The Safety Light Corporation (SLC) Superfund Site is in South Centre Township, Columbia County approximately 5 miles east of Bloomsburg. SLC formerly conducted business as the U S Radium Corporation (USR). The site is approximately 10 acres in size. SLC occupies a portion of the site and leases the remainder to USR Metals, Inc. The site consists of several buildings, other structures and open areas. Old Berwick Road (north), Susquehanna River (south), and residential tracts (east and west) bound the site.
From the late 1940s through the 1960s, manufacturing processes at the site utilized several radioactive isotopes including radium-226, strontium-90, cesium-137, americium-241, and tritium (a radioactive isotope of hydrogen). USR products included watch, clock and instrument dials, self-luminous markers (e.g., ship deck markers), radium rope, high-level neutron sources, radiation therapy sources and smoke detector sources.
During the 1940s and 1950s, portions of the site were used for solid and liquid waste disposal. Throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s, two underground silos were used for disposal of radium-226, strontium-90, cesium-137, and americium-241. During the early 1950’s, liquid chemical wastes including strontium-90 were discharged into dry wells on site. In the early 1960s, liquid radioactive wastes were routed to open lagoons on the site for holding, additional processing and eventual discharge into the Susquehanna River. All except two of the lagoons were eventually backfilled.
Various decontamination, remediation and removal activities were initiated in the 1970s. In 1972, Hurricane Agnes caused the Susquehanna River to flood a portion of the site, including the lagoons. This is believed to have contributed to the contamination of the surrounding soils. Additionally, a liquid radioactive waste holding tank and evaporator were destroyed during the flood.
By 1980, manufacturing activities involving radium-226 and most other radioactive isotopes ceased, and tritium remained as the only radioactive isotope in use at the site. Tritium continues to be used today in the manufacture of self-luminous exit signs, aircraft signs and other devices. Waste generated at SLC includes solid and liquid waste streams contaminated with radioactive materials, including radium-226, strontium-90, cesium-137, americium-241, and tritium.
Several sampling investigations and characterization projects have been conducted at the SLC property. In 1981, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) conducted an environmental survey of the SLC property, during which, monitoring wells on the site were found to contain elevated levels of tritium and strontium-90. Elevated levels of radium-226, cesium-137, and strontium-90 were also found in surface and subsurface soils.
The site buildings that are no longer in use are abandoned and in disrepair. The roofs of several buildings have collapsed. The upper story of a contaminated frame house burned in 1998 and in 2003 a hurricane toppled a tree into it causing significant additional damage.
Site cleanup cost estimates vary widely. An estimate prepared for SLC was submitted to the NRC in 2000. This estimate concluded that the site could be cleaned up to levels low enough to allow release of the site for unrestricted use for a cost of $29 million. NRC had an independent evaluation performed on the SLC estimate. This evaluation identified several significant gaps in SLC’s cost estimate which increased the range of the projected cost to $72 million to $152 million.
In 1999, in response to an NRC requirement, SLC began remediation of radiological waste disposed in the two underground silos. The NRC later requested assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for cleanup of the property because SLC had insufficient funds to complete this remediation project and proceed with any other cleanup actions. EPA evaluated the site for inclusion on the National Priorities List (i.e., Superfund) and the Site was listed in April 2005.
EPA is currently conducting a removal action at the property. The scope of the removal action is to characterize and dispose of various containers of radioactive waste currently stored on-site. The containers resulted from remediation of the disposal silos and are awaiting shipment to an approved offsite radioactive waste disposal facility.
EPA has also begun collecting drinking water samples from wells at adjacent residences. EPA will continue collecting groundwater samples on the site and at nearby residences through Spring of 2006. In 2006 EPA will perform an engineering evaluation to determine the best approach for remediation of dilapidated buildings on the site.
DEP, through a Cooperative Agreement Grant from EPA, is providing radiological protection support for EPA activities on the site.
For the latest EPA information on the SLC site visit the following website: <http://epa.gov/reg3hwmd/npl/PAD987295276.htm>
The B&W uranium fuels fabrication plant site is located in Apollo (Armstrong County), PA. Operations at the site were first conducted by Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) under license from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC, predecessor to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)) in July 1957. From 1957 through 1962, NUMEC performed various small-scale fabrication operations as well as high-enriched uranium, low-enriched uranium, and thorium operations at the Apollo facility. By 1963, a continuous low-enriched uranium production line had been installed in the northern third of the Apollo facility.
From 1964 through 1977, the primary function of the Apollo facility was converting uranium hexafluoride (both high- and low-enrichment) to uranium dioxide. These operations included fuel manufacturing, scrap recovery, and materials evaluation, as well as research and development.
The high-enriched operations were terminated in 1978 and the low-enriched operations were terminated in 1983. By October 1984, all of the conversion process equipment was removed and decontaminated for release for unrestricted use or shipped for disposal at an approved disposal site. Extensive characterization and decontamination activities were performed from 1984 to June 1992.
In 1991, due to the decline of the commercial nuclear fuel market and the inability to identify alternate uses for the facility, B&W (successor to NUMEC) decided the facility had reached the end of its useful life. B&W submitted a decommissioning plan to the NRC in August 1991, followed in April 1992 with a formal request to terminate its license. In June 1992, the NRC approved the Apollo Decommissioning Plan. Decommissioning activities described in the plan were performed from June 1992 to 1995. NRC staff completed its review of B&W’s groundwater monitoring data, final termination survey and a confirmatory survey in 1996. On April 14, 1997, after notifying DEP, NRC issued a letter to B&W terminating the Apollo facility license. The Apollo site was removed from the NRC’s Site Decommissioning Management Plan (SDMP) in April 1997.
The B&W SLDA is located in Parks Township (Armstrong County), PA. B&W has been granted and maintains a “possession only” license for the residual radioactive material at this site. The SLDA site consists of ten waste disposal trenches comprising a total area of 1.2 acres surrounded by a 40 acre fenced buffer area. Currently, the SLDA is undeveloped but is fenced for security reasons.
