Work Begins to Prepare N Reactor for Cocooning - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Work Begins to Prepare N Reactor for Cocooning

RICHLAND, Wash.- Demolition work begins to prepare Hanford's historic N Reactor for cocooning.

Aside from the radioactivity contained in the reactor, most of the steam pipes are insulated with asbestos, there's still lead in some places and they have to make sure all of that's out before they can start demolition.

Washington Closure Hanford has issued an $8.8 million contract to remove hazardous materials from the buildings asbestos, lead and hazardous oils, it's all got to come out before the historic reactor can be cocooned.

"That's just to make it safe to go in and, and proceed with the next portion of the work, which is the demolition of the 105 and 109-N buildings," said Dennis Reese with Washington Closure Hanford.

The reactor's been shut down since 1986.

It was the world's first "dual-purpose" reactor.

Like Hanford's other facilities, it made plutonium for the nation's weapons program, but it also produced electricity.

That makes it bigger than Hanford's other reactors, but demolition experts say it'll probably be easier to enclose.

"The N Reactor facility is different than the single-pass reactors, those are, they had a lot of what I call gingerbread or other structures that came off the reactor building.  This one will be easier to put a roof on because we're going to have a very low slope roof and pretty much just a single flat," said Daryl Schilperoort with WCH.

After the materials are out, they'll tear down all but the core, a process called cocooning.

Then it'll sit for 75 years as the radioactivity slowly decays.

"We want to have all of the hazardous materials removed out of the building before we start tearing the building down, it just makes that process much more safe," Schilperoort said.

Four of Hanford's nine reactors have already been cocooned.

The Tri-Party Agreement requires that the N Reactor be done by 2012.

Washington Closure Hanford says it'll be done by 2011, maybe even 2010.

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