Sunday, August 24, 2003

Fernald tower toppled

Water tank was a landmark

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CROSBY TWP. - It took less than five seconds to wipe out the skyline at Fernald. The west water tower, easily the most dominant feature in the former uranium processing plant's skyline, was imploded with a series of quick blasts of nitroglycerin Saturday, then toppled over with a thud.

The 170-foot tower provided some 350,000 gallons of water for fire suppression at the plant since 1963.

The implosion was the latest step in the $4.4 billion cleanup at the former nuclear foundry here, 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati in western Hamilton County.

That project is scheduled for completion in 2006.

Dennis Carr, the senior project director for Fluor Corp., the company managing the cleanup, said he's not sentimental about seeing the old tower taken down.

"I've been wanting to see this job get done since 1986," he said.

"This is one more step."

The metal from the tower will be scrapped in a 120-acre storage facility on the site that also will store low-level radioactive waste.

That portion of the site will remain under the care of the U.S. Department of Energy in perpetuity.

The rest of the 1,050-acre facility eventually will be turned into a park.

The tower originally was painted with a red-and-white checkerboard pattern that led many nearby residents to believe the secretive plant made dog food instead of the stuff of nuclear weapons.

Adding to that myth was the plant's name: It was called a "feed materials plant" because uranium was extracted from metal, then shipped as "feed" to other nuclear sites that produced bombs.

The water tower was painted with a blue-checkered pattern in the 1980s.

Fluor is under pressure to meet its 2006 deadline to finish the cleanup, moved up this year from 2010.

Moments after the tower fell, Carr joked: "All right, now get back to work!"



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