Until 1970, the SLDA was used for the disposal of hazardous and low-level radioactive wastes from a nuclear fuel fabrication facility in nearby Apollo, PA. Based on available records, the radioactive material was placed in the trenches in the SLDA and consists of natural uranium, enriched and depleted uranium, and lesser quantities of thorium, americium, and plutonium. It is estimated that up to 700,000 cubic feet of radioactive material were disposed of in the trenches on the SLDA site.
Cost estimates were prepared for three alternative remediation scenarios, stabilization in place (SIP); stabilization on site (SOS); disposal off site (DOS). The estimated costs for these alternatives were: SIP - $8,323,000, SOS - $39,840,000, and DOS - $60,717,000.
Historical records for the Parks Township area indicate that both surface and deep mining methods were used to remove coal from the seam beneath the area now occupied by SLDA between 1900 and 1920. An abandoned coal mine lies between 60 and 100 feet beneath the upper trench area. Mine subsidence and the possibility of underground mine fires are a concern for this area. Progressive collapse of an abandoned mine over several years recently caused structural damage to residential foundations in nearby Leechburg.
The licensee has previously proposed stabilization of the contaminated material in place with restricted use. The public and Congressman Murtha (U.S. representative for the area) have expressed a preference for disposal off-site.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) produced a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in 1997 that indicated the NRC staff’s preferred alternative was a modified SIP that would include institutional controls and backfilling of the coal mine, but the engineered barriers and cap proposed by the licensee would not be implemented. The rationale used for this alternative was that it would be protective of public health and the environment and would be less costly than the other alternatives. The Draft EIS was subsequently retracted by the NRC, primarily because it chose an option not presented by the licensee.
Two bills sponsored by Congressman Murtha have been signed directing the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) to include the SLDA site in the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) and to remediate the site to levels required for “unrestricted use.” The first bill directed the USACE to include the SLDA in the FUSRAP. Using it’s standard approach for FUSRAP sites, USACE determined that there was no threat of a release from the site and that it could take no further action. The second bill, signed January 14, 2002, directed USACE to remediate the site for unrestricted use. Subsequently, Congress appropriated $5 million for the SLDA remediation.
A schedule has been developed by USACE that indicates that further studies are needed and that site remediation will begin in 2006. DEP will be closely involved in the process because of the hazardous constituents in the waste and because of concerns over the radiological cleanup standards used previously by the USACE at other FUSRAP sites. Due to the quantities of enriched uranium waste on the site, the SLDA will remain under NRC and/or USACE control until remediation is completed.
For the latest USACE information on the SLDA site visit the following website: <http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/fusrap/slda.htm>
The B&W Parks Fuel Fabrication Facility site is situated in Parks Township (Armstrong County), PA, adjacent to the B&W Shallow Land Disposal Area (SLDA). The site occupies approximately 85 acres.
Prior to decommissioning, the site consisted of 3 buildings and open land on an adjacent property.
The BWXT Parks Fuel Fabrication Facility was used for plutonium processing, high-enriched uranium processing and multi-purpose fabrication of uranium and plutonium fuel. The predominate radionuclides of interest in the decommissioning were americium-241, plutonium-241, uranium, cobalt-60 and cesium-137.
In October 1995, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff placed the adjacent SLDA portion of the site on a separate license from the area that was occupied by the fuel fabrication facility.
In July 1997, the NRC completed its review of the decommissioning plan submitted for the BWXT Parks Fuel Fabrication Facility and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). Under the existing license and approved decommissioning plan BWXT was required to remediate the site to levels suitable for unrestricted use which entailed demolishing the buildings after NRC approval of the final status surveys. It was estimated that 44,000 cubic feet of low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) would result from decommissioning the Parks facilities. The total cost of decommissioning this site was estimated at $6.7 million in October of 1996.
As of January 2002 all decommissioning activities have been completed. All waste has been shipped to a licensed waste disposal facility and the Final Status Survey performed. After B&W completed two years of groundwater monitoring showing that site groundwater was within established limits, NRC terminated the license and released the site for unrestricted use on August 24, 2004.
The Molycorp York site is located on the outskirts of the city of York in Spring Garden Township (York County), PA. The site consists of approximately six acres enclosed by a chain link fence.
The York site formerly produced a broad line of inorganic rare earth chemicals for industrial purposes. Molycorp’s rare earth processing utilized raw materials which had above-background concentrations of thorium and uranium. Molycorp began production of rare earth chemicals in the mid-1960’s that resulted in waste products containing thorium and uranium.
In March of 1981, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (DER, now DEP) requested a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspection of the York facility. The inspection indicated that the facility possessed licensable quantities of radioactive source material, but did not possess a NRC license. Molycorp applied for a NRC license in June of 1981 and received its license in February of 1982.
Molycorp ceased production activities at the York site in 1992. Site characterization indicated all the contamination was located near ground surface and that decommissioning the site would be relatively simple, resulting in a waste volume of approximately 5000 cubic yards. However, as work progressed several underground storage tanks were uncovered as well as disposal pits with contamination as deep as 18 feet below ground surface. By the end of 2001 the majority of the contaminated soil had been removed from the site and waste volume estimates ranged as high as 75,000 cubic yards. Molycorp shipped this waste as well as "slightly" contaminated concrete rubble from the site to the Waste Control Specialists disposal facility in Texas.
In early January 2002, under an agreement with Molycorp, DEP personnel (in lieu of NRC) began to perform confirmatory surveys and sampling of some areas where decommissioning activities and final status surveys had been completed. In Spring, 2003 the last of the site buildings was razed.
During 2003 Molycorp addressed the issue of seams of contamination that appeared to extend beyond the site property boundary under North Sherman Street and the Norfolk Southern rail line. Soil samples were obtained from the visible seams and from surface to bedrock off the site in areas adjacent to where contamination seams existed on-site. This sampling effort did not detect contamination off-site. Molycorp has provided a radiological assessment of the potential dose from any residual radioactive material that may exist between the site boundary and the off-site sample locations. The assessment indicated that further remediation was not necessary.
