This is what Hanford calls the, “cocoon.” It’s temporary storage to contain the K East Reactor. The structure is more than 120 feet tall and 150 feet wide.
HANFORD, Wash. — A transformation completed in the area! Workers finished building a cocoon over the top of a former nuclear reactor. According to officials, this is a sign progress is being made along the Columbia River at the Hanford Site.
The unassuming steel walls of the cocoon may not look like a lot, but they surround the K East Nuclear Reactor on the far north border of the Site.
“It is iconic and a skyline change, but it represents only a piece, a part of the work that’s going on across the Hanford Site,” said Brian Vance, Hanford Site Manager.
This is what Hanford staff calls, ‘the cocoon.’ It’s temporary storage to contain what’s still inside the K East Reactor. The structure is more than 120 feet tall and 150 feet wide.
It’s built to shield workers and the surrounding environment from potential radioactivity.
“The elements, the wind, the sand, the rain, the freeze thaw cycles, really do take its toll on these older structures,” said John Eschenberg, President of Central Plateau Cleanup Company.
“This really ensures that the structure itself is protected from the elements for the decades who will sit here until the decay completes and we’re ready to go into the next phase,” said Vance.
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As the reactor core inside decays over the next 70 to 75 years, teams will periodically do routine inspections. Eschenburg said this is to, “make sure that we understand how this building is aging and how the infrastructure inside is behaving over time.”
This construction lasted just more than a year, and finished ahead of schedule and under-budget by $4 million. The cost finished at $9.5.
“This complete sarcophagus or cocooning is actually the most efficient, most economical way to put this building in a safe configuration for decades to come until the radiation levels decay,” said Eschenburg.
There’s nine total reactors on the Hanford Site. Officials said only eight will be cocooned. This is the seventh reactor they’ve enclosed so far.
The last one to be cocooned is the sister reactor, K West. Construction starts at the end of the decade.
The 9th nuclear reactor is the B Reactor. It’s been recognized as the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor. It’s being preserved for public access, and will not be cocooned.
“It’s a comprehensive and ubiquitous approach to safety that I think sets Hanford apart in many ways from almost every other enterprise in the nation,” said Vance.
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