CH2M HILL Tests hydroGEOPHYSICS Leak Detection Technology at Hanford

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CH2M HILL is testing a new type of leak detection technology at two of Hanford’s underground storage tanks to support safe retrieval of radioactive waste. Multiple leak detection technologies have been tested under EPA guidlelines and hydroGEOPHYSICS has emerged at the lead. The test began in January with results due in September. So far hydroGEOPHYSICS' technology is working well.

A new type of leak detection technology is being tested near two of Hanford’s underground storage tanks to support safe retrieval of radioactive waste.

This new technology, developed by hydroGEOPHYSICS Inc., will be more sensitive to detection of smaller leaks, enable detection of leaks in locations where drywell measurements may not detect them, and provide data on the rate at which the leak is occurring. CH2M HILL has invested five years in evaluating several leak detection technologies through an EPA protocol down selection process. The High Resolution Resistivity method developed by hydroGEOPHYSICS performed best through the preliminary competitive testing and is now operating under a test deployment in two tank farms in support of retrieval efforts at the request of CH2M HILL.

This approach is a non-invasive, ex-tank technique allowing the data acquisition system to be attached to existing infrastructure in the tank farm and significantly reducing any risk of damaging the waste management systems. Completed resistivity data sets acquired many times per hour allow for real-time leak detection.

“We’ve successfully tested this technology in clean soil around a mock underground tank well away from the tank farms, but it is important to test it in an actual tank farm environment to learn if underground pipes and other buried structures could potentially interfere with the instrumentation readings,” said Chris Burke, CH2M HILL Project Manager in the S-Farm Closure Operations Project.

The four-month-long test began in January, with final results and report expected by the end of September 2006. The test calls for the injection of up to 30,000 gallons of a non-radioactive, low-hazard compound at varying times and rates to measure the system’s performance.

“It’s working very well,” said Rick Raymond, CH2M HILL Senior Director for the S-Tank Farm closure. The first injection in the test, using the liquid, detected moisture within one day.

Estimates vary, but 67 of Hanford’s older single-shell tanks are suspected to have leaked radioactive and chemical contents into the surrounding soil. Even though the drainable liquid has been removed from all of the 149 single-shell tanks, liquids are used in the retrieval process to break up, dissolve and mobilize the remaining sludge and salts.

About hydroGEOPHYSICS, Inc. (HGI)

Founded in 1986, HGI is a geophysical consulting and services firm providing innovative solutions for environmental, landfill, mining, tank farm operators and architectural & engineering firms. HGI’s High Resolution Resistivity – Leak Detection & Monitoring system is a leading data acquisition product providing comprehensive and near real time identification and quantification of containment breaches. Over 20 years of continuous development allows HRR to accurately and non-invasively represent contaminant plumes in native soil. To compliment the results provided by HRR, HGI offers surveys conducted with other geophysical methods including electro-magnetics, magnetics, gravity and ground penetrating radar.


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Philip Williams
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