In September, 2004, NRC evaluated Molycorp’s final radiological survey and determined that the site cleanup met the Site Decommissioning Management Plan criteria as well as the unrestricted release dose criteria in 10 CFR 20. The NRC terminated the license for the Molycorp York site property. The NRC staff prepared a Safety Evaluation Report (SER) to support the action.
The Molycorp Washington site is situated in Canton Township (Washington County), PA, on the outskirts of the city of Washington approximately 35 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The site occupies a 55 acre property which includes a 20 acre active facility area and an adjacent 35 acre undeveloped area.
The site consisted of numerous industrial buildings, paved areas and open areas prior to the start of decommissioning. During decommissioning all site buildings were razed and the site now consists of open land.
Operations at the Molycorp Washington facility began in the 1920’s with the production of molybdenum oxide. Molycorp also produced a ferroalloy, ferro-columbium, that contained thorium in concentrations sufficient to require Molycorp to acquire a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) source material license. Molycorp obtained such a license on December 19, 1963. Molycorp’s operation resulted in the generation of a thorium-bearing slag, some of which was used as fill material over portions of the site. Much of the slag produced from this operation was deposited in piles on the southern and northern portions of the site. It was estimated that the volume of material that needed to be addressed as radioactive material totaled approximately 80,000 cubic yards.
Molycorp’s initial decommissioning plan (DP) was submitted in 1995 to the NRC. In that plan Molycorp indicated a preference for on-site disposal of the radioactive waste at the Washington site. The NRC initially rejected this plan due to insufficient information. Molycorp resubmitted the DP for on-site disposal and included an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 cubic yards of radioactive waste from its York plant in the material to be disposed of on the Washington site. The DP proposed utilizing engineered structures, deed restrictions and institutional controls to secure a restricted-release license termination from the NRC. The public mounted considerable opposition to the proposed on-site disposal and especially to disposing of waste from Molycorp’s York site at Washington.
The initial decommissioning cost estimate prepared for the Washington site assumed the York site waste would be included. The costs in that estimate ranged from $4.1 million assuming the waste was disposed of on-site to $50 million assuming the waste was disposed of at a licensed commercial facility. Molycorp first withdrew the proposal for disposal of the York waste at the Washington site and subsequently withdrew its request for a restricted release license termination.
Molycorp shipped the above-grade slag pile waste and waste that had been previously containerized to Envirocare, a licensed waste disposal facility in Utah.
In 2002, Molycorp’s decommissioning contractor began physical decommissioning work on the site buildings. By the end of 2003 all site buildings had been razed and the associated rubble disposed of. By the end of the second quarter 2004 Molycorp completed the supplemental characterization and developed conceptual level integrated site closure plan. This plan addressed remedial activities associated with both radiological and non-radiological materials.
Molycorp plans to complete site decommissioning using NRC approved guidance for averaging soil contamination known as the "AAR method." Molycorp included this guidance in its approved decommissioning plan. Molycorp’s final remedial design for site closure includes a detailed water management plan for excavation activities planned below the water table. This plan specifies the necessary control measures to limit migration of radiological contamination.
Following completion of the final design, Molycorp expects the remedial work will take two full construction years with the majority of the time devoted to remediating the radiological concerns. After excavation activities are complete, any remaining final status surveys will be finalized and submitted to NRC.
The Whittaker Corporation site is situated 3.7 miles south of Greenville (Mercer County), PA. The Greenville Metals Plant and the Shenango River bound the site. The site occupies approximately 5.8 acres.
Whittaker Corporation (Whittaker) processed ferro-columbium and ferro-nickel alloys using an aluminothermic melting process at this site beginning in the 1960s. Manufacturing operations continued until 1974. The columbium ores and nickel scrap used in the manufacturing process contained trace amounts of natural thorium and uranium. The contaminated slag resulting from the process was stored on-site. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) indicated that elevated concentrations of radium-226 were found in some of the contaminated slag.
Thorium and uranium contaminated slag pieces remain in four sections of the site. Sections 1 and 4 consist of scattered pieces of contaminated slag. Section 3 also contains scattered pieces of slag and other contaminated slag in containers to be shipped. Section 2 is predominantly contaminated slag.
Whittaker submitted a decommissioning plan (DP) in 1996. The NRC did not approve this plan. Whittaker originally considered decontaminating the site for restricted release based on cost estimates. However, as Whittaker pursued the restricted release it became apparent that the approach might be more expensive than originally estimated. As a result of the increased estimates and their inability to obtain third-party indemnification, Whittaker and its contractor, Scientech Inc. (now Energy Solutions), decided to try to terminate the license under unrestricted release criteria. In a meeting with NRC and DEP’s Bureau of Radiation Protection (BRP) on November 27, 2001, Scientech management indicated Whittaker’s desire to decontaminate the site for unrestricted release.
Whittaker submitted a new DP in early 2003 for NRC review. However, the DP did not include the required financial assurance. As a result NRC rejected the entire DP. Whittaker resubmitted the DP in August of 2003 with the financial assurance included. The cost estimate provided for the cleanup was approximately $6.7 million. The estimated volume of radioactive waste was 4000 cubic meters.
Decommissioning activities began in July 2004, by Whittaker’s contractor with site cleanup of non-radiological wastes and disposal of some stored radioactive wastes in a licensed waste disposal facility. Selected decommissioning activities were performed under the license in place at that time. In addition, a license amendment request was sent to NRC in May 2004 for crushing and blending contaminated soil and slag for off-site disposal. The proposal was to be approved, but Whittaker was forced to change that plan due to issues with the disposal facility and an error in the estimated amount of higher activity material that was to be blended. The site will now be remediated to the approved release criteria with all waste going to a licensed waste disposal facility.
