Converter Downsizing Picks Up Speed as Paducah Prepares for C-333 Demolition

A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) team at the Paducah Site has met a goal to increase the efficiency of equipment removal and downsizing at the C-333 Process Building by 80% from an initial startup plan.

EM crews reached a critical building deactivation milestone late last year by starting converter segmentation at C-333, one of four massive process buildings slated to be demolished during the site’s environmental cleanup.

The team is tasked with removing more than 500 pieces of large process gas equipment, called converters, from the 1-million-square-foot facility to prepare it for demolition. Weighing upwards of 70,000 pounds, the converters are carefully removed from the former uranium enrichment system to be downsized in C-333’s material-sizing area, a space specifically constructed to do this work safely and efficiently.

Crews undertaking this challenge have used a planned approach to ensure workforce safety, applying startup feedback and knowledge transfer while working towards building deactivation.

Removal of the large components required crews to implement new procedures and use new equipment. By taking a graded approach to the startup, technical experts were given the chance to evaluate progress and incrementally implement improvements to decrease the segmentation of a converter from 14 days during initial startup operations to just two days.

“Through the completion of the startup plan, our team demonstrated we have the right people and resources to complete deactivation of the C-333 Process Building,” said Myrna Redfield, program manager for Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership, EM’s deactivation and remediation contractor at the Paducah Site. “Completing this work safely has been the top priority since we began the project and taking a deliberate approach has ensured we continue to put safety first.”

In addition to feedback provided during startup, Paducah Site crews benefited from the experience of personnel from Paducah’s sister site in Portsmouth, Ohio. Portsmouth Site personnel shared their expertise from similar operations at the X-326 Process Building as well as lessons learned and observing converter downsizing at the Paducah Site.

“Real-time knowledge transfer between PPPO projects continues to be a catalyst for the successful deactivation at Paducah and Portsmouth,” Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office Manager Joel Bradburne said. “Moving forward, the efficiencies in converter removal and segmentation from the lessons learned will be a major step toward future demolition of the C-333 Process Building.”