Hanford's former PUREX plant is prepared for disposition

December 19, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
An aerial view of Hanford’s Plutonium Uranium Extraction plant, showing the main facility (at center), the 211-A chemical storage area, and (in foreground) the 203-A acid storage area. (Photo: DOE)

Work crews at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Washington state are performing risk-reduction activities at the Plutonium Uranium Extraction (PUREX) plant to prepare it for eventual disposition.

“It will be a yearslong effort to get this large facility ready for disposition, and I’m encouraged by the progress to safely and efficiently advance this work,” said Andy Wiborg, the DOE’s Projects and Facilities Division team lead for Hanford’s Central Plateau cleanup project.

Workers at the PUREX plant install bags on a piping system to safely remove asbestos-containing material in the 203-A acid storage area. (Photo: DOE)

History: The PUREX facility was the final and most advanced chemical separations plant on the site. The PUREX process was key to Hanford’s plutonium production mission during the Cold War era. Nearly 70 percent of Hanford’s irradiated fuel rods were processed through PUREX, which was designed to recover plutonium from uranium fuel.

The work: Cleanup is currently focused on the north side of the main PUREX plant, where crews are preparing the 211-A chemical storage area and the 203-A acid storage area for equipment removal and demolition. Both areas contain chemical storage tanks, structures, and equipment that supported operations.

The 211-A area contains 20 chemical storage tanks, while eight more small tanks are located inside a pump house. Crews recently began draining chemical lines inside the pump house to prepare for eventual demolition. The lines were flushed during the 1990s, it needed to be confirmed that no process fluids remained. Workers also inspected and sampled inside tanks that had not been opened in decades, ensuring that the tanks can be safely demolished in the coming months.

Workers have also been making progress in cleaning up asbestos at the 203-A acid storage area. Constructed in 1954, the area consists of a pump house, a railroad loading dock, and a secondary containment area that housed nine aboveground tanks.

So far, crews have removed asbestos-contaminated insulation from nearly 1,600 of 1,900 feet of pipeline in the 203-A area.

“Our crews are making excellent progress on a daily basis,” said Darin Corriell, PUREX manager for DOE contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company.

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