- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) - Workers have lifted a 1,000-ton reactor out of the ground at Hanford and sent it on its way to a disposal site on the nuclear reservation.

Contractors said the move that began Wednesday is one of the most complex nuclear cleanup projects along the Columbia River near Richland, the Tri-City Herald reported (https://bit.ly/1jDTvM2).

The reactor was used in the 1960s to test fuel containing recycled plutonium for possible use in commercial nuclear power plants.

The reactor and its shielding will be disposed of at the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, a lined landfill for low-level radioactive waste in central Hanford.

The Plutonium Recycle Test Reactor had been housed below ground under an 80-foot-tall, gray dome that was one of Hanford’s most distinctive structures and was featured on postcards. The dome was removed in 2011.

Department of Energy contractor Washington Closure Hanford initially planned to cut away most of the 5-foot thick concrete surrounding the reactor for radiation shielding. The reactor - then weighing 560 tons - was to be lifted out of the ground.

But when workers drilled into the concrete shielding, it proved to be too degraded from heat.

“Every facility we go into has unknown hazards,” said Gary Snow, director of decontamination and demolition for the contractor.

Washington Closure and DOE devised a more complex plan to remove just enough of the concrete to allow lifting equipment to be fitted around the heat shielding.

That brought the weight of the lift to 1,082 tons, or more than 2 million pounds.

Having the reactor and the structure out of the ground will allow piping and waste sites in the area to be removed in time for much of the cleanup of Hanford along the Columbia River to be completed in late 2015.

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Information from: Tri-City Herald, https://www.tri-cityherald.com

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