Research reactor to cross Hanford

December 14, 2012 

Hanford's TRIGA Reactor is expected to take a slow ride out to a central Hanford landfill today, weather permitting.

Workers were removing it from below the ground in the Hanford 300 Area just north of Richland on Friday. It's the second-to-last research reactor that remained in the 300 Area, where much of Hanford research was done.

The Department of Energy once had six small research reactors there in addition to the nine reactors that lined the Columbia River to produce plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program.

The TRIGA Reactor -- or Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics Reactor -- operated in the '70s as part of the fuels and materials research program for Hanford's Fast Flux Test Facility. It was used to look for defects in fuel elements and fuel jackets.

It was housed below ground in the 308-A Building, and the structure above it was torn down earlier.

Friday, a gantry jack system was being used by Barnhart Crane & Rigging to lift the reactor out of the ground and roll it down about 30 feet of tracks, said Peter Bengtson, spokesman for Washington Closure Hanford. The reactor weighs about 250 tons.

Then the reactor was expected to be lowered onto a Goldhofer trailer designed to carry heavy loads for the trip to central Hanford. The plan was to drive the trailer under the gantry jack system.

The trailer will travel about 5 miles per hour to the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, a lined landfill for Hanford low level radioactive waste, Bengtson said.

Phoenix Enterprises NW of Richland received a Washington Closure subcontract worth $19 million in October 2011 to remove the TRIGA Reactor, the Plutonium Recycle Test Reactor and a vault with two tanks used for hazardous liquid research wastes.

Phoenix is expected to also remove the Plutonium Recycle Test Reactor this winter. It sat under the iconic white dome just north of Richland until the 80-foot tall containment dome was lifted off in January 2011.

The 100-megawatt reactor was operated from 1960-69 to support the development of fuels for the commercial nuclear power industry.

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