NRC renewed the current site license in August 2005. Whittaker’s license authorizes decontamination and decommissioning of facilities, packaging of stock materials and radioactive waste; storage of radioactive material and packaged radioactive waste prior to shipment. The license was also amended in 2005 to include the shipment of radioactive waste to a licensed facility. The site cleanup will continue in the spring of 2006. The contractor intends to complete the work in 2006.
Trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination has also been discovered at the site. Personnel from DEP’s Northwest Regional Office (NWRO) are investigating the origin of the contamination. Initial indications are that the contamination is leaching from the surrounding industrial properties into the Whittaker property. DEP’s NWRO has asked that all of the tenants in the industrial park work together to determine the source of the TCE contamination.
The Quehanna Site is situated in the Quehanna Wild Area of the Moshannon State Forest (Girard Township, Clearfield County), approximately 10 miles northwest of Karthaus, PA. The site is surrounded by Commonwealth-owned State Forest and Game lands which the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Pennsylvania Game Commission manage. Most recently, PermaGrain Products, Inc. (PPI) rented the site from DCNR until they filed for bankruptcy (chapter 7) in late December 2002. The site has since fallen under the care of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Commonwealth) while the decommissioning continues.
The site consists of several buildings, a paved parking lot and an access road. The main building is a large interconnected structure where PPI’s operations were formerly conducted, and a separate "Service Area" structure that contained radioactive material handling cells known as "hot cells." Other site buildings include an office trailer, a small wood-fired boiler building, a sawdust collector building (collapsed), and two one-story storage structures.
In June 1955 Governor George M. Leader signed legislation that authorized the construction of a Curtiss-Wright (C-W) research facility at Quehanna. The Commonwealth sold the core area for the site to C-W and leased the balance to them. C-W planned a facility for the development of nuclear-powered jet engines and to conduct research in nucleonics, metallurgy, ultrasonics, electronics, chemicals and plastics. C-W performed some U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC- predecessor to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)) licensed isotope work beginning in 1956. In 1958 the AEC issued a license to C-W to operate a pool-type research reactor at the facility. The facility also included six hot cells used for handling highly radioactive material, various laboratories and support buildings.
In the early 1960s President Kennedy cut the C-W research program, and C-W donated the facility to Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) who planned to use the reactor for student training and research. Penn State, in turn, leased the hot cells to Martin-Marietta Corporation, dismantled the reactor and transferred the nuclear fuel core materials back to the AEC during this period.
Beginning in the summer of 1962 under a lease with Penn State, Martin-Marietta used the hot cells to manufacture several prototype Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power (SNAP) thermoelectric generators using very high specific activity strontium-90 in the form of strontium titanate. Martin-Marietta’s AEC license authorized them to possess up to 6 million curies of strontium. In 1967 Martin-Marietta completed its AEC contract, terminated its lease and vacated the facility after a partial decontamination. A radiological survey was jointly performed by Martin-Marietta, Penn State, and the AEC in April 1967. This survey indicated that, while the facility was acceptably clean for a radiation facility of that era, licensable quantities of strontium-90 stayed behind as structural contamination and residual radioactivity in piping and tanks, estimated at about 0.2 curies. Penn State did question the decontamination effort at the time, and later donated the facility to the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth then leased the facility to Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC), a subsidiary of Atlantic-Richfield Corporation (ARCO). The former reactor pool was converted for use as a large irradiator containing in excess of 1 million curies of cobalt-60. Projects included food irradiation, sterilization, wood irradiation and other processes requiring intense gamma radiation.
In 1978 a group of ARCO employees formed PermaGrain Products, Inc. (PPI) and purchased the wood irradiation process, including the main irradiator, a smaller shielded irradiator and related equipment. PPI operated the site from 1978 to December 2002 as a manufacturer of durable irradiated flooring products. For a period of time PPI amended their NRC license to allow Neutron Products, Inc. (of Maryland) to use the site’s hot cells for cobalt-60 work.
Portions of the facility remained contaminated with strontium-90 resulting from activities of previous owners/tenants. In 1993 NRC required PPI to begin the process of cleaning up this "legacy" contamination. In response, the Commonwealth, as owner of the site, contracted for a site characterization study that same year.
In 1998 NES was awarded a contract by the Department of General Services (DGS) to perform the actual decommissioning work at Quehanna. Initial estimates indicated that this work would cost several million dollars and take six months to complete. 2006 will be the eighth year for the project. Total contract costs through the end of 2005 are approximately $30 million.
NES has undergone several changes in ownership and company name during the period of their involvement in the Quehanna decommissioning project. In 1999 they became known as Scientech, LLC. In October, 2005 Envirocare of Utah, LLC, a radioactive waste disposal company, acquired the Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) Division of Scientech, LLC. The group was renamed to Energy Solutions in February 2006.
Inadequate characterization of the site and the presence of ongoing industrial operations resulted in many project delays and increased costs. The characterization prepared for the Commonwealth in 1993 underestimated the source term in hot cell number 4. This contributed to a release of strontium-90 that spread into the then-operational PPI area of the facility in October 1998 when a Scientech employee cut a tube that contained more radioactivity than expected. Another major issue early in the project was the cleanup of over 3000 curies of cobalt-60 in the form of sealed sources in two of the six hot cells. Radiation levels forced most of this work to be performed remotely.
The October 1998 strontium release event resulted in a decision to restrict all access into hot cell number 4 until further preparations could be implemented (e.g., construction of a robot to dismantle hot cell number 4). Subsequent facility radiological surveys also resulted in the Commonwealth’s conclusion that PPI had to be relocated in order to achieve final termination of the NRC license for legacy contamination. DCNR also made a policy decision that they did not want any industrial use to continue within the Quehanna Wild Area. Working with the county industrial development group, several relocation sites were evaluated and land was purchased for the PPI business relocation.
