Anderson: Well, what they were was, again, as I recall, don’t quote me on this, but, like, 20-feet long, and a 12x12 array. There were spacers and cooling tubes. It came as an assembly that would slip into a reactor.

Franklin: Gotcha.

Anderson: When they did their refueling.

Franklin: Okay, okay, thanks. All my experience with reactors is with out here. So I kind of forget about the—I forget how different commercial is from—or reprocessing is from the Hanford stuff.

Anderson: Yeah. And of course, the commercial fuel is burned up a lot higher.

Franklin: Right.

Anderson: Because—I’m probably telling you what you already know, but, really, you didn’t want to irradiate the fuel too far at Hanford, because your 239 starts becoming 241 and pretty soon you wind up with something that won’t go boom.

Franklin: Right. But in commercial you want that long-sustained.

Anderson: You want to burn it up as long as you can because you paid a lot for it.

Franklin: Right, right. Yeah, I think that’s something maybe that a lot of people don’t understand is how different those processes are. You don’t make bomb material in a commercial reactor. It doesn’t—it’s the exact opposite.

Anderson: No. Well, initially, if you take a fuel assembly that’s just been installed for a few months and you pull that out, you potentially could process it to get it up to Pu-239 to go boom. 239, 238? It’s 239, I’m pretty sure.

Franklin: Close enough. Pu.

Anderson: Close enough for government work.

Franklin: So in ’75 you start working on this waste vitrification. What did your—what was the outcome of the project? Was it a success? What did you produce?

Anderson: I actually left before they actually—I designed the stuff, watched the stuff get built, and then I went off job shopping and wound up back out at Hanford, working on low level waste for Hank McGuire.

Franklin: Okay, and how come you left PNNL before the project got underway?

Anderson: Okay, well, initially PNL was a great company to work for. Ev Irish was the guy that was in charge of the whole thing. There was an awful lot there that was totally novel, and he just said, figure it out. Yes, sir. I mean, that’s—so I, for instance, was back Midwest, checking on the press operators. Things like zirconium, which was fuel cladding. But it is pyrophoric, so you do some research and say, we’re going to be storing these casings. There had been reports of fires starting in zirconium. It’s fun stuff. You’d get a casing and you scrape it along concrete, and it sparks. Just—it can be fun!

Franklin: Sure, sure.

Anderson: Anyhow, and they had flex time. You had to be there core hours, which was 10:00 in the morning to 2:00 in the afternoon. So I’m doing things like getting there at 6:00 in the morning and leaving at 2:30. Get my eight in. And then I could get my boat out on the water, sailboat. You know, it was great. I was given a lot of free reign.

Then they decided we’re going into pretty much production mode and they got this guy in from GE’s Morris Plant, who was pretty much the north end of worse going south. And he said to me, what hours are you working? And I said, 6:00 to 2:30. Well, you need to work the same hours as everyone else. Well, we have flex time. Well, we’re not going to have flex time. Okay. That’s just one of the—he was a butt.

Franklin: Sure.

Anderson: And I had pretty much got my design in place, and I thought, let’s do something else.

Franklin: Sure.

Anderson: I’m not a patient soul; I tend to be restless. Next challenge, thank you.

Franklin: And, okay. So then you said you went and shopped. When was this, that you left?

Anderson: Gee, I went back to work in, it was ’76. I was there for a little less than two years. So it would’ve been ’77, ’78, I went back out. Well, I’d signed up with Butler R. Day, and I thought maybe I’d go someplace interesting like Oak Ridge. But they wouldn’t tell you where, you know. It’s a nuclear thing. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. You see my resume; I can do that. And they said, okay, here’s where you’re going. I don’t think they’d looked at where I was at. They said, you know, if you have to commute more than 50 miles, then you’d get mileage. It’s about 25 miles, I’m sorry, I don’t get no mileage. But you know I’d signed up and it was good money. I mean, in the day it was—no real bennies, but $15 an hour in 1978, considering the minimum wage was considerably less than that. So I did that for six months. Then because they couldn’t hire you away from Butler R. Day until at least six months. And then basically as soon as my six months were—here, sign here. Okay, sure. Yeah, I was apparently appreciated.

