UPDATE: Massive Hanford test reactor near Richland lifted

Jan 22, 2014

From Tri-City Herald

Washington Closure Hanford lifted the 309 Reactor weighing about 2 million pounds out of the ground Wednesday.

It's the last and largest of six test reactors once used at the Hanford 300 Area just north of Richland to perform research.

It will be moved to the landfill for low-level radioactive waste in central Hanford this weekend on a trailer with 384 wheels to distribute the weight of the reactor plus a structure built around it. Total weight will be 1,538 tons.

Route 4 South from just north of Richland to the Wye Barricade will be closed as the reactor is moved at a speed of about 1 mile per hour. A time has not been set.

The 309 Reactor, also called the Plutonium Recycle Test Reactor, was in an underground area under the 80-foot dome that was a landmark just north of Richland until it was taken down in 2010.

The reactor was used in the 1960s to test fuel containing recycled plutonium for possible use in commercial nuclear fuel.

Removing the reactor has been one of the most complex and hazardous cleanup projects Washington Closure has attempted since winning a contract to clean up environmental contamination along the Columbia River in 2005, according to the Department of Energy contractor.

The concrete shielding around the reactor proved too degraded for an original plan to lift out just the reactor after cutting away most of the shielding.

Instead, workers cut away pieces of the shielding to install a frame to lift out the reactor with its shielding. The reactor and shielding weigh about 1,082 tons.

More cuts with a wire saw were needed to free the reactor from the floor and walls and hundreds of pipes had to be removed.

Hanford workers completed work underground, in a confined space and wearing respirators. They also had to be protected from possible radioactive contamination.

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