The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Friday, June 23, 2000
Paducah, Kentucky

'Drum mountain' ready to move

By Joe Walker
Work was poised to begin around 11 a.m. today to remove the "drum mountain" scrap pile at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

Delayed several times in the past few weeks, the project was back on track, provided the test shredding of a few drums went well early this morning, said Greg Cook, spokesman for Bechtel Jacobs, environmental cleanup contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy.

"We've gone out and kicked the tires and talked through every issue we can think of," he said Thursday. "We're fairly confident we're not going to have any more glitches."

Originally set for June 5, the start stalled because of windy conditions, concerns about airborne contamination from the drums, and a lag in procedure development and equipment checks.

Earlier this week, a test run was completed on similar, uncontaminated drums. Cook said the final test on a few drums from the scrap pile started Thursday afternoon.

Workers will sort, separate, shred, sample and bale the barrels, believed to have held hazardous, mildly radioactive uranium tetrafluoride, or UF4. The drums were crushed decades ago after being emptied.

UF4, known as "green salt," was made at the plant in its early years as a step in manufacturing uranium hexafluoride, or UF6. The plant no longer makes either material but continues to enrich UF6 for use in nuclear fuel.

DOE wants to have the waste ready by Sept. 30 for shipment to an approved treatment facility. The entire project is expected to be finished by November.

Drum mountain, readily seen among the old storage yards in the northwest fenced area of the plant, covers only about 10 percent of the estimated 65,000 tons of scrap. It has removal priority because it is a presumed source of surface water contamination.