The Plutonium Finishing Plant (PFP), also known as Z-Plant, operated from 1949 to 1989 and represented the final step in plutonium production at Hanford. At this facility, plutonium was processed into solid, hockey-puck sized “buttons” and plutonium oxide powder that could then be safely shipped to the country’s weapons production facilities. The plant produced nearly two-thirds of the nation’s plutonium stockpile.
The nature of the work performed left PFP as one of Hanford’s most hazardous buildings after operations ended in 1989. Decades of work to prepare the PFP complex – once comprised of nearly 90 structures – for demolition included decontaminating and removing about 200 pieces of plutonium processing equipment like glove boxes, 1.5 miles of ventilation piping, contaminated process lines, asbestos and other hazards.
Demolition began in 2016. As the project proceeded, crews continuously adjusted demolition practices, including expanding radiological boundaries and adding monitoring devices to ensure employee and environmental safety.
In 2020, workers are expected to mark the end of demolition activities, with sampling and cover cap installation to follow. The cover cap will remain in place, as will a robust fence surrounding what once was the footprint of the complex, until decisions are made on cleanup of soil and piping beneath the main PFP building.
Removal of this iconic facility reduces a critical risk on the Hanford Site and marks a historic achievement in the Department of Energy’s overall cleanup mission.