August 25, 2013
PDT Staff Report
PIKETON — The X-600 Coal-fired Steam Plant has been part of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (GDP) since 1953, providing enough heat to operate three massive process buildings and numerous maintenance and support buildings. In July crews began knocking down the steam plant, which towers above most buildings on the decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) project.
A right-sized gas-fired steam plant, the X-690, which has a much smaller carbon footprint, replaced the older facility in October 2012. The new plant operates with fewer greenhouse gas emissions and is expected to save about $2 million in operating and maintenance costs in the first year.
The Department of Energy is overseeing the D&D of more than 400 Cold War-era buildings and systems that made up the GDP for the past 60 years. The GDP enriched uranium, initially for the Department of Defense and later for the nuclear fuel industry. In 2010 the DOE awarded Fluor-B&W Portsmouth a contract for the safe cleanup of the GDP to prepare the site for any future use.
Crews from MCM Industrial Services of Michigan are working for Fluor-B&W on the steam plant D&D within the GDP. Despite the complexity of the work, plans are to have the X-600 and two smaller support buildings demolished by Sept. 30.
More than 20,000 square feet of buildings will be dismantled and removed by MCM, a company ranked among the top 10 demolition contractors in the United States. This project will mark the end of an era for the X-600 Coal-fired Steam Plant, which was shut down in fall 2012. Most of the debris from the old steam plant will consist of structural steel and concrete and will be sorted and surveyed for potential contamination. Sanitary waste will be placed into roll-off containers and transported off-site for disposal on a daily basis.
“The X-600 served the Portsmouth GDP very well throughout its operational life,” DOE Site Director Dr. Vince Adams said. “The D&D of this facility is another important milestone in our preparation of the former GDP site for use in the future. We commend the generations of workers who kept the old plant running for six decades.”
In addition to tearing down the building, crews will conduct asbestos abatement, which will take approximately three weeks. Several local union workers have been trained and hired to do the work.
Before being shut down last October, the X-600 facility burned three truckloads of coal every day. In its heyday, the X-600 handled up to 18 loads of coal, providing 92,000 pounds of steam per hour from each of the three boilers.