Former West Valley fuel reprocessing cell dismantled

June 5, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

An excavator with a hydraulic hammer is used to dismantle the chemical process cell, as part of the deconstruction of the main plant process building at DOE-EM’s West Valley Demonstration Project. (Photo: DOE)

Work crews are currently dismantling the chemical process cell at the West Valley Demonstration Project in New York, with work expected to be completed over several months, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management noted late last month. Demolition of the cell, part of West Valley’s main plant processing building, includes the removal of racks used decades ago to store high-level radioactive waste canisters.

According to DOE-EM, a 2023 priority is to dispose of 9,000 tons of demolition waste from the processing building, one of the site’s last remaining major facilities. The demolition is expected to take about 30 months to complete.

The work: Earlier this year, work crews used a heavy-duty excavator with a hydraulic hammer to take out the outermost 3 feet of the cell’s 5-foot-thick reinforced-concrete walls. This lower-risk work allowed workers with CH2M HILL BWXT West Valley, DOE-EM's contractor for the project, to perform other deconstruction activities in parallel, which helped to accelerate the project’s schedule and lower cost, according to DOE-EM.

Located at ground level on the west side of the plant, the more than 2,000-square-foot cell was designed to dissolve sheared spent nuclear fuel and to reduce the volume of high-level waste generated in fuel reprocessing. The floor and the lower portion of its walls are lines with stainless steel.

Some history: Between 1985 and 1987, workers performed remote decontamination activities to support the conversion of the cell into a facility for the interim storage of vitrified high-level waste canisters. Crews installed storage racks for the 10-foot-long canisters.

In 2017, DOE-EM workers removed 278 high-level waste canisters from that storage facility and safely relocated them to a temporary on-site storage pad until a permanent repository is available for their disposal.

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