RICHLAND — Workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation have completed demolition of the first of three buildings where plutonium was concentrated for the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal.
The 233-S Plutonium Concentration Facility processed solutions containing plutonium from 1956 to 1964. The building became one of the most contaminated structures at the Hanford site and was a challenge to demolish safely.
Workers spent two years gutting the building, then applied a fixative to all interior surfaces to glue contaminants to the walls. The glue, plus the use of water sprayers, allowed the building to be dismantled in the open air without tents or other covers.
The building’s concrete walls were then sheared away in sections, with most of the debris being transported to an onsite landfill.
The project has been closely watched by other nuclear sites, such as the Rocky Flats installation in Colorado, that face a similar task: to level a highly contaminated nuclear structure without endangering workers or the public.
“Certainly, there are lessons learned from this that we can apply to the next deconstruction,” said Steve Veitenheimer, project manager for the Energy Department, which manages cleanup at the Hanford site. “This was the worst of the plutonium facilities we’ll be taking down. That to me makes it even more successful.”
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