Contract for Portsmouth diffusion plant cleanup

17 August 2010

A joint venture between Fluor Corp and Babcock and Wilcox (B&W) has been awarded a contract by the US Department of Energy (DoE) for the next phase of the decontamination and decommissioning of the huge Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (GDP) uranium enrichment site in Ohio. 


Under the contract - worth up to $2.1 billion - Fluor-B&W Portsmouth LLC will act as the prime contractor for the clean-up of the Portsmouth GDP site. The contract includes a five-year period plus a potential five-year extension based on performance and the government's needs.


The Portsmouth GDP is a 3778-acre (1530-hectare) federal reservation that was constructed in the early 1950s as part of the USA's nuclear weapons complex. It enriched uranium between 1954 and 2001. In the 1960s, the Portsmouth plant's mission changed from enriching uranium for nuclear weapons to one focused on producing fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors. The Portsmouth plant and its sister facility in Paducah, Kentucky, worked in tandem to enrich uranium for use in power plants. The Paducah plant enriched uranium up to 2.75% U-235 and then shipped it to Portsmouth for further enrichment to some 4-5%.


Portsmouth GDP (DoE)
The vast Portsmouth GDP site, including the three huge process buildings (Image: DoE)


Under a leasing agreement, USEC assumed the uranium enrichment operations at Portsmouth and Paducah from the DoE in July 1993 in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 1992. In May 2001, USEC completed a program to consolidate enrichment operations at Paducah and to terminate gaseous diffusion operations at Portsmouth. In August 2001, DoE contracted with USEC to maintain the Portsmouth GDP in a cold standby mode that would retain a restart capability at the facility, if necessary, within 18-24 months. However, in October 2005, DoE requested that USEC place the plant into cold shutdown by deactivating equipment and removing residual uranium deposits in advance of the facility's eventual decommissioning.


Limited cleanup activities at the site have been underway since the 1990s, but this is the first contract at the Portsmouth site that includes decontamination and decommissioning of the three massive uranium enrichment process buildings. Each of the three buildings has a footprint of more than 30 acres (12 hectares) and contains thousands of stages of uranium enrichment equipment.


Under the contract, Fluor-B&W will decontaminate and demolish the three process buildings at the site along with cleaning up and remediating contaminated soils and groundwater.


DoE assistant secretary for environmental management, Inés Triay, commented: "This new contract will allow the Department of Energy to continue accelerating our cleanup efforts in Southern Ohio, adding good jobs to the local workforce while reducing the environmental risks to the American people." She added, "This project is an important part of our nationwide cleanup of the nuclear sites from the Cold War."

Researched and written

by World Nuclear News