Franklin: Oh, good. So what were you doing? You said after PNL you left and went back to Hanford.

Anderson: Low level radioactive waste management.

Franklin: Low level—and what is that, specifically? Break that down for me in layman’s terms.

Anderson: Okay. There’s all sorts of sites where contaminated liquids and solids had been disposed of, just in the ground. Cribs, specific retention sites, just—you know. Things like where there was a canal from B Plant that went out to a cooling pond. And then they had the Cell A incident at B Plant which resulted in a large strontium release. And so now that canal is contaminated all the way out. So what they do is they put a lot of dirt on it and dig a new one and we move on. But now it’s a low level waste site. So as I recall there’s close to 400 of them.

Franklin: At Hanford?

Anderson: Well, no, at 200 East and West.

Franklin: 400 of them at 200 East and West.

Anderson: Yeah.

Franklin: And this is just a mix of like contaminated ground and—

Anderson: Yeah, canal—liquids. Again, some stuff buried. It was a lot of liquids. Cribs and so forth. Cribs and spills.

Franklin: Sure. And the cribs were just to—were these usually just like holding facilities?

Anderson: No, no. Basically, it was to dispose of slightly contaminated aqueous water. And the idea was that the Hanford soil is a very good ion exchanger. And the water table’s like 200 feet down. So by the time that this waste gets to the water, it’s been cleaned up.

Franklin: Like a natural filter.

Anderson: Yeah.

Franklin: But then—

Anderson: That leaves the ground contaminated.

Franklin: Right, then the filter’s contaminated, yeah. Not the water, but you contaminate the soil.

Anderson: Yeah, well, the idea was that nobody’s ever going to live there, so, you know, they’re not going to be punching wells down in 200-East 200-West Area.

Franklin: Well, I would hope not.

Anderson: Yeah. So you know, that was considered—and I think I mentioned the specific retention sites with the stuff that they weren’t sure if it could be held up by the soil column. They would pump enough liquid in to saturate the soil column without reaching the water table.

Franklin: Interesting.

Anderson: Of course, I have to tell you another little story from back in my early days in Tank Farm. There was a tank in C Farm, I want to say it’s 103-C, which was OWW, that’s organic wash waste receiver from PUREX. Because PUREX, part of their process used NPH, normal paraffin hydrocarbon. And they liked to reuse that because it was expensive, so they would aqueous wash it. And then the aqueous wash would go out to 103-C. Well, there was some small amount of organic entrained over time. And then they were going to send 103-C, pump its feed over to my ITS-2 unit. You don’t want organic in—it was going to be above the flashpoint. So if you accidentally got organic in there, you could have a real nasty incident.

Franklin: What—such as?

Anderson: Explosion.

Franklin: Oh, okay. That’s pretty nasty.

Anderson: Yeah, you’d get it up to the flashpoint, and then all it took was an ignition source.

Franklin: Okay. Gotcha.

Anderson: So they’d taken a sample of 103-C, sent it over to the lab, and then said, that sample was all NPH. What? Again, this is crude sampling; you drop a bottle down to the tank liquid, let it sink until it gets filled and pull it up. And then rinse it off, put it in a lead pig, and send it down to the lab. So they said, oh, okay, that’s not good. We don’t want to pump that stuff to a hot environment.

So then I was given a task—this would’ve been 1970, ’71—of finding out how much organic there was in 103-C. And I was given a magnificent budget of $250,000. Which in today’s money you could probably put a couple zeroes after that. And they were talking about things like radar and sonar. So now I have a problem, what to do. I’m working graveyards and—what is the difference between the—let’s see, the aqueous phase has a specific gravity of about 1.12. The organic is like 0.8. So there’s a big difference in the density, specific gravity. How would you—huh, Mr. Archimedes, buoyancy, yeah.

