WEST VALLEY, N.Y. – U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM) crews at the West Valley Demonstration Project (WVDP) met an EM 2022 priority by launching demolition of the Main Plant Process Building (MPPB) last week, a project that further reduces environmental risks and positions the site for the next phase of cleanup.
Teardown of the Main Plant, one of the site’s last remaining major facilities, is expected to be completed in about 30 months.
The site’s workforce conducted significant work over the past two decades to prepare the five-story, 35,100-square-foot reinforced concrete building for demolition in a manner protective of human health and the surrounding environment.
Employees safely reduced radioactivity in the facility by over 98% by removing more than seven miles of contaminated piping and over 50 tons of contaminated equipment. They also used liquid nitrogen — up to 60,000 pounds per square inch — an aggressive, yet safe, cleaning application. Workers completed those activities in August, allowing for the demolition to begin last week.
“The safety of the workforce, community and surrounding environment remain WVDP’s top priority, and all precautions have been taken to ensure MPPB deconstruction activities align with this ever-important priority,” EM WVDP MPPB Project Director Stephen Bousquet said.
The planned approach for taking down the Main Plant incorporates best practices and lessons learned from WVDP and across the DOE complex, including the use of deliberately planned and sequenced deconstruction and implementation of robust work controls. An extensive modelling and real-time monitoring system was established to help ensure potential radiological exposure from demolition activities is kept well below regulatory levels.
Extensive measures prevent the potential spread of radioactive contamination; and safety professionals will provide continuous monitoring and sampling during the facility’s takedown.
From 1966 to 1972, the Main Plant operated as a commercial reprocessing facility to recover reusable plutonium and uranium from spent nuclear reactor fuel. During that period, approximately 640 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel was processed. In addition to radiological contamination, the facility also contained hazardous materials, including asbestos insulation, lead and polychlorinated biphenyls.
“Our workforce was deliberate in the planning, deactivation and execution of this work,” said John Rendall, president of CH2M HILL BWXT West Valley, EM’s WVDP cleanup contractor. “Every effort has been made to implement robust work controls to help protect the workforce, the public and the environment.”
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