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Workers Complete Demolition of Hanford’s Historic Plutonium Vaults

April 1, 2012 - 12:00pm


RICHLAND, Wash. – The Richland Operations Office and contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company this month completed demolition of a large plutonium vault complex, formerly one of the highest security facilities at the Hanford site. 

“This project was a joint safety success between our workers who spent months cleaning out the facilities, the demolition crews who tore the buildings down and the crews who helped remove the waste for disposal. It took teamwork and cooperation to remove the complex safely and efficiently,” said Ty Blackford, CH2M HILL Vice President of Decommissioning, Waste, Fuels and Remediation Services.

The complex was an integral part of Hanford’s Plutonium Finishing Plant (PFP), which produced nearly two-thirds of the nation’s supply of plutonium used in the nuclear weapons program during the Cold War. Built in 1971, the complex was the end of the road for the plutonium product fabricated at the plant. The vault held the top-secret stores of plutonium in metal canisters until they were shipped for weapons production.

“The PFP vault complex was once a very important piece in the security of our nation’s defense program and today its removal marks a major step forward in achieving the Tri-Party Agreement Milestone to demolish the Plutonium Finishing Plant complex by 2016,”  said Jerry Long, CH2M HILL Vice President for the Plutonium Finishing Plant Closure Project.

Workers emptied the vault of its inventory in November 2009, marking a monumental shift in the plant’s security. With the special nuclear material shipped to an offsite location, the layers of security could be removed, including metal detectors, inspection stations, razor wire and concrete barriers. 

Workers began demolishing the six-structure vault complex, encompassing about 20,000 square feet, in late 2011 following months of preparation that included removal of large, highly contaminated pieces of equipment called gloveboxes that allowed workers to handle nuclear materials safely when the plant was operating.

As the last of the building debris is removed for disposal at Hanford’s onsite engineered landfill, the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, workers will continue decommissioning the remainder of PFP, removing gloveboxes and other radiological and industrial hazards to prepare the plant for demolition by 2016.

Photos and video of the demolition project are available at and

Learn more about PFP in the latest chapter of the Hanford Story, “Plutonium Finishing Plant.”

The Hanford Story is a multimedia presentation that provides an overview of the Hanford Site, including its history and current cleanup activities. DOE is delivering the Hanford Story in a series of video-based chapters.