PPI submitted their license application to the NRC for the design of the new building at the end of October 2001. NRC decided to require PPI to dispose of a bent cobalt-60 source in their possession and to submit to NRC an inventory with mechanical details of source construction to gain certification for the remainder of their sources. NRC would require disposal of any sources that could not be certified prior to authorizing PPI to move to the new facility. All of the relocation efforts ended when PPI filed for bankruptcy in late December 2002. The bankruptcy left approximately one hundred thousand curies of cobalt-60 abandoned at the site. DCNR and DEP quickly took action to maintain the necessary security and monitoring of the cobalt until a plan for proper disposal could be formulated.
Upon PPI’s bankruptcy, day-to-day control of the site fell to the Commonwealth. DEP assumed the responsibility as the licensee on the NRC license for the legacy contamination.
With the bankruptcy of PPI the cobalt-60 irradiator sources were left abandoned in place without a viable licensee. Through a joint effort led by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with the help of the Commonwealth and NRC, the cobalt-60 was removed from the site for disposal. EPA’s contractor finished the cobalt removal at the end of September 2003 and the cobalt was disposed of at the low-level radioactive waste disposal facility in Barnwell, SC.
Scientech continued performing decommissioning activities in the remainder of the contaminated areas of the facility and completed a significant portion of the cleanup. The majority of the remaining cleanup work involved hot cell number 4. A robot was brought to the site for the purpose of removing the highest activity strontium-90 contamination from hot cell number 4. After extensive training in the operation of the robot in a mock-up of hot cell number 4, the robot was deployed into the hot cell in November 2003.
The robot removed a large portion of the steel process system walls and the associated process tubing and tanks. It is estimated that between 10 and 15 curies of strontium-90 were removed from the cell by the end of 2003. The robot work was completed in 2004.
Negotiations with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) prompted a funding agreement to assist with payment for the decommissioning project. It was hoped that these funds would be sufficient to complete the project.
The radiological portion of the Quehanna cleanup was believed to have been completed by the decommissioning contractor (Scientech) at the end of 2004. The contractor completed the final radiological surveys and submitted the Final Status Survey Report (FSSR) to DEP in early February 2005. Following a thorough DEP review and subsequent contractor revision, the FSSR was submitted to the NRC for their review prior to scheduling a confirmatory survey.
NRC and its confirmatory survey contractor, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), could not schedule a confirmatory survey until early May 2005. This confirmatory survey could not be performed sooner due to the time required for NRC and ORAU review of the FSSR and the severe winter weather typical of the Quehanna area. During the time between the FSSR submittal and the confirmatory survey, Scientech maintained a presence on the site, but no interim contamination surveys were performed. During performance of the confirmatory survey by NRC and ORAU, it was quickly determined that the conditions documented in the FSSR were not accurate and that contamination existed in excess of acceptable cleanup levels.
Scientech performed an investigation to determine the cause of the apparent recontamination. Their investigation indicated that a majority of the recontamination activity was due to contamination leaching from the concrete. The investigation indicates contamination existed in the concrete at greater depths than that at which the remediation took place, but was not detectable at the surface. The contamination evidently migrated (leached) back to the surface over the five months between contractor’s last surveys in December 2004 and the NRC’s survey in May 2005.
Scientech performed further remediation during the summer of 2005 to attempt to get the facility back to releasable levels (i.e., in accordance with NRC Regulatory Guide 1.86 criteria). Contamination levels have been significantly reduced, but not to levels that meet the approved NRC release criteria in Reg. Guide 1.86. DEP personnel have been monitoring the site radiological conditions since September 2005 to determine if any further leaching is occurring. The most recent survey was performed in December 2005, and all of the findings to-date do not indicate any significant increase in contamination levels. DEP will continue to monitor the radiological conditions at the site until decommissioning activities resume.
DEP understands the decommissioning approach and release criteria must be reevaluated because of the concrete issues. The existing criteria addresses only surface contamination and the leaching indicates there is volumetric contamination of the concrete. Under the current license conditions it may not be possible to obtain an unrestricted release for the existing building, but a relatively minor change to the decommissioning plan to adopt current regulatory requirements could make it possible to demolish the building without performing significant additional remediation.
The current plan is to gain approval from the NRC to adopt current release criteria stipulated in 10 CFR 20 Subpart E. It is believed that all of the concrete could be released and reused as on-site fill under current NRC regulation and guidance (i.e., 10 CFR 20 Subpart E and NUREG-1757), but it is understood that this is considered a major licensing action and may require up to six months for approval. Once the NRC gives approval for use of current release criteria, the above-grade structures will be removed and disposed of and the site restored to its natural state as a "wild area".
Additional information and Quehanna site photos can be found at the Bureau's "Quehanna Site Facility Cleanup Project" webpages.
The Pesses/METCOA site is situated on Route 551 and Metallurgical Way approximately 1 mile north of Pulaski (Lawrence County), PA. The site is bounded by Buchanan Run (a tributary of the Shenango River) on the South and West, by Route 551 on the East and by a commercial area to the North. The site consists of 22 acres and is owned by the Lawrence County Industrial Development Authority.
The Pesses Company performed foundry operations at this site that resulted in Thorium and heavy metal contamination of site soils and in process wastes stored at the site. The combination of these contaminants resulted in the presence of mixed wastes at the site.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a license to the Pesses Company in September 1975 authorizing them to possess "source material" containing thorium and also to metallurgically treat and/or reprocess scrap thorium alloy containing not more than 2% thorium by weight for distribution to authorized recipients. NRC authorized Pesses Company to possess up to a maximum of 2,000 kilograms of thorium. The license remained in timely renewal status based on a renewal request by the licensee in August 1980.
In late 1982 the Pesses Company merged with its subsidiary, METCOA, Inc. In mid-1983 METCOA entered bankruptcy proceedings. In November 1983 an auction was conducted at the site to liquidate equipment, tools, etc. All of these activities were conducted without the knowledge of the NRC.
