EM Crews using a crane to lower a large glove box into a metal container

Crews with EM contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company place a large glove box into a metal waste container after removal from the 231-Z Building on the Hanford Site. The glove box was transported to Hanford’s Central Waste Complex for safe, interim storage.

RICHLAND, Wash. — Crews with EM Hanford Site contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company recently removed a large glove box from the 231-Z Building, a critical step to prepare one of the site’s oldest facilities for demolition.

Glove boxes were crucial to Hanford’s plutonium production mission. They featured leaded windows and glove ports that allowed workers to safely perform various activities with radioactive and chemical materials.

“The safe removal of this equipment is a significant risk reduction accomplishment in the cleanup mission and paves the way for continued cleanup progress at the 231-Z Building,” said Andy Wiborg, EM Projects and Facilities Division team lead for Hanford’s Central Plateau Cleanup Project. “Preparing this aging building for demolition is an important part of our sitewide effort to reduce risk on Hanford’s Central Plateau.”

EM workers removing a glove box

Workers with EM contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company remove bolts from inside a contaminated glove box at the Hanford Site’s 231-Z Building as part of the process to safely remove the glove box from the facility.

Constructed in 1944, the 231-Z Building served several missions during its 50-year operational lifetime. Its original mission was to refine plutonium as part of national defense operations. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the building was used to demonstrate different methods of decontaminating equipment.

For a time, the 231-Z Building was also one of the most secure buildings in the nation, when it housed a heavily guarded vault for storing refined plutonium before it was shipped to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Removing the stainless steel glove box required a series of activities before it could be safely lifted out. Workers carefully separated the glove box into two pieces, applied fixative, and wrapped both in plastic sheeting to prevent contamination from spreading when they were removed from the building. Both pieces were removed from the building in two sections. The sections were lifted by crane and placed inside a waste container for shipment to Hanford’s nearby Central Waste Complex for interim storage.

“There are a lot of steps required to keep workers safe while preparing large pieces of equipment for removal and disposal,” said Jeffrey Wilhem, Central Plateau Cleanup Company fieldwork supervisor for the project. “The whole team did an excellent job on this project, completing the work safely and efficiently.”

The 231-Z Building is expected to be ready for demolition by the end of September, with demolition activities scheduled to begin in 2025.