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July 13, 2020

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Demolition of plutonium plant resumes

Work at Hanford site halted after radiation detected

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RICHLAND (AP) — Demolition of a major plutonium plant at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has resumed after radioactive contamination was detected in a rubble pile.

The work restarted last week at the Plutonium Reclamation Facility after being halted in late January, when a radiation alarm sounded, the Tri-City Herald reported.

Kelly Wooley, deputy project manager for the Plutonium Finishing Plant, said the rubble pile has been cleaned up without identifying the radiation source. Sending a worker into the pile wasn’t worth the risk, he said.

Department of Energy officials have called the plant the largest and most complex plutonium facility in the nationwide DOE weapons complex.

The Plutonium Finishing Plant for decades made hockey puck-sized tablets of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

Work to prepare the plant for demolition started with stabilization of plutonium left in the plant in a liquid solution at the end of the Cold War. Cleaning out the plant has been going on for about two decades.

More recent work has included dismantling highly contaminated equipment. The project is being handled by CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. for the Department of Energy.

Wooley said the entire plant must be down to the slab by Sept. 30, a deadline Department of Energy officials say they expect to meet.

The plant has been disconnected from the electric grid to make it safer for demolition crews and other crews.

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