So I sketched up a little thing that would go through a 12-inch riser. Plywood disk, appropriately weighted with enough lead plate so that it would sink. And put an eyebolt through the whole thing. So I had it sketched up and went down in the bowels of B Plant, to the shops, and said, could you build something like that? Yeah, where’s your work order? It’s just a piece of plywood. Why do I—? Let me take a look at it. So about two hours later, I get a call: are you going to come pick this up or not? Yeah, I’ll be right there. [LAUGHTER]

Well, then, I was too lazy to write a test plan. So I waited until the weekend and my shift supervisor, as I recall, was Dean Curtis, known fondly as Curly because he was bald. So I said this is what I want to do in C Farm. Can you get me a couple operatives to--? Oh, yeah, sure. So, we took the riser cover off, had a tape and a fish scale and lowered it down. You can see when—as soon as you hit the liquid, the weight decreases pretty dramatically. And you keep lowering it, slowly, against the side of the riser with the tape. And then it gets a lot lighter as it hits the aqueous phase. And I had them repeat it. I’m taking numbers down. I had them repeat it five, six times, just to make sure it was good to within half-an-inch. But we had like 11 inches of organic on top of the aqueous.

Okay, and then, yeah, let’s clean up here. Of course, now, the tape is contaminated, the plywood disk and the lead are contaminated, and the operators are whining about, well, now we’re going to have to wash that down and bag it out. I get the fish scale out. Oop! I dropped it. Oh my goodness. Ha, ha, ha. So it’s in the tank. Okay. So we button it up, I go back and write out my report and turn it in. Pissed my lead off to no end, because I didn’t spend any of the $250,000. The point I’m making here is the tanks were generally seen as, if you got something that you needed to get rid of out in the Tank Farm, open up a riser and put it in.

Franklin: Right, because it’s all just so messed up down there anyway.

Anderson: Yeah, or, we’re never going to get that stuff out of there, so why—So there were cement blocks, you know—that I know of! Now, Lord knows what went in there that I don’t know of. Okay, but that’s an ancestral story that—you probably shouldn’t let someone like me work shiftwork.

Franklin: That’s a great story. Thank you. And so how long did you work as a low level waste engineer?

Anderson: Until June of 1980. So probably close to two years.

Franklin: Okay.

Anderson: Yeah, a lot of that was we had a subcontractor, Ford, Bacon & Davis down in Utah, Salt Lake City. So a lot of what I was doing was going back and forth. Because what they were supposed to be doing was writing this massive report.

Franklin: On the low level waste?

Anderson: Sites, yeah.

Franklin: Yeah.

Anderson: Well, it turned out I probably wrote half of it myself, because they had been chosen on the buddy system I think. We had competitive bidding and they changed the rules in order for Ford, Bacon & Davis to get it.

Franklin: I see.

Anderson: Nice people, but the one really good guy, shortly after we got into this, they sent him off to Washington, DC. Paul something was his name. Good guy. But so anyhow, then we’d gotten that well underway. It was actually in DOE’s hands for approval. Meanwhile, I was separated from my wife. I’d gotten involved with a young lady who was attending Mills College down in Oakland, and then ran across an ad in Nuclear News from Bechtel looking for someone with vitrification experience. Which I had from PNL. The next thing you know, I’m headed for Bechtel in San Francisco.

Franklin: Oh, wow, what a change.

Anderson: Yeah, it was—I’d never lived in the big city before. Well, Rochester, New York, but it was on campus.

Franklin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Anderson: So now I’m taking public trans, you know. I was a serious runner at that point. And around here, a good part of the year you don’t have any races. Maybe you have one every month or so. In the Bay Area, there’s races every weekend. You could be really picky. I tended to pick the ones that had beer afterwards. Anyhow, that was—I had a very lovely time working for Bechtel, a great company. They took good care of me. When I first moved there, they’d given me a raise, a little bit less than 8%. But basically the guy I was directly reporting to, the chief, technically reporting to, had said, if Bechtel likes what you do, you’re not going to be able to change jobs to your financial advantage. Okay. So when they hired me, I said, okay, I remember that. About six months later, I got a 19% raise. So yeah.

