The Plutonium-Uranium Extraction (PUREX) Plant in Hanford's 200 East Area was constructed in 1953, at an original capital cost of $77,100,000, including the 202-A Building, with initial operation beginning in 1955. The building was 100 ft (with 40 ft being underground) x 1,080 ft, the size of three and a third football fields. The structure was made of three components: a heavily shielded process canyon; a pipe, sample, and storage gallery section; and a steel and transite annex which houses support services. The PUREX solvent extraction (tributyl phosphate) system was operated from January 12, 1956 until the end of September 1972, to separate and decontaminate uranium, plutonium, and neptunium produced by the Hanford reactors.
PUREX closed in 1990 and deactivation activities are in progress. Deactivation begins the transition of a nuclear facility to decontamination and decommissioning (D&D)--the final phase of a facility's life cycle. The stack and the building were demolished, and the radioactive was disposed of elsewhere at Hanford. Deactivation activities were completed in May 1997, at which time PUREX was in a low cost surveillance and maintenance state pending final decisions on Deactivation and Decommissioning.