Former plutonium processing facility at Hanford coming down

August 28, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Work crews remove old infrastructure near the Hanford Site’s Cold War–era PUREX plant. (Photo: DOE)

Demolition is underway on several former chemical storage tanks and associated infrastructure near the Plutonium Uranium Extraction (PUREX) plant, the final and most advanced chemical separations facility at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of September.

An aerial view of the Hanford Site’s PUREX plant. (Photo: DOE)

The lead-up: The demolition project follows months of work by the DOE Office of Environmental Management’s Richland Operations Office contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company to prepare the outdoor storage area near the PUREX plant for safe removal, including remediation of asbestos-contaminated material on nearly 2,000 feet of pipeline and isolation of mechanical and electrical systems.

Some of the recent cleanup focused on the north side of the PUREX plant, where the 203-A acid storage area was remediated. The area contained storage tanks, structures, and equipment that supported operations. Constructed in 1954, the area had a pump house, a railroad loading dock, and a secondary containment area that housed nine aboveground tanks.

“Removal of the acid storage area and pump house is key to implementing safe and efficient future risk-reduction efforts for the PUREX complex,” said Andy Wiborg, the Richland Operations Office’s Projects and Facilities Division team lead for Hanford’s Central Plateau Cleanup Project.

Some history: The PUREX plant was key to Hanford’s plutonium production mission during the Cold War era, the DOE noted. Nearly 70 percent of Hanford’s irradiated uranium fuel rods were processed through the plant, which recovered plutonium from the rods.

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