Franklin: That’s pretty good.

Anderson: Yes, it’s a vote of confidence. It’s like, yeah, I like this.

Franklin: That’s great. So you were doing vitrification work down there.

Anderson: Yeah, doing the initial design work for Defense Waste Processing Facility.

Franklin: At Savanna River.

Anderson: At Savanna River, yeah.

Franklin: So then you—but left San Francisco after a while and you came back to Richland?

Anderson: I was—well, yeah. It was about five years there. We pretty much wrapped up—I wouldn’t say wrapped up, because we never wrapped up. But had the bulk of the design done, and they were going to shift things back to Savanna River. And being a process engineer, my engineering work tends to be at the front-end. Piping in instrument documents and things like that. Once I got those out the door, then you’re talking to your civil structural whatever people. So the job in San Francisco was winding down. That was in the mid-‘80s. We were in a bit of an economic slump. There wasn’t a lot of work in the Bay Area. DuPont said they wanted me to work for them back in Savanna River, because apparently they liked me, too. So then I filled out an application there. My old boss up here, Hank McGuire, I’d put down as a reference. And he said, if you’re looking for a job, why wouldn’t you look here? Okay, I didn’t know that—Oh, yeah! So then, the wife was going to start an advertising agency. She’s from the Tri-Cities. Wife, at that point. And said, it’d be a lot easier to start an ad agency where you know the territory, rather than going to the east coast where—so I took the job here at Hanford. So, yeah, that was lots of fun.

Franklin: And what did you do this time around?

Anderson: Oh, my goodness, what did we do? Well, it was more back on the low level waste stuff again. Trying to—

Franklin: It says here in my notes that Jillian wrote down that you came to work on the Vitrification Plant before going to Savanna River to work on—

Anderson: Oh, okay, yeah, that’s what. Yeah, the earlier—thank you for reminding me, because I’m going—At that point, it was called HWVP, Hanford Waste Vitrification Plant. Or, as the Indian manager called it, H-W-Wee-P. Had trouble with those Vs.

Franklin: Mm-hmm.

Anderson: He was a perfect example of—spoke good English, but idiomatic English? That’s difficult. So we who worked for him kept a little quotable quotes. Things like “a whole new ball of games.” And “out in the boondoggles.” Some of them were quite descriptive, I thought.

Franklin: Yeah, that seems to be.

Anderson: But he just was not doing very good with idiomatic English and he shouldn’t have been trying! Anyhow, that’s—yeah, HWVP.

Franklin: And what is HWVP?

Anderson: Well, that was just a precursor to vitrifying Hanford waste. That was a limited scope. They were not—the current one, Vit Plant, is supposed to basically address all the tank waste. HWVP was focused on high level waste.

Franklin: And where was high level waste—what defines high level waste?

Anderson: Boiling waste tanks.

Franklin: Boiling waste tanks.

Anderson: Yeah. But it was, again, very poorly managed. It was supposed to be just a duplicate of DWPF. Well, DWPF nominally was built for $620 million. They were still pouring concrete on startup money. So the actual cost was closer to a billion. Now, we’re going to build HWVP for $620 million just using the same drawings, which—it was so incredibly stupid.

First of all, source term for Savanna River for exposure was for continuous exposure was 0.5 mR per hour. For intermittent was 5. Okay. For Hanford, it was .2 and 2. Different criteria. On top of that, the Hanford source term is roughly twice as radioactive as DWPF. So now that your shielding, it’s just not going to work. So you’re going to have to redesign all your shielding, which means you’re going to have to redesign all your m beds, which means—and that’s just one fallacy.

Franklin: Sure. How come the radiation standards were so different between the two facilities?

