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The world's first large scale nuclear power plant was built in Shippingport, Pennsylvania and began operating on December 2, 1957. It was a joint venture between the Atomic Energy Commission and the Duquesne Light Company. This was the first full scale reactor to be built in the United States to exclusively produce electricity for commercial and private consumption. The total cost for construction was $125 million. Within three years, the Shippingport plant was able to supply electricity to the Pittsburgh area.

Spent nuclear fuel from Shippingport was sent to Hanford in 1978 and 1979. It consisted of uranium oxide in compartmented fuel plates clad with a zirconium alloy known as Zircaloy-4. Upon arrival at Hanford it was placed in underwater storage racks at T-Plant awaiting dissolving and reprocessing. This was never completed as reprocessing operations at Hanford ended before reprocessing of the Shippingport fuel could occur. There are 72 fuel assemblies from Shippingport. They consist of three basic sections bolted together and measure over 142 inches long and each weigh about 1180 pounds. Combined, the spent fuel from Shippingport currently in storage at Hanford is 15.7 MT of heavy metal.

In 1982, the plant ceased operations and the Department of Energy inherited the responsibility of decommissioning and decontaminating the site. This was the first time a reactor would be completely decontaminated and decommissioned in the United States. Final cost of decommissioning was $98 million. Deconstruction of the site included treating 450,000 gallons of radioactive liquid waste with a filtration system before being released into the Ohio River. Over five hundred cubic yards of asbestos insulation was removed, placed in polyethylene bags and shipped to Hanford. Approximately 56,000 linear feet of contaminated piping was cut apart and shipping overland to Hanford. The 150 ton reactor vessel was shipped down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, through the Panama Canal, up the Pacific Coast, into the Columbia River and finally to the Hanford Site. There it was buried 40 feet underground. The 8,100 mile trip was met with much controversy. Members of the Northwest Radiation Alert Network staged protests at several points on the Columbia River. In Astoria, Oregon a man in a Kayak tried to block the barge from passing. When the barge arrived at its finally destination, one of the residents had made a sign that read, "Welcome to Hanford."


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