Demolition of the K West Reactor has gotten underway, yet another key step in completing cleanup at the former plutonium production reactor.

The building was a piece of infrastructure responsible for transferring radioactive sludge away from the Columbia River during said plutonium production in the World War Two era.

Central Plateau Cleanup Company workers have been busy moving and sorting radioactive debris into underwater bins in the 1.2-million-gallon basin since this past summer. Those workers are now using underwater cameras and specialized tools in order to place the contaminated material into steel tubes (which will be filled with grout), and then removed during basin demolition.

This project will include draining and removing the reactor’s spent-fuel basin where the sludge was stored, followed by placing the reactor building in interim safe storage.

According to Mark French, Department of Energy Richland Operations Office division director for Hanford’s Central Plateau Cleanup Project (via press release), “The annex building accomplished its mission to support the safe packaging and transfer of sludge from the basin in 2019. Now, removal of the facility allows us to continue the progress we’ve already made to reduce risk in Hanford’s K Area and along the river.”

Workers also recently finished installing a system which will pump out and filter the contaminated water from the basin. After that, they will transfer that water into Hanford’s Effluent Treatment Facility via tanker truck for disposal.

Following removal of the spent fuel basin, Central Plateau Cleanup Company will construct a safe storage enclosure over the main K West Reactor building, a process known as “cocooning.” That enclosure will protect the building as the radioactivity in the deactivated reactor core decays over the next several decades.

K West is the eighth (and final) Hanford reactor to be cocooned following the cocooning of the nearby K East Reactor in October 2022.

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