Portsmouth’s X-326 building demolition is dusty work

June 2, 2022, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
The Panther T16 sprays fixative with a high-pressure water cannon onto X-326 building debris at the Portsmouth Site. (Photo: DOE)

Workers at the Department of Energy’s Portsmouth Site in Ohio have been using a new tool as part of the dust-suppression systems for the X-326 process building demolition project. The X-326 was one of three massive process buildings originally built to enrich uranium at the site, which was in operation starting in the 1950s. Environmental remediation of the site began in 1989, and deactivation and decommissioning activities began in 2011. Demolition of the facility has led to a dusty work environment.

An aerial image of the X-326 building when in operation. (Photo: DOE)

Suppressing dust: The new dust-suppression tool—a tracked Prinoth Panther T16 crawler carrier—features a zero-degree turn radius and can adapt to irregular terrain. It traverses the demolition area daily, spraying down building debris with an onboard high-pressure water cannon known as the Dust Demolisher, which is hooked up to a 2,700-gallon tank of fixative used to lock down dust. The fixative, which normally dries clear, has been tinted green to mark areas that have already been sprayed.

The Dust Demolisher delivers water and fixative on demand at up to 150 pounds per square inch and with a throwing range of more than 150 feet. The tool has a 30- to 330-degree rotation capability in 10-degree increments. In addition to the Dust Demolisher, the X-326 demolition project has multiple other dust-suppression systems in place.

Cleaning up: Once demolition of the X-326 building and debris removal are complete, the dust suppression systems will be moved to the next process building slated for demolition. More than 80 percent of X-326 has been demolished, and completion of the project is on DOE-EM’s 2022 priorities list.

“The Panther and Dust Demolisher represents state-of-the-art mitigation tactics for dust suppression,” said Jeremy Davis, acting Portsmouth Site lead with the DOE Office of Environmental Management’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office. “They are part of a comprehensive strategy to protect workers and our neighbors from any potential hazards associated with cleanup activities.”

The X-326: Construction of the X-326 began in 1952, with the final unit completed and turned over to the Atomic Energy Commission on February 3, 1956. The building covered approximately 2.5 million square feet of floor space spread across two floors.

The X-326 housed enrichment and purge operations and was the primary facility on-site for product withdrawal. (The original plant design was based on a need for highly enriched UF6, and the primary high-assay withdrawal facility was in the southwest corner of the X-326, on the ground floor.) Gradually, however, the site’s mission and purpose moved from weapons-grade material to nuclear reactor material in the 2–4.95 percent enrichment range. Two facilities were provided to withdraw those materials: the Extended Range Production station, which was in the northeast corner of the X-326, and the low-assay withdrawal station, located in the west central section of the nearby X-333 building.

For more on the Portsmouth Site, visit the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant Virtual Museum website online.

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