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Hanford Makes Progress Preparing Historic Building for Demolition

Published: July 21, 2023

Constructed in 1944, the 231-Z Building served several missions during its 50-year operational lifetime. The building was once among the most heavily secured facilities in the nation when it was used to store refined plutonium for national defense operations.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Crews with EM Richland Operations Office (RL) contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company (CPCCo) are making progress preparing one of the Hanford Site’s oldest buildings for demolition.

Constructed in 1944, the 231-Z Building served several missions during its 50-year operational lifetime. Its original mission was to refine plutonium as part of national defense operations. It later supported operations at Hanford’s Reduction-Oxidation and Plutonium Uranium Extraction plants.

In 1957, 231-Z was modified to support the plutonium metallurgical program for weapons development, before it was repurposed again in the late 1970s and early 1980s to decontaminate radioactively contaminated equipment. The building was used for office space until it was taken out of service in 1995.

“The historic 231-Z Building is a multifaceted facility, and demolition preparation is an equally complex project,” said Andy Wiborg, RL team lead for Hanford’s Central Plateau Cleanup Project. “Our experienced workforce continues to make safe, steady progress on the building as part of our sitewide effort to reduce risk on Hanford’s Central Plateau.”

For a time, the 231-Z Building was also one of the most secure buildings in the nation, when it housed a heavily guarded vault for storing refined plutonium before it was shipped to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico for weapons production.

The two-story, 51,500-square-foot building contains numerous laboratories, process cells, ventilation and exhaust systems, distilled water and compressed air systems, as well as storage rooms, change rooms, and offices that need to be cleaned or removed before demolition. The project also involves extensive radiological characterization, removing asbestos and hazardous materials, and disconnecting electrical and mechanical equipment.

“The key to project progress has been excellent teamwork and communication,” said Gary Hix, CPCCo demolition manager for 231-Z. “It’s critical that our field crews and support organizations — engineering, industrial hygiene, radiological controls, safety — are all on the same page. It takes a tight team to make a project like this successful.”

Demolition of the building is expected in 2025.

-Contributor: Mark McKenna
-Source: EM Newsletter

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