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RICHLAND, Wash. – The Hanford Site facility that produced two thirds of the nation’s Cold War-era plutonium no longer exists.

Workers recently demolished the Plutonium Finishing Plant’s (PFP) main processing facility, after 40 years of operations and 20 years of cleanout and demolition preparation.

“Removal of this iconic building forever changes the landscape at the Hanford Site and highlights a historic accomplishment in the Department of Energy’s overall cleanup mission,” said Tom Teynor, federal project director for PFP demolition at the EM Richland Operations Office (RL). “Everyone who contributed to this achievement should be very proud of their efforts.”

Before and after: Photos of the Plutonium Finishing Plant’s main processing facility at the Hanford Site from November 2016, at top, and after the completion of demolition earlier this month.
Before and after: Photos of the Plutonium Finishing Plant’s main processing facility at the Hanford Site from November 2016, at top, and after the completion of demolition earlier this month.
Before and after: Photos of the Plutonium Finishing Plant’s main processing facility at the Hanford Site from November 2016, at top, and after the completion of demolition earlier this month.

RL contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) began the final phase of demolition in early November last year after completing lower-risk demolition activities in late October.

The PFP main processing facility was nicknamed “Z-Plant,” because it was the last stop of plutonium production at Hanford. It operated from 1949 to 1989 and contained two processing lines where workers using glove boxes would create hockey-puck-sized plutonium “buttons” for shipment to weapons-manufacturing facilities. Plutonium production left glove boxes and other pieces of plutonium processing equipment highly contaminated.

Decades of demolition preparations included decontaminating and removing about 200 pieces of plutonium processing equipment like glove boxes, contaminated process lines, asbestos, ventilation piping, and other hazards.

Following removal of the main processing facility, the final activities at PFP include packaging and safe disposal of the rubble from the Plutonium Reclamation Facility, core sampling of soil beneath the building pads, and stabilization of the site with a soil cover. This work — part of the overall Hanford cleanup effort that focuses on the safety of the workforce, the public, and environment — begins this month and is expected to be completed this summer.

The work will continue to be done under the same demolition strategy and same enhanced safety controls that have proven effective in protecting workers, the public, and the environment since lower-risk demolition work began in September 2018.

“This demolition project was one of the most challenging risk-reduction efforts in the DOE complex,” said Jason Casper, CHPRC vice president of the PFP closure project. “I could not be more proud of our dedicated workforce in safely completing this monumental task.”

This time-lapse video highlights demolition of the main processing facility from November 2016 through completion of the teardown earlier this month.

Weekly updates on PFP activities may be found here.

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