Demolition of US vitrification facility begins

29 September 2017

The start of demolition of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) vitrification facility at the West Valley Demonstration Project (WVDP) was marked by a ceremony on 21 September attended by officials from DOE and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

WVDP, in New York state, is an environmental remediation project at the site of the USA’s first commercial nuclear fuel reprocessing centre.  The vitrification facility, where more than 2200 cubic metres of high-level radioactive liquid waste was processed into glass, filling 275 stainless steel containers, operated between 1996 and 2002. The containers with radioactive glass logs are now stored in 56 concrete casks on a nearby concrete pad.

The demolition, which began on 11 September, will take several months, according to a spokesman for the contractor, CH2M HILL BWXT West Valley (CHBWV), and is scheduled to be completed by April 2018. To minimise dust, a remote misting system keeps water focused on parts of the building being demolished, said DOE site director Bryan Bower. A berm around the building will contain water from any storms; it will be tested for contaminants and can be treated, if neccessary.

CHBWV was selected by DOE to conduct Phase I decommissioning activities at the WVDP under an 8.6-year, $461.4m contract that began in August 2011. CHBWV has been removing radioactive waste, contaminated equipment and obsolete structures from the site. In March, the vitrification facility was declared ready for demolition.

The work is significant as the WVDP is the first DOE site to design, build, operate, shut down and now demolish a vitrification plant.

The nuclear fuel reprocessing plant operated from 1966 to 1972, processing 640t of used fuel rods. However, Nuclear Fuel Services left the facility in 1972 after closing for plant upgrades that became too expensive to be profitable, and handed the site over to the state, including the radioactive waste. So far, $2.9bn in state and federal funds have been spent on the remediation work.


Photo: Vitrification plant at the West Valley Demonstration Project (Source: DOE)



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