USA starts demolition of plutonium plant

31 July 2017

Demolition of the main processing facility of the Plutonium Finishing Plant (PFP) at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Hanford site has begun. The building is the last of the PFP's four main facilities to be demolished after two decades of preparation.

Demolition work under way at PFP's main processing plant (Image: DOE Office of Environmental Management)

Hanford, in south-eastern Washington State, was the site of US military plutonium production from 1943 until the 1980s with nine nuclear reactors and associated processing facilities. Clean-up of the site began in 1989 and is overseen by DOE's Richland Operations Office and Office of River Protection.

The PFP was also known as Z-Plant because it carried out the final stages in Hanford's plutonium processing process. The main processing plant operated from 1949 until 1989, and contained two processing lines where 'buttons' of plutonium similar in size to an ice hockey puck - about 1cm thick and 7.5cm in diameter - were produced.

Preparations for decommissioning have included decontamination and removal of about 200 pieces of plutonium processing equipment, including the highly-contaminated gloveboxes through which the materials were manipulated, over 2km of ventilation piping, contaminated process lines, asbestos and other hazards.

The main processing facility is the last of the PFP's four main facilities to be demolished, with demolition work proceeding from the outside working inwards. At the same time, another demolition team is working on PFP's Plutonium Reclamation Facility.

"Starting the work on the main processing facility complex marks the final step in demolition, and everyone who has contributed to reaching this point should be very proud of what they've contributed," Tom Teynor, project director for PFP demolition at the DOE's Richland Operations Office, said.

The DOE aims to return the entire PFP complex, which originally comprised over 60 buildings, to "slab on grade" with all buildings decontaminated and demolished, the debris removed, and only the concrete floors of the various structures remaining. Contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company is responsible for demolition of the PFP to its concrete foundation.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News