Workers demolishing the Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant have lost the equivalent of 23 10-hour days to bad weather so far this winter.
With a legal deadline to have the plant down to slab on grade in September, Hanford officials are making plans for catching up more than a month of demolition time.
Demolition stopped on Jan. 27 when an alarm sounded, indicating a spread of contamination. The work has yet to resume, in large part due to the weather.
On some days workers across Hanford have been sent home early, told to report late, or have not worked at all because of icy roads.
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In addition, the temperature has to be at least 20 degrees at the Plutonium Finishing Plant or the water sprayed during demolition to help prevent airborne contamination turns to snow. Snow covering the ground also slowed cleanup of the contamination spread.
No contamination reached worker skin, was inhaled by workers or spread outside the fence line of the plant, according to Hanford officials.
Demolition of the historic McCluskey Room could be completed in March.
The contamination spread apparently was related to movement of debris into a pile using a front loader after demolition had been completed for the day.
The demolition pile still has to be loaded into containers, and that will be done with small amounts at a time. The source of the contamination in the piole might then be identified.
The task could take a couple of days and may not be started as planned Wednesday because of possible freezing rain.
Demolition, which will not restart until the debris is loaded out, may not resume until late next week, according to the Department of Energy.
DOE is planning to recover some of the slipped schedule for demolition by adding a second worker shift when the days are longer in the spring and summer, Tom Teynor, DOE project director said Tuesday at a meeting of the Hanford Advisory Board’s River and Plateau Subcommittee in Richland.
Demolition began at one end of the plant in November. It also may be expanded to two areas of the plant at once, with an area of the plant mostly used for offices torn down along with contaminated areas.
Demolition started with the Plutonium Reclamation Facility and the McCluskey Room, which were added on at one end of the main process area of the Plutonium Finishing Plant.
Demolition of the historic McCluskey Room is expected to be completed first. It could be down to slab on grade in March, Teynor said. It is the site of the 1976 explosion that injured and contaminated worker Harold McCluskey, who came to be known as the Atomic Man.
Additional monitoring equipment has been staged at the plant in anticipation of the restart of demolition work.
The Jan. 27 spread of contamination was an event that had been anticipated as a possibility during demolition and workers had trained for it, Teynor said. The monitoring system worked as it should and workers responded appropriately.
During load out of the debris connected to the radioactive spread, fixative will be used when debris is moved, when it is loaded into containers and after it is placed in the containers to prevent contamination spread. In addition, packaging techniques used for high risk items will be implemented, including adding soil for padding in the containers.
The contamination that spread has been cleaned up or fixed in place. More monitoring equipment, including an additional continuous air monitor, has been staged at the plant in anticipation of the restart of demolition.
While demolition has been halted, work has increased to finish the final steps needed to prepare the rest of the plant for demolition. Workers have been reassigned on some days to work inside the main process area of the plan for work that includes removing the vacuum line used to move material from one glove box to another.
An additional 20 workers have been hired to work on asbestos removal within areas of the plant not yet ready for demolition, after workers found more asbestos and worse conditions than anticipated. The asbestos has sweated and adhered to walls, Teynor said.