During a routine inspection in 1984 an NRC inspector discovered that the licensee had abandoned the site. NRC contacted the licensee and was informed of the bankruptcy proceedings. In January 1986 NRC issued an Order to the licensee and/or its legal successor requiring it to submit a decontamination plan for the site and to complete decontamination efforts within 90 days of NRC approval of the plan. The licensee/legal successor did not respond to the Order.
In 1986 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that the site presented a hazard that merited emergency stabilization under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund). EPA consolidated and stabilized the residual thorium and hazardous materials on the site using Superfund monies. EPA also assembled a group of Potentially Responsible Parties (the METCOA Settling Parties) that have assumed financial responsibility for remediation efforts at the site. Surface contamination and slag were collected, consolidated in piles and covered with plastic. This initial stabilization was completed in 1987. Additional stabilization was conducted in 1989. Drummed materials were moved indoors, a sediment control fence was installed and the slag piles were recovered with geotextile fabric and plastic.
In mid-1998 a contractor for the METCOA Settling Parties completed final cleanup of the site and removal of all wastes for proper disposal. Surveys completed by NRC and DEP personnel in May 1999 confirmed that the site had been decontaminated sufficiently to allow release for unrestricted use. NRC removed the site from the Site Decommissioning Management Plan (SDMP) list and on March 15, 2001 terminated the Pesses/METCOA license.
The Waltz Mill site is situated 3 miles west of New Stanton between the towns of Madison and Yukon (Westmoreland County), PA approximately 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, PA. The site comprises 850 acres of which about 85 acres were developed and utilized.
Westinghouse Electric Corporation (WELCO) purchased the land for the Waltz Mill site in 1955 for the Critical Experiment Station for the design and testing of an open tank low-power reactor. WELCO subsequently constructed the Westinghouse Test Reactor (WTR), a 60 megawatt, low pressure, low temperature reactor. WTR was placed in operation in 1959. WTR experienced a "core disruption" in April 1960 that resulted in partial melting of a fuel element and generated a large volume of radioactive water. This water was placed in numerous above-ground storage tanks and 3 storage basins. WTR was permanently shut down in 1962.
In 1967, WELCO relocated its Advanced Reactors Division (ARD) to the Waltz Mill Site. This resulted in adding several buildings to site including laboratories and offices. ARD performed various nuclear system testing operations at the site, including:
In the early 1970’s WELCO relocated its Nuclear Services Division (NSD) to the Waltz Mill Site. In 1979, soil and groundwater investigations were initiated in the Solid and Liquid Waste Processing Area. Subsequently, remediation measures were implemented to remove contaminated soil and to contain, remove and treat contaminated groundwater.
Handling of radioactive materials at the Waltz Mill Site is currently covered by two U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licenses (TR-2 and SNM-770). NRC license TR-2 is a possession-only license for WTR. All other site radiological activities are governed by NRC license SNM-770.
Site characterization and remediation plans were prepared for portions of the site. WELCO has stated that it is not pursuing license termination at the site and consequently has prepared a remediation plan rather than a decommissioning plan. The plan addresses remediation of contaminated soils and retired facilities (i.e., solid and liquid processing areas, WTR Area, and General Facilities and Soil Areas) of the site covered by license SNM-770. WELCO has prepared a preliminary decommissioning plan for that portion of the test reactor (i.e., reactor containment and related structures) covered by license TR-2.
Most of the radiological contamination can be attributed to the 1960 WTR fuel failure event. The greatest radiological contamination levels at Waltz Mill are located in the northwest (test reactor area) and southeast (solid and liquid waste processing area) portions of the site and a liquid process line that connects the two areas. Contaminated water from the reactor containment was directed to the retention basins via the liquid process line. Radioactive contamination existed in various active and inactive site buildings and in buried liners from the retention basins. Principal radionuclides are identified as cesium-137, cobalt-60, strontium-90, and transuranics.
Decommissioning activities for the TR-2 are near completion with the removal of the fuel, reactor tank, biological shield, and other irradiated materials. Approximately 6.6 million pounds of contaminated concrete have been disposed of as low-level radioactive waste.
The main concern with license SNM-770 is soil and groundwater contamination near the solid and liquid waste process area (i.e., the area encompassing the three retention basins). WELCO has been pumping groundwater from the area since 1986 in order to keep a radioactive contaminant plume on the site. Soil remediation activities, including removal of the three basins, have been completed. This resulted in 262,000 cubic feet of contaminated soil being disposed of as low-level radioactive waste.
WELCO prepared a financial assurance mechanism for decommissioning the Waltz Mill site. The total estimated cost for decommissioning is $38 million ($24 million for license SNM-770 and $14 million for TR-2).
A legal dispute developed in 2002 between Westinghouse and Viacom, Inc. concerning the adequacy remediation efforts at the site. Westinghouse has entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement (Agreement) with Viacom to complete certain decommissioning activities prior to transferring the site’s radioactive materials license to Viacom. Westinghouse asserts that they have met their responsibilities under the Agreement. Viacom contends they have not.
WELCO intends to maintain the SNM-770 license for at least the next 30 years. During this time, groundwater pumping and treatment will continue until such time that the groundwater meets the quality standards necessary for unrestricted use.
The Schott Glass Technologies, Inc. (Schott Glass) site is located on 65 acres in a small industrial park on the outskirts of Duryea (Luzerne County), PA. Duryea is approximately 7 miles north of Wilkes Barre and 7 miles south of Scranton, PA. The Schott Glass property is on a hilltop and includes a steep hillside. An apartment house, a cluster of homes, and a ball field are located beyond 500 feet north and northwest of the property. An unrelated manufacturing facility is beyond 800 ft. northeast of the property. Woods and underbrush are located to the south and east.
Schott manufactured glass and thoriated glass at its Duryea site. Waste glass from the manufacturing process, including the thoriated glass, were placed in a landfill on the property from 1969 until 1980. Individual pieces of thoriated glass contain up to 50,000 pico-curies of thorium per gram of waste glass. Schott’s decommissioning plan proposed to leave the relatively small, discrete volumes of thoriated glass chips in place within the landfill and to install a multi-layered cap over the entire fill area. Both U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the DEP approved the decommissioning plan.