Anderson: Part of it is that, of course, DWPF was meant to support hydrogen bomb. So the stuff just wasn’t burned up as far and the waste wasn’t as hot. Where, Hanford, boiling waste tanks were screaming hot. PUREX was a very good process at minimizing the amount of aqueous waste you’re producing.

Franklin: So it’s all concentrated.

Anderson: Yeah, and screaming hot.

Franklin: And screaming hot. Because you’ve concentrated all those isotopes once you’ve removed the water that the aqueous—

Anderson: Yeah. Well, some of it.

Franklin: Some of it, right.

Anderson: So, yeah, the boiling waste tanks were self-concentrating.

Franklin: Because the heat keeps evaporating—

Anderson: Liquid. It boils, and you have to deal with—so you’ve got condensers on the off-gas. And of course the HEPA filters. But yeah, source term—well, and the source terms were very conservative. They looked at the worst stuff we had in the boiling waste tank and said you’ve got to design to that. And of course, we engineers said, well, why wouldn’t you mix that with—we don’t know that that can be done or will be done. You have to design to the highest possible. Right, okay.

Franklin: And so, given these challenges, what happened with the Hanford Waste Vitrification Plant? Did it get built?

Anderson: Oh, no, no, no. Nothing ever—it just kept getting screwier and screwier. So eventually I wound up back at Savanna River. Took a temporary assignment there with Bechtel. Well, story here. I’m working happily—well, working and getting paid happily, okay—here at Hanford. Westinghouse was the contractor at that point. So they put a notice up on the board that Westinghouse had gotten the new contract at Savanna River. Of course, Bechtel was a subcontractor to it in the announcement. So there was a good friend of mine with Bechtel in San Francisco, Vick [unknown]. So I picked up the phone to call Vick and congratulate him. No answer. I just hung up the phone like this, and it rings. Picked it up, and it’s Vick calling from Savanna River. Well, they’re going to have to be staffing up because DuPont’s engineers are leaving, Westinghouse is not taking over that part, so Bechtel is supposed to pick that up. And do I know anybody who might be interested in--? At that point, I was rather frustrated with HWVP. And I said, talk to me. So they did and I went back there on a temporary assignment. While there got divorced from the second wife. So then, okay, roll over to a permanent position there at Savanna River. I went back there as EGS, engineering group supervisor. So I had as many as, what, 38 FTEs reporting to me. FTE is full-time equivalents.

Franklin: Yeah.

Anderson: Okay.

Franklin: Been here not that long, but long enough to have picked up some of the acronyms.

Anderson: Okay. So then I was at that for a couple years, then they moved me up to task manager, which is multi-discipline. Then I ran the project thing, late wash project design, conceptual design report. Which typically was going to take two years for novel technology. They said you’ve got six months. We got it done! And then I was manager of design completion engineering—I forget what, the title is about this long. No more money, but the title was about—[LAUGHTER] So, yeah, that was—and then, again, that job’s winding down, and—

Franklin: As the plant was being built?

Anderson: Yeah. So they say, oh, don’t worry about it, you’ll be the one turning out the lights. No. I don’t see myself as the electrician turning out the lights. So then I transferred with Bechtel to southern California. They supposedly had a couple things they were going to—because I’m now a professional engineer in the State of California. There isn’t that many professional chemical engineers. It’s a rather rigorous exam to do that. Like, all day.

Franklin: Wow.

Anderson: Two four-hour sessions. Pass rate the year I took it was 27%. Okay. So they thought I would be valuable. Well, they were going to have me on a clean air project with ARCO. And ARCO delayed that part of it. Then they had another one that, oh, yeah, we got this one in the bag. They didn’t get it. So now I’m looking at another—I’m scrambling to find a couple hours a day worthwhile. There was another friend of mine, a honcho with MACTEC, and got hold of him and said, how are things looking? He said, want to come to work for us? Potentially. So I wound up here with MACTEC. That was in ’93.

Franklin: What did MACTEC do?

Anderson: They were supposed to be in-house consultants to DOE.

