Cell by cell, WVDP workers steadily deconstruct main plant

Olean Times Herald (April 5, 2023) and Springville Journal (April 6, 2023):

WEST VALLEY — The Department of Energy and its prime contractor recently removed the concrete floor of a cell within the Main Plant Process Building as part of work to demolish the facility at the West Valley Demonstration Project.

Crews used heavy equipment to carefully lift and place each section of the Acid Recovery Cell floor into a container for offsite disposal.

Last summer, workers sawed the approximately 900-square-foot cell floor into more than 20 blocks for safe removal, further reducing the potential spread of contamination and providing an additional level of safety to the West Valley workforce.

“Our team continues to find ways to perform this challenging work in a manner that is protective of our employees, the public and the environment,” said Stephen Bousquet, Main Plant Project Director.

Located on the second floor of the Main Plant, the cell contained equipment that concentrated acids used in fuel reprocessing operations in the 1960s and ’70s. During those activities, acid leaks contaminated and damaged the cell’s floor.

As a result, grout was placed on the floor to provide shielding during reprocessing operations and then again during DOE’s deactivation of the Main Plant.

“Safety is paramount to our deconstruction activities,” Bousquet said. “We take great care to limit the separation of the floor from the grout to minimize the potential for the spread of contamination.”

Crews also will remove the cell’s pump room. During reprocessing operations, that room was used to recover most of the nitric acid used to dissolve the cut or chopped spent fuel transferred from the Main Plant’s Chemical Process Cell. It housed pumps, jets, a tank and associated piping and equipment.

In other recent work to prepare for the Main Plant teardown, workers pulled three shield windows from the Chemical Process Cell that together weigh more than 75,000 pounds.

A DOE 2023 priority is to dispose of 9,000 tons of Main Plant demolition waste. The Main Plant is one of the last remaining major facilities at West Valley. Its successful demolition will further reduce environmental risks and position the site for the next phase in cleanup. The demolition is expected to take approximately 30 months to complete.

For more information

on the West Valley Citizen Task Force, please contact:

Nancy Raca, Facilitator
West Valley Citizen Task Force
c/o Highland Planning