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A History of the Portsmouth Site

BUILDING THE SITE:

In the early 1950s, the Atomic Energy Commission sought to dramatically expand its production of enriched uranium both for military purposes — nuclear submarines and weapons — and to provide fuel for an expanding fleet of commercial nuclear power plants.

Considering the area's abundant water resources, labor force, availability of reliable electrical power and transportation routes, Piketon, Ohio, was chosen in August 1952 to complement the federal government's gaseous diffusion program already well underway at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Paducah, Kentucky.

Construction of the site quickly began in 1952. The effort was impressive, and when completed, included:

  • Nearly 23,000 construction workers logging 69 million man-hours;
  • Nearly 68,000 drawings and designs;
  • About 1,200 cleared acres; and
  • The movement of more than 4.5 million cubic yards of earth.

In just four years, the plant was completed at a cost of $1.2 billion, coming in six months ahead of schedule and nearly $450 million less than initially estimated.

Post-War History:

With America's nuclear stockpile well prepared to address any potential national security challenges, the mission at the Portsmouth site begin to change. In the 1960s, the site took on a more commercial focus, enriching uranium mainly for commercial nuclear power plants.The continuing work to enrich uranium for the nuclear navy ceased in 1991, and in 1993, the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) assumed management of enrichment activities.Uranium enrichment activities at Portsmouth concluded in May of 2001.

Today's Challenge:

Today, the Portsmouth site is in cold shutdown awaiting decontamination and decommissioning. The site includes:

  • About 134 separate facilities totaling more than 10 million covered square feet;
  • A half-mile long process building (X-326) with a 30-acre roof and 2.6 million feet of floor space;
  • A separate half-mile long process building (X-330) with a 33-acre roof and 2.8 million square feet of floor space;
  • A three-quarter mile long process building (X-333) with a 33-acre roof and 2.8 million square feet of floor space; and
  • Landfills, surface impoundments, cooling towers, burial grounds and waste water ponds requiring remediation.