Hanford decommissioning milestone reached by CH2M Hill

15 December 2011

The 209-East Critical Mass Laboratory was one of the most highly contaminated structures on the Hanf

The 209-East Critical Mass Laboratory was one of the most highly contaminated structures on the Hanford site

CH2M Hill has been carrying out demolition on behalf of the US Department of Energy at the decommissioned Hanford nuclear production complex on the Columbia River in the state of Washington since 2008. It recently completed the demolition of one of the most contaminated structures it has dealt with to date when it completed the demolition of the 209-East Critical Mass Laboratory after almost two years of preparation.

These involved developing techniques and testing procedures to safely remove the laboratory's unique hazards. When the structure ceased operation, the bulk of the radioactive material was removed and tanks and pipelines were flushed out. Nevertheless, that still left materials handling equipment known as box gloves contaminated with plutonium, highly radioactive tanks, two belowground storage tanks under 0.8 m (2.5 ft) of concrete, a 1 m (3 ft) thick steel vault door, 1.5 m (5 ft) reinforced concrete walls and asbestos-containing piping insulation waiting to be removed.

"Due to the history of the facility and the contamination of the remaining structure, additional controls were put in place to protect the environment and the workforce such as enhanced dust suppression, continuous perimeter air sampling and fixative applications," said Kurt Kehler, CH2M HILL vice president of decommissioning and demolition. "Even with the recent inclement weather we faced during the demolition phase, the work force performed the work safely and efficiently."

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