Office of Environmental Management

Officials Highlight Cleanup Progress at Portsmouth, Paducah

March 28, 2018

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PPPO and contractor management wrapped up this year’s Waste Management Symposia with a presentation on plans to move forward the cleanup of the gaseous diffusion plants in Portsmouth and Paducah.
PPPO and contractor management wrapped up this year’s Waste Management Symposia with a presentation on plans to move forward the cleanup of the gaseous diffusion plants in Portsmouth and Paducah.

PHOENIXEM and contractor officials here last week highlighted progress with cleanup projects underway at the former Portsmouth and Paducah gaseous diffusion plants.

   EM's Portsmouth and Paducah sites were featured at this year's Waste Management Symposia, along with Los Alamos National Laboratory.

   At Portsmouth, a top priority is preparing the first of the plant's former massive uranium enrichment process buildings — known as X-326 — for eventual demolition, according to Robert Edwards, manager of EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office (PPPO). DOE expects to have X-326 in a “cold and dark” status and declared criticality incredible by the end of this fiscal year, said Joel Bradburne, PPPO deputy manager.

   “We intend to drive a stake through the heart [of X-326] this fiscal year,” Bradburne said.

   DOE expects to begin bulk asbestos removal from X-326 at the end of this fiscal year, with some demolition activities set to begin in fiscal year (FY) 2019, Bradburne said. DOE is working to align demolition activities at X-326 with an onsite disposal cell being built at Portsmouth. Bulk soil excavation and infrastructure installation for the cell are scheduled for completion in FY 2019, with the cell expected to be operational in FY 2020 and begin accepting debris from the demolition of X-326 in FY 2021.

   Work has begun to prepare the second of the three former uranium enrichment process buildings at Portsmouth — X-333 — for demolition, including “passivating” uranium hexafluoride deposits in piping and initiating non-destructive assay measurements, according to Jeff Stevens, deputy site director for Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth (FBP), the site deactivation and decommissioning (D&D) contractor. Work is also underway to prepare to size reduce large pieces of uranium enrichment equipment, known as convertors, inside the building, with that work set to begin in August, according to Bradburne. DOE and FBP's goal is to have X-333 ready for demolition in spring 2021.

   “We've got a trained workforce and a path to closure,” Stevens said.

   In his remarks at a panel discussion on the Portsmouth and Paducah sites, Stevens noted the immense size of many of the buildings at the Portsmouth site. Citing his past work at the former Rocky Flats site in Colorado, which EM successfully cleaned up in 2005, Stevens said all of the buildings there could fit inside two of Portsmouth's three former enrichment process buildings.

   “You can take five H-Canyons at Savannah River and put them in our maintenance building,” Stevens said.

Paducah Learning Lessons From Portsmouth, Oak Ridge

   Jennifer Woodard, PPPO’s Paducah site lead, discussed the work performed in recent years to develop an integrated site baseline for cleanup activities following the return of all the plant's former enrichment facilities to DOE in 2014. The new baseline takes a 10-year approach to tackling key priorities, including remediation, deactivation activities, and utility optimization, she said.

   A key project focuses on the C-400 Cleaning Building, which sits atop the source for what is considered to be the largest plume of trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination in groundwater in the DOE complex. While DOE is using pump-and-treat systems to attempt to reduce the contamination, with some success, demolition of the C-400 will allow the Department to better investigate and ultimately address the contamination source, Woodard said. Paducah cleanup contractor Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership currently expects C-400 to be ready for demolition by September, according to Bill Kirby, president and project manager.

   Paducah is also looking to take lessons learned from D&D activities at Portsmouth and Oak Ridge as deactivation activities begin, Woodard said. She noted that the four former enrichment process buildings at Paducah are believed to contain approximately 30,000 pounds of uranium deposits that will need to be addressed before the buildings can be demolished.

DUF6 Effort is 'Seven Lines, One Project'

   Reinhard Knerr, EM federal project director at PPPO, discussed work to return the two depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) plants at Portsmouth and Paducah to full operation following a safety-related shutdown in 2015. The plants are intended to convert tens of thousands of metric tons of DUF6 material into a more stable form for eventual disposition. All four conversion process lines at the Paducah plant are operating, and early this year, the first of the three conversation process lines at the Portsmouth plant resumed operation, according to Knerr.

   A major Department challenge has been instituting cultural and programmatic changes at the two plants to prepare for full operation, Knerr said. DOE has worked to ensure identical processes at the two plants, and the Department continues to work to make sure corrective actions developed in response to an issue at one facility are quickly applied to the other.

   “That key parameter is going to make these plants successful — the sharing of information back and forth,” Knerr said.

   DOE and the plants' new operating contractor, Mid-America Conversion Services (MCS), manage the two plants using a mindset of “Seven Lines — One Project.”

   “Getting that workforce to look at itself as a single unit is critical,” Knerr said.

   “It's absolutely the way to run this project,” added MCS President and Project Manager Alan Parker.

   Parker said he expects to have the last of three conversion process lines at the Portsmouth plant operating by early May.

   “We want to operate these plants safely, efficiently, and meet our production goals,” he said.

   DOE has set a target to have the two plants meet a goal to process 31,500 metric tons of material annually, Knerr said, adding he expects to reach that target in the 2020-2021 timeframe.

   “I think we have the technical capability and the contractor to get to that goal,” Knerr said.

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