Franklin: For?

Anderson: The entire Site.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Anderson: What eventually it turned into was staff augmentation for DOE. Which wasn’t supposed to be the way it was done, but DOE needed people, and the funding process was not giving them what they needed to hire to directly. So they used MACTEC. So, yeah, worked that for a couple years.

Franklin: And what did you do there?

Anderson: Basically, anything I was told to do. But a lot of document reviews of things produced by the contractor.

Franklin: Okay.

Anderson: I did, well, at one time or another—another little corporate story here—I was on a team that was reviewing the safety analysis for a new tank farm. They made a flat-out statement that they’d covered all the safety aspects. And I said, bullshit? You don’t ever use absolutes like that. Because there’s always going to be something you didn’t think of. Oh, no, they thought of everything. I said, well, let me tell you something you probably haven’t thought of. You allow pickup trucks to drive out in the Tank Farm, right? Yeah. You have risers down to the tank, the tank’s under a slight vacuum. So there’s air leakage in through the riser that keeps the contamination from spreading. Yeah. I said, trucks—vehicles have been known to develop gasoline leaks. So now you have a pickup out in the Tank Farm, parked over a riser, leaking gasoline, fumes are being drawn into the tank. How long does it take before you have a flammable mixture in the tank? Oh. [LAUGHTER] I said, now—I said, you can do the—talk to maintenance. How often do they have to fix leaky fuel systems? You know, you can come up with some odds on this.

Well, then, my part of the thing was done on our review. And I had scolded him for, don’t ever tell me you have covered all the safety things. Okay. Well, they never built the tank farm. They decided they were going to be able to get by with space recovery programs, whatever. And it was a couple years later that I was telling that story to a group of, well, actually I think the AICHE meeting. And this one lady said, you! What? Well, it turned out that they had taken my scenario very seriously and banned trucks from driving out in Tank Farms. So that makes things definitely—well, you need a special permit. Used to be you could just drive in areas that weren’t contaminated. Then you had to have a special permit and fill out all sorts of paperwork to get a truck out in the Tank Farm. She thought I was the cause for all that extra work.


Anderson: So anyhow.

Franklin: Oh, that’s awesome. So you were kind of like a consultant for Tank Farm?

Anderson: Mainly, it was Tank Farms, yeah, but it was whatever was going on that—documents produced by the contractor or oversight of problem/solutions. You know, report back to DOE, how is this going.

Franklin: Sure. And then it says here that then you went back to the Vit Plant.

Anderson: Yeah, well again, that was—a bit of a segue way. I got a call from San Francisco and said that they—Westinghouse had an RFP out, request-for-proposal for close to a billion dollars in Tank Farm upgrades over ten years. They wanted me to be like a one-man office here to spearhead that as things got underway. And they bumped me up to a Grade 28, you know. Okay, sure, why not? I mean, it wasn’t that I didn’t like working for MACTEC, but this seemed like a great opportunity. So, yeah, I took over and had a little office downtown.

Franklin: In San Francisco?

Anderson: No, downtown Richland.

Franklin: Oh, Richland.

Anderson: Yeah. Right there in the Parkway. So then Westinghouse started fudging, and they finally took the RFP off the table and said they’d do it in-house. So now I’m up here. And so they said—and, BNFL had the vitrification contract at that time. Bechtel was seconded to. So they said, you can either roll over to the Vit Plant or you can come back to San Francisco. And I said San Francisco, been there, done that, got the T-shirt. I think I’m good. So I went to work on the Hanford Waste Vitrification.

Franklin: And what year was that?

Anderson: Phew. Let’s see. Back up here. That would’ve been ’96, ’97.

Franklin: Okay, and where was the Vit Plant at, at that time?

Anderson: Early design phases.

Franklin: Early design phase.

Anderson: Yeah.

Franklin: And how long did you stay with the Vit Plant?