Decommissioning of this site has been completed. The Schott Glass license was terminated and the site was released for unrestricted use by NRC in September 1998. Due to the presence of lead contamination, the site remains under deed restrictions approved by DEP as part of the decommissioning plan.
The Cabot Revere site is situated on Beaver Run Road approximately one-half mile southeast of Revere (Bucks County), PA. The site is bounded on the West and Northwest by Rapp Creek, on the Northeast and East by Beaver Run Road and on the South by various properties. The site occupies approximately 100 acres.
Cabot Corporation owns sites located in Boyertown, Revere and Reading, PA. The Revere and Reading sites are inactive and were covered under U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license SMC-1562. The Revere site is discussed in this summary (Boyertown and Reading are discussed separately).
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Cabot’s predecessor, Kawecki Chemical Corp. (Kawecki) produced steel-grade niobium at the Revere site using ores that contained naturally occurring uranium and thorium at levels defined as “source material” under the Atomic Energy Act. The presence of source material required Kawecki to obtain a license (SMC-1562) from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC- predecessor to the NRC). Kawecki’s process resulted in a silica slag waste material that contained the residual uranium and thorium that was originally in the ore. The niobium refining process was discontinued in 1976 and no additional source material was brought to the site.
After Cabot acquired the site, it was placed on the NRC’s Site Decommissioning Management Plan (SDMP) list of potentially problematic decommissioning sites. Cabot performed a series of decommissioning efforts in 1990, 1992, and 1993 to remove portions of the slag material. A confirmatory survey performed in 1993 by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) showed that there were pieces of slag remaining in the following four areas:
In Cabot’s February 2001 decommissioning report, they indicated that no additional remediation activities were required because "potential exposure levels for the current conditions and any reasonable future conditions are well below the 25 mREM/year criteria for unrestricted release." These dose assessments were based on site characterization information and a February 2001 radiological assessment report including RESRAD computer code analyses.
DEP’s Bureau of Radiation Protection (BRP) performed a verification of site conditions in April 2001. Radiological surveys located individual pieces of slag material in the locations and at the radiological levels indicated in the decommissioning plan. BRP extended the survey beyond the four known locations to look for any unrecorded dumping sites. In a September, 2001 letter the NRC terminated Cabot’s license and released the site for unrestricted use. BRP found no other areas of concern and agreed with the NRC that the license could be terminated.
However, BRP has notified the DEP Bureau of Waste Management concerning the remaining low-level radioactive material on the site. Special concern was given to the material in the Old Pit Area. This area is in the flood plain of Rapp Creek, which is designated as an Exceptional Value Stream by the Commonwealth. This issue has yet to be resolved.
The Cabot Reading site is located in Reading (Berks County), PA on approximately 10 acres of land along the Schuykill River. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensed portion of the site consists of a slag pile that forms part of an embankment on the boundary between the site and railroad tracks on the shoreline of the river.
Cabot Corporation owns sites located in Boyertown, Revere and Reading, PA. The Revere and Reading sites are inactive and were covered under NRC license SMC-1562. The Reading site is discussed in this summary (Boyertown and Revere are discussed separately).
Cabot Corporation’s (Cabot) predecessor, Kawecki Chemical Corp. utilized the site in the late 1960s to conduct a process intended to increase the percentage of tantalum in low-grade ores. The ores contained naturally occurring uranium and thorium at levels defined as "source material" under the Atomic Energy Act. Waste from the process was a glass-like silica slag containing the thorium and uranium which was placed on an embankment at the south end of the property. During cleanup of the processing buildings and cleanup of portion of the port area in Baltimore in 1977 and 1978, decontamination waste and sand mixed with tin slag were placed on the embankment.
In 1998, Cabot sought to terminate their license without remediation activities because (according to their report) "potential exposure levels for the current conditions and any reasonable future conditions are well below the 25 mrem/year criteria for unrestricted release."
The total volume of the slag pile is estimated at 180,000 cubic feet including radiologically contaminated slag, soil, and debris. According to Cabot’s decommissioning plan, the average activity in the waste slag is 45 pico-curies per gram (pCi/g) thorium-232 and associated progeny and 30 pCi/g uranium-238 and associated progeny. Based on studies, the licensee claims that the pile is stable and that the radionuclide leaching is negligible.
An October 1998 Federal Register notice stated that NRC had received Cabot’s decommissioning plan and provided opportunity for a hearing. NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) granted two of the four hearing requests it received. These two parties, the City of Reading and its Redevelopment Authority, reached a monetary settlement with Cabot prior to any hearing and subsequently withdrew their requests.
Cabot submitted a revised Radiological Assessment in March, 2000 that concluded "that concentrations of radionuclides in materials on the site are sufficiently low that the site qualifies for release without restriction on use… without any additional decommissioning activities." The NRC staff agree with Cabot’s conclusion. DEP expressed serious reservations about these conclusions and stated that Cabot’s conclusions "may be based on a source term that significantly underestimates the actual conditions at the site."
NRC issued a draft memorandum in March, 2002 that concluded that "the site can be released for unrestricted use without additional remediation." The following month, DEP personnel related their concerns about NRC’s conclusions to the NRC during a conference call. DEP documented these concerns to NRC in a May, 2002 letter.
NRC’s June, 2002 response to DEP’s letter concluded that "the site can be removed from the Site Decommissioning Management Plan (SDMP) listing and released for unrestricted use without additional remediation." Also in June, NRC released draft versions of the Safety Evaluation Report (SER) and Environmental Assessment (EA) stating that NRC found "the Cabot Reading site acceptable for removal from the SDMP and unrestricted release with no further remediation necessary."
