Earlier this year, the Department of Energy provided its contractor URS Energy and Construction (URS), permission to proceed with characterization activities at the Separations Process Research Unit (SPRU). URS completed a thorough analysis of the causes of the 2010 events that caused work to be stopped and has instituted several corrective actions.
DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM) and URS changed the approach to the demolition of Buildings G2 and H2. The remediation of both buildings will now take place within ventilated enclosures equipped with high-efficiency particulate air filters to prevent any spread of contamination.
Construction of enclosures and installation of ventilation systems for Buildings G2 and H2 is complete.
URS will proceed with characterization, decontamination activities, and equipment removals that will lead to demolition activities. One of the other significant operations activities commencing in August of this year will be the removal of residual liquid waste from the Building H2 tank farm and solidifying it for disposal at an approved radioactive waste disposal facility. Completing this action will result in the removal of the majority of the radioactivity at the SPRU facilities.
Upon completion of the SPRU project, URS will remove the G2 and H2 buildings, as well as contaminated soil around the buildings and restore the work site.
The Separations Process Research Unit (SPRU) is located at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL) in Niskayuna, New York. SPRU was built between 1947 and 1949 and was operated for the Government by General Electric for three years. It was used as a pilot plant to research the chemical process for plutonium extraction. After SPRU shut down in 1953, the processing equipment was flushed and drained and waste disposed off-site. SPRU was then maintained by the Office of Naval Reactors, which owns the KAPL site.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for the SPRU project and currently manages the SPRU facilities and land areas (currently about 15 acres of the 170-acre KAPL site).
EM is also responsible for demolishing the former SPRU process buildings, known as Buildings G2 and H2. These contain radioactive contamination from the chemical process research. In the fall of 2010, two unplanned events resulted in work being stopped. Neither of these events presented a threat to public health or the environment.
URS has completed a thorough analysis of the causes of the 2010 events, and has instituted corrective actions. Two of the significant improvements were to enclose the buildings with tent enclosures and HEPA filtered ventilations systems, and improve the reliability of contaminated water collection systems.
The project was delayed by soil erosion around the structures caused by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. An alternative construction approach for the tent enclosures was taken to complete the enclosure and ventilation systems, and repairs were made to the hillside and drainage culvert below the H2 building to ensure safe future operations during the SPRU project. DOE also obtained US EPA approval of the applications to construct the ventilation systems. The G2 tent enclosure and ventilation system was completed in 2012. The H2 tent enclosure and ventilation system was completed February 2013.
URS evaluated completion of their corrective actions and demonstrated their improvements with selected tasks involving radiological controls and adherence to work procedures and practices during the fall 2012. DOE independently monitored and verified completion of correction actions and work practice improvements. Based on this, DOE provided URS permission to proceed with the remaining work including characterization, decontamination, and eventual demolition of the facilities.
URS is taking a methodical, deliberate approach in completing the remaining work. Project completion is estimated for late 2014 or early 2015 and is dependent upon availability of funding.