PIKETON- The U.S. Department of Energy conducted two virtual meetings this week to discuss air monitoring results as the demolition of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon is carried out.

The results specifically looked into a X-326 process building, whose demolition started this May. In 2021, four of ten building sections are set to be demolished and the remainder to complete in 2023.

The plant, Site lead Jeff Bettinger said, is like a small city with more than 400 facilities on the 3,777 acre site.

Demolition started with these process buildings to allow for more space for DOE as it progresses in the project. Those other process buildings, X-333 and X-330, will be demolished in 2027 and deactivated in 2029 respectively.

“To give you a sense of perspective, those process buildings are 30 acres each, so about half a mile” he said, coming to the project with 45 years of experience.

Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth Director of Environmental Protection Frank Johnston said the majority of chemical and radiological hazards were removed from the plant between 2011 and 2020.

Still, radiological contaminants like Uranium and Technetium; non-radiological contaminants such as metals, Asbestos, Volatile organic compounds, and Polychlorinated biphenyls are being monitored.

Multiple pieces of equipment go into the air monitoring, including X-326 monitors and co-located Ohio EPA/DOE and Ohio Department of Health/DOE locations. In total, there are eight X-326, five EPA/DOE, and 16 ODH/DOE locations.

Results from three monitors, data shown between April 1 to Sept. 16 in the presentation, Johnston said were very low. A peak occurred in late July following the Western wildfires took place.

Bettinger said water misting as a form of dust control has been a crucial step in keeping measurements low. No work is done when there is considerable wind speed.

“Radiological releases as measured by real-time alpha and beta measurements indicate those controls instituted are protective of workers and the public,” said Johnston, who has 37 years of experience in the field.

Still, some commenters expressed doubt with the water misting’s ability to mitigate the spread of radioactive elements off site.

Written answers to these questions will go online by Oct. 22 at the A-plant’s official website (http://www.portsvirtualevent.com/)

Waste from the X-326 will be stored on-site, which began that placement just eight days after its demolition began.

Based on community feedback and following meetings with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the decision was made to use the soil from the contaminated plumes to allow for “structurally-sound” storage.

With this action, Bettinger says it saves money and could open the door to development of the property.

“This is good for southern Ohio,” he said. “To replace the jobs associated with the plant.”

For more information on the meetings, visit http://www.portsvirtualevent.com/

Contact Patrick Keck at pkeck@newswatchman.com or by phone at 740-947-2149, ext. 300431 and follow him on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

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