Fernald building brought down

Implosion goes without a hitch


BY ANNE CHEN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CROSBY TOWNSHIP - The swirl of dust and smoke left onlookers sighing with relief Saturday as workers toppled another major building at the closed Fernald uranium processing complex.

Plant 4, rigged throughout with dynamite, collapsed gracefully as staccato bursts ripped through its core about 10:30 a.m. The implosion, which took more than one year to plan and cost $2.65 million - carefully blew the building to bits in about nine seconds.

''This is a milestone event partly because this is the largest volume building here at Fernald,'' said Ken Morgan, a Department of Energy (DOE)spokesman. ''The implosion is very symbolic of what we're doing here - cleaning this place up.''

Plant 4 was one of the first DOE structures anywhere demolished with explosives, officials said. On Sept. 10, 1994, DOE attempted its first implosion on Plant 7, the first building to be razed in the multibillion-dollar cleanup. What began as a milestone for Fernald ended as a national joke when the building failed to collapse. It was brought down on the third try a week later.

''Obviously we've learned some lessons from that experience'' Mr. Morgan said. ''Judging from the blast today, they made sure this one would come down.''

DOE will use the method on several of the 125 buildings coming down at Fernald in the next decade, Mr. Morgan said.

''We have an obligation to get rid of the structures if they are a safety hazard,'' said Rick Maslin, a spokesman for cleanup contractor Fernald Environmental Restoration Management Corp. (FERMCO).

The dust from Plant 4, a building that housed chemical processes to convert uranium hexfluoride into ''green salt'' used in producing pure uranium, was monitored by FERMCO after the implosion.

Fernald, where uranium metal was made for nuclear weapons from 1953 to 1989, is an environmentally hazardous site being cleaned inch-by-inch.

Many of the buildings, including the four-story Plant 4, contained asbestos - blamed for asbestosis lung damage. Paint on the buildings contained lead, which can cause brain damage.

Department of Energy subcontractors worked the past eight months to minimize the risk of dust by stripping all piping, equipment, interior walls and exterior siding from the Plant 4 building, Mr. Maslin said. The debris, which has low levels of radioactivity, will be stored on site until decisions are made on its use or disposal.

''FERMCO assured us that it would be safe and that they would take every precaution,'' said Lisa Crawford, president of the citizens group Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety and Health. ''We're very pleased with the direction they've taken.''

Published Aug. 25, 1996.