Anderson: Oh, gee. Basically until I retired. Of course, initially it was BNFL. Got a nice trip over to Sellafield in the UK. And I do love British beer. And the lake country, where Sellafield is, is pretty country, just--. And got to see what they were doing for vitrification. And I’m going, okay, I see a lot of mistakes here, but, well, we learn from our mistakes. Okay. Well, eventually DOE got disgusted with BNFL because the cost kept going up. It’s still going on today. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Yeah.

Anderson: Costs keep going up. Anyhow, so they basically fired BNFL. So then I went to work for, basically a job shopper here for like six months. Stayed on the job, but not with Bechtel. What was the name of that? Can’t think of the name. It was a big period of time while they rebid contract. And of course Bechtel won, and I’m back working for Bechtel. And so, yeah.

Franklin: So how far did the Vit Plant get from when you started to when you retired?

Anderson: Well, they’d broken ground. I really don’t recall. I mean, I know that they were working on it, but a lot of it was the structural stuff. Which, from a process point-of-view, I wasn’t involved in. I was still just doing a lot of design, or helping with design for the process part of it.

Franklin: What are your views on the current situation of the Vitrification Plant?

Anderson: Overdesigned. They’re trying to make it do everything. And they keep changing the rules. And then they’re surprised when the cost goes up. As a friend of mine said, generally, there comes a time in every project when you have to take the engineers out and shoot them, and just build it. And they never got to that stage yet.

Franklin: Ah, I see. Makes sense.

Anderson: Well, it’s the administrators that need to be taken, anyhow.


Franklin: So last question, what would you like future generations to know about working at Hanford and living in Richland during the Cold War and afterwards?

Anderson: Oh, gee. Well, it’s very great community. I mean, because overall wages are high, overall education level is high. Schools are good. It’s just a great place to raise a family. In fact, a lot of people stayed here, unhappy with the job, but because it was good for their family, they said, okay, I’m getting a paycheck, it’s good for my family, I’ll hack it. So, yeah, that was—it was just a great place to raise a family. And both my kids are still here. Yeah, my son’s a Kennewick firefighter, and my daughter works for the state, basically overseeing the payments to the people on welfare, basically.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Anderson: So, anyhow, yeah. And two grandkids here. One of which—well, I have to brag a little bit. This is off the subject, but my son had been coaching soccer since his daughter was like six or seven years old. Club soccer. So last summer—and she’s now going to be a sophomore—the AD out there County of Benton said we’d like you to be the girls’ soccer coach. He said, okay. Oh, by the way it pays $4,500. He said, if they hadn’t told me that, I’d probably do it for free. Anyhow, so, the year before that, the soccer team won three games. This past fall, the girls were undefeated in the league. Took the SCAC championship, but lost their first game at state. I think they were sort of burned by that time. Anyway, my son then got coach of the year for the league, and my granddaughter was selected as MVP for the league.

Franklin: Oh, that’s great.

Anderson: So, yeah, great place to live.

Franklin: So, Ted, is there anything we haven’t touched on that you’d like to talk about today?


Franklin: All right, then I think that’s a great place to end, thank you.

Anderson: I mean, this could go on for a long time, but—

Franklin: Sure, sure.

Anderson: But I think you’ve got highlights and—

Franklin: Yeah, we’ve got some really great stuff here. Thank you for really illuminating the waste processing history at Hanford. I appreciate it.

Anderson: Yeah. Well, and the successive companies, like ARCO, basically, the guy they had leading it here had not been doing well in their primary business, which was petroleum. But now they won a contract here and got a place to stick him. So he didn’t provide strong leadership. That was sort of a—you know, they win the contract and here’s a place to park people. Oh, well.

Franklin: Oh, well. Thank you so much, Ted, I really appreciate it.

Anderson: My pleasure.

View interview on Youtube.

Hanford Sites

Tank Farms
BC Crib Area
222-S Labs
S-X Farm
200 East
200 West

Years in Tri-Cities Area



Anderson, Ted.JPG


“Interview with Ted Anderson,” Hanford History Project, accessed October 28, 2021,