NRC and DEP met in July, 2002 to discuss DEP’s concerns with NRC’s draft SER and EA. These concerns included:
The meeting resulted in the following:
Subsequent to this meeting, the City provided redevelopment plans to the NRC that indicated the site will only be used for light industrial/commercial activities. Based on these plans the NRC decided that an independent land use assessment was not necessary. The Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) received inquiries from nearby residents about potential health effects and occupational exposures related to the slag pile. At a January, 2003 meeting held by the Council of the City of Reading to address residents’ concerns DEP responded to concerns raised by local residents and committed to providing contacts at the Pennsylvania Department of Health for follow-up studies. In addition, DEP is investigating potential Environmental Justice issues associated with the slag pile.
In January, 2003 NRC held a public meeting to address pending licensing actions regarding the Cabot Reading slag pile. Representatives from DEP, ATSDR, and John Hopkins University were in attendance. DEP clarified its previously stated concerns related to Cabot’s plan for unrestricted release of the slag pile. As a result of the meeting, NRC issued in March, 2003 a Request for Additional Information (RAI) regarding Cabot’s decommissioning plan and radiological assessment for the slag pile. Specifically, NRC asked Cabot to:
NRC issued a notice of violation (NOV) to Cabot as a result of a March, 2003 inspection of the site. The NOV stated that Cabot had failed to control access to the slag pile as evidenced by a break in the fence surrounding the slag pile and the discovery of pieces of slag outside the fence. The NOV also stated that Cabot had failed to perform complete radiation surveys around the perimeter of the slag pile. Cabot responded by expanding the fence boundary and performing the required surveys.
In January, 2004, DEP learned of a proposal to extend River Road through a right-of-way along the lower edge of the slag pile. A meeting was held at the DEP Southcentral Regional Office (SCRO) on January 22, 2004 to discuss the proposal. Representatives for the City, various programs in the SCRO, the DEP Bureau of Radiation Protection (BRP), and the NRC participated in the meeting. The City and the Authority believe it is vital to extend River Road to provide access to blighted areas in Reading that have been identified for redevelopment under Pennsylvania’s Act 2 (legislation relating to "brownfields"). The major issue in developing the River Road extension is the presence of the contaminated slag pile. The River Road extension right-of-way extends into part of the slag pile that is contaminated with thorium-232 and uranium-238. Various options for expediting the River Road extension project were discussed, but it was stressed that no action can be taken until a plan that addresses the contaminated slag is approved by the NRC.
Since then Cabot has resubmitted plans to NRC that would not require the disposal of any radioactive material. The plan indicates that in their opinion the site meets the current criteria for unrestricted use. However, they plan to further stabilize the site using rip-rap. NRC has provided this as an option in NUREG-1757, and they are working closely with Cabot to make sure that all requirements will be met. DEP participates in regular conference calls with NRC and Cabot to stay informed in the process. It is expected that Cabot will make an amended submission in March 2006 that will include the specifics of the rip-rap cover as well as a radiological assessment. The issue with the right-of-way also appears to have been resolved by the City. The existing railroad tracks are to be shifted far enough to allow the construction of the access road without disturbing the radioactive slag on the right-of-way.
The Boyertown site is located about 1.6 miles northeast of the borough of Boyertown, PA. The site straddles the border between Berks and Montgomery Counties. Current operations occupy 44 acres of the 170-acre site. The northwest and southwest portions of the site are bordered by West Swamp Creek. Residences border the northeast, southeast and southwest sides of the site. The Boyertown site is an active site and it is covered under U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license SMB-920.
Cabot Corporation owns sites located in Boyertown, Revere and Reading, PA. The Revere and Reading sites are inactive and were both covered under a separate NRC license (SMC-1562). The Boyertown site an active site and is discussed in this summary (Revere and Reading are discussed separately).
According to its NRC license, Cabot is authorized to receive, possess, and process natural uranium and thorium. In 1963, Cabot’s predecessor, Kawecki Chemical Corporation (Kawecki) was first licensed to possess "source material" (material containing uranium and/or thorium in excess of 0.05% by weight). The initial license authorized Cabot to store 11,000 tons of Malayan Tin Slag containing less than 0.1% thorium by weight at the Boyertown site. A mid-1963 license amendment authorized a second storage site in Baltimore, Maryland.
Cabot processes tin slags, tantalite, and columbite ores to extract tantalum and niobium. The ores and slags contain uranium and thorium source material. Operations also include fabrication of products, treatment of industrial liquid waste, and storage of byproduct sludge containing valuable rare earth components. The byproduct sludges are classified as source material.
The Boyertown site was on NRC’s Site Decommissioning Management Plan (SDMP) list because of NRC concerns over the amount of source material that Cabot had in on-site storage (25,000 tons of filter cake). NRC was concerned that Cabot’s financial assurances for decommissioning were insufficient to accommodate the amount of material present. During 1997 and 1998, Cabot transferred the 25,000 tons of filter cake to a NRC-licensed uranium processing facility in Utah. This action led NRC to conclude that Cabot had sufficient financial assurances to cover costs associated with decommissioning. Consequently, NRC removed the Boyertown site from the SDMP list.
In July 1998 Cabot submitted a license amendment request proposing that Cabot evaluate its decommissioning funding plan (i.e., financial assurances) on a 24-month interval. The purpose of the evaluation is to assure that sufficient funds are available for site decommissioning. NRC approved the amendment request in September 1998.
Although the Boyertown site was removed from the SDMP list it should be noted that it appears that Cabot still generates significant quantities of uranium and thorium contaminated sludges. According to a December 1996 Safety Evaluation Report (SER) for license SMB-920, the Boyertown site generated about 5,100 pounds of sludge per day. This sludge contained uranium and thorium contamination at approximately 1% by weight. Cabot’s planned process called for drying the sludge to a form suitable for off-site disposal as low-level radioactive waste. Generation rates were projected at 30,000 pounds per day.
The same SER indicated that filtrate sludge containing near-background levels of uranium and thorium are generated at a rate of 125,000 pounds per day. From 1988-1992 the uranium and thorium content of the filtrate sludges averaged 5.8 and 3.0 parts per million (PPM) respectively