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West Valley Workers Dismantle Former Fuel Reprocessing Cell

Published: June 09, 2023


An operator uses an excavator with a hydraulic hammer to dismantle the Chemical Process Cell, as part of the deconstruction of the Main Plant Process Building at EM’s West Valley Demonstration Project.

WEST VALLEY, N.Y.  EM and its cleanup contractor at the West Valley Demonstration Project continue to dismantle a cell of the Main Plant Process Building, one of the site's last remaining major facilities whose successful demolition will further reduce environmental risks.

The work at the Chemical Process Cell is expected to be completed over several months and will include removal of racks used to store high-level waste canister decades ago.

An EM 2023 priority is to dispose of 9,000 tons of Main Plant demolition waste. The demolition is expected to take approximately 30 months to complete.

Earlier this year, crews used a heavy-duty excavator with a hydraulic hammer to take out the outermost 3 feet of the cell’s 5-foot-thick reinforced-concrete walls. This lower-risk work allowed crews with CH2M HILL BWXT West Valley (CHBWV) to perform other deconstruction activities in parallel, helping accelerate the project’s schedule and lower cost.

“Starting this specific sequence in the deconstruction of the Main Plant is the result of our planning, preparation and decontamination efforts,” said Stephen Bousquet, EM West Valley federal project director for the Main Plant Deconstruction. “Our approach also incorporates best practices and lessons learned, including the rate and sequence of the deconstruction, and the use of engineered and robust safety controls.”

Located at ground level on the west side of the plant, the more than 2,000-square-foot cell was designed to dissolve sheared spent nuclear fuel and to reduce the volume of high-level waste generated in fuel reprocessing. The floor and the lower portion of its walls are lines with stainless steel.

Between 1985 and 1987, workers performed remote decontamination activities to support the conversion of the cell into a facility for the interim storage of vitrified high-level waste canisters. Crews installed storage racks for the 10-foot-long canisters.

In 2017, EM workers removed 278 high-level waste canisters from that storage facility and safely relocated them to a temporary onsite storage pad until a permanent repository is available for their disposal.

-Contributor: Joseph Pillittere
-Source: EM Newsletter

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