RICHLAND — Work could begin as soon as late winter to demolish some of the next group of contaminated buildings in central Hanford.
The Department of Energy has issued an engineering evaluation and cost analysis for removing 57 buildings with radiological and hazardous chemical contamination.
It recommends the buildings be demolished in the near term, although a decision will not be made until the public has a chance to comment. Central Hanford originally had 970 buildings and 271 have been demolished so far.
If this next group also is demolished, it would continue momentum in central Hanford to remove unused buildings, said Geoff Tyree, DOE spokesman.
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All the buildings covered in the evaluation are in the 200 East Area of Hanford. DOE is preparing another evaluation for buildings with similar levels of contamination in the 200 West Area.
After uranium fuel was irradiated during the Cold War at the nine reactors along the Columbia River, the fuel was sent to the 200 East and West areas in central Hanford. Facilities there chemically separated plutonium from the spent fuel to be used in the nation's nuclear weapons program.
The evaluations do not cover the structures that will be the most difficult, such as PUREX and the B Plant Canyon, where chemical separations occurred.
Instead, they cover many of the buildings used to support the chemical separations process. Excluded for future evaluation are buildings that have contaminated facilities such as tanks or glove boxes that are integral to the buildings' structure.
The evaluation now released for public comment covers many of the buildings used to support two chemical separation plants -- PUREX and B Plant -- and the 209-East Critical Mass Laboratory.
The laboratory also is among the 57 buildings in the 200 East Area being considered for demolition. It's expected to be the most costly to clean up and bring down, and would produce almost 13 tons of rubble.
The concrete-block, 8,979-square-foot building was used for work with plutonium and uranium solutions from 1961 to 1983. It has a mixing room with glove boxes and a mixing hood and a control room from which experiments could be remotely monitored and controlled.
Criticality experiments, in which a nuclear chain reaction becomes self-sustaining, also were conducted using plutonium nitrate and enriched uranium solutions. In addition, methods of protecting workers in the event of a criticality were tested.
Work to deactivate the laboratory already has been started by CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. with federal economic stimulus money.
Other buildings among the 57 in the evaluation include the B Plant Support Building, which is almost 25,000 square feet; the fission product load-out and load-in stations for PUREX; the PUREX gas effluent monitoring building; and the 222-B Laboratory, where small-scale experiments were done.
Much of the waste will be taken to Hanford's landfill for chemical and low-level radioactive waste.
Having the evaluation completed gets the paperwork in place to tear down the buildings as money and crews become available, and to send waste for disposal, said Rick Bond, facilities transition project manager for the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Public comment will be accepted through Dec. 27. The address is Paula Call, DOE Richland Operations Office, P.O. Box 550, A7-75, Richland, 99352.
More information is posted at www.hanford.gov on the calendar under each day of the public comment period.