RICHLAND – Hanford railroad track, some of it more than a century old, is being pulled up to get yet another life – but after testing for radioactivity.
Washington Closure Hanford is removing more than 30 miles of rail spurs that ran to the nine plutonium production reactors along the Columbia River and to the 300 Area just north of Richland, where uranium fuel was fabricated and research conducted.
Rather than add the steel track to the landfill in central Hanford, the Department of Energy agreed to a subcontract that will allow the tracks to be transferred to a Utah company that markets all kinds of rail track.
“It’s environmentally friendly and represents a cost savings for DOE,” said Brian Stubbs, Washington Closure project manager.
Workers pulling out the rails have found a patchwork of about 17 types, the oldest being Carnegie rail marked 1899. It’s still in good shape, said Tim Kilian, senior project manager for Trinity Environmental and Deconstruction of Tacoma, the subcontractor on the current Hanford project.
The rail lines were used to carry radioactive material, including hauling irradiated fuel from the reactors to central Hanford for processing. So before the railing is released to the private sector, it’s being checked for radioactive contamination.
Trinity Environmental and Deconstruction has teamed with A&K Railroad Materials of Salt Lake City, which will add the rails to its inventory for sale.
Retail prices vary widely for used railroad track depending on condition and weight, but a mile of track might be sold for about $40,000.
The deal Washington Closure worked out with Trinity Environmental and Deconstruction allows the company to receive the rail in return for removing the rail. Stubbs estimated the deal will save DOE about $2 million.
Work to remove the rails started in August and should be completed in February.