Workers verify deactivation progress in the vitrification cell.

A cutaway drawing shows the internal workings of the Vitrification Facility.

An aerial view of the West Valley Demonstration Project. The Vitrification Facility’s deactivation activities are 95 percent complete and the Main Plant Process Building’s deactivation activities are 56 percent complete.

WEST VALLEY, N.Y.EM’s West Valley Demonstration Project has completed 95 percent of deactivation activities at the Vitrification Facility, preparing for its scheduled demolition in spring 2017, several months ahead of schedule.

   Workers safely and compliantly removed all major equipment, cleaned and sealed interior surfaces, disconnected all utilities and connections with adjoining structures and obtained characterization data to plan for demolition and waste disposal.

   Demolition will produce approximately 6,500 tons of material requiring transport for disposal. EM and contractor CH2M HILL BWXT West Valley will conduct the demolition under the protocols used for the teardown of the site’s once-contaminated 01-14 Building in 2013.

   Operating from 1996 to 2002, the Vitrification Facility produced 275 stainless steel canisters from solidifying 600,000 gallons of liquid high-level waste and sludge generated from spent nuclear fuel reprocessing. The facility is made up of a vitrification cell, which housed all major radioactive process equipment, operating aisles and working areas, and auxiliary buildings.

   Standing 50 feet tall with walls and a roof up to 4 feet thick, the 11,000-square-foot concrete Vitrification Facility is reinforced with structural steel and sided with sheet steel. Demolition workers will use heavy equipment to size-reduce the waste and load it into containers before shipping it to an off-site licensed disposal facility.  

   All activities will be conducted in accordance with state, federal and regulatory requirements. Workers placed 16 ambient air monitoring stations at locations outside the site boundary and will install real-time air monitors around the demolition area to monitor for potential airborne contamination releases.  

   WVDP took special precautions to protect the workers, public and environment from radiological and hazardous constituents prior to demolition and to ensure safe handling of building debris, including:

  • Removing hazardous and radiological constituents and marking remaining items with high-visibility paint to ensure safe removal and handling during demolition;
  • Cleaning vitrification cell walls and floor to remove loose contamination;
  • Sealing floor with grout to protect workers and to prevent water infiltration during demolition;
  • Training qualified heavy-equipment operators for the Vitrification Facility demolition;
  • Evaluating the structure before developing the work sequencing plan to identify and ensure safe continuity of demolition activities; 
  • Establishing demolition boundaries to ensure safe equipment operation and to prevent unintentional intrusion;
  • Setting barriers for dust suppression and runoff to prevent contamination migration; and
  • Performing daily demolition area housekeeping to prevent release of contamination from waste debris.