DOE donates transformer to SODI for economic development

Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth recently transferred a massive transformer owned by DOE to the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative for recycling to support economic development in the region around the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon. Shown are FBP team members (kneeling, from left) Rex “Ax” McGraw, Avery Riggs and Frank Hardin (driver for Carson’s Excavating); and (back) Chris Niccum, George Bolden, Tony Timmons, Jeff Rowe, Pookey Malone, Adam Reeder and Mark Cope.

The last segment of a large transformer purchased by Martin Marietta in the mid-1990s was recently donated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for recycling from the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth (FBP) is contracted by the DOE to perform the decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) work at the site. Earnings from the recycling effort will be used for economic development in the four-county region through the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI).

The custom-made transformer was built by the Virginia Transformer Corporation for an electrical upgrade initiated by the U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) for the X-330 Process Building. For various reasons, it was never installed. Virginia Transformer Corporation is the fourth largest power transformer manufacturer in North America.

Asset Recovery’s Adam Reeder, FBP, said moving the nearly 41-ton transformer (which consists of three units) posed a challenge because it was such a large (and heavy) piece of equipment.

“We had to have a special forklift to even get the transformer out of the X-330 Building and to the X-747A pad,” Reeder said. “At the time, we were renting the forklift and there was a deadline. Because of the size and weight of the transformer, it all had to be coordinated to get each facility involved.”

Side by side, the dimensions of the transformer were 18.5 feet long x 8.16 feet wide x 10.16 feet high, or 1,533.75 cubic feet.

Prior to the move, the transformer was sampled for asbestos, radiation contamination, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) and any other type of chemical contaminants. In addition, Virginia Transformer Corporation confirmed that no asbestos had been used in their product.

“Back in the early 2000s, the Department of Energy decided not to recycle scrap metal found behind a radiation boundary,” explained Caleb Miller, FBP’s Asset Recovery and Recycling manager. “Therefore, any scrap metals from behind a radiation boundary cannot be recycled back into commerce or to the public in any way; we cannot have unrestricted release of metal. However, this transformer came from a clean area inside the X-330 Building. That’s why we were able to release it to SODI for eventual unrestricted use.

“If people realized just how stringent our release standards are, they would have the highest confidence in our health protection programs. Our employees do a really good job and they take their jobs very seriously. We don’t just go on what people say, we survey, take smears, and ensure the scrap metal is good to go before it is ever released to the public.”

Last year, DOE concurred to release the material and coordination efforts began to remove the transformer.

Jeff Rowe is the project manager for Southern Ohio Asset Recovery (SOAR), a company that is part SODI (51%) and part Wastren Advantage, Inc. (49%). The two entities utilize their contract to support FBP in reuse/recycle efforts. Revenue from recycling/reuse materials are used by SODI in support of community development programs.

“By recycling the transformer, we’re diverting waste from disposal while recovering value for the metal for reinvestment in the community,” Rowe said. “SOAR managed the logistical end of moving the transformer offsite because it was a heavy load and it was located inside the Limited Area. Once the transformer segments were surveyed and released, SOAR had to find the right equipment (a drop-deck trailer) to move them off-site because the units were 27,000 pounds each and more than 10 feet tall.”

Recycling the unit whole as mixed metal would roughly yield $3,500. However dismantling the units and segregating the metals will significantly increase the scrap metal value. SOAR will provide labor and equipment for dismantling the transformers enabling SODI to recover more value for the copper, carbon steel, silicone steel and other scrap pieces from the transformer.

SODI is the designated Community Reuse Organization for the Portsmouth site. Its goal includes finding buyers for reusable resources (i.e., land/facilities/property) that are no longer needed at the site. Steve Shepherd is the executive director.

“We’re trying to analyze what we can do to get the most bang for our buck and have a list of people we work with who are vetted by the plant. Because of environmental regulations, they must be qualified bidders in order to receive the metal. The most challenging part was finding someone to haul the transformer out to us; it took a few months,” Shepherd said.

“Currently, the revenue we get from recycling will be used to develop the underutilized land and facilities at the DOE Piketon site. The atomic plant has been the economic engine in our area for 60 plus years and it still can be if we can get it cleaned up and reindustrialized.”

SODI selected a local company (Carson’s Excavating) to pick up the excess property. Mark Cope served as the transportation supervisor for this effort.

“Our container management group usually performs the loading activities for SODI items going off site, not including roll-off containers,” Cope said. “This could be, for example, old forklifts or other equipment, or the transformers that just recently went off-site. Typically, our group is notified of upcoming shipments and we do a walk down to decide how items should be loaded and what equipment will be needed. Trent Eckert, who is also part of our group, inspects the conveyance to ensure it meets Department of Transportation compliance. Usually, the driver is responsible for the securement of his load, but in this particular case, we (FBP) loaned them chains and binders and assisted the driver in the securement of the transformer loads.”

Part of the asset recovery process involves working with property panagement to determine a potential use for the equipment on-site. If unsuccessful, Environmental Management’s Consolidated Business Center (EMCBC) offers the equipment to other Department of Energy sites. If there’s still no interest, EMCBC offers the equipment to SODI.

Fluor Corporation and BWX Technologies, Inc., two world-class companies with significant Ohio experience, formed FBP to address the decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) needs at DOE’s Portsmouth Site in Pike County, Ohio. CH2M, another global leader in industrial and environmental projects, provides support. Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth employs 1,900 workers who bring unparalleled experience, insights, and lessons learned from across the DOE complex. The FBP mandate is to clean up the Portsmouth site safely and compliantly, provide strong uranium stewardship and partner with local communities to achieve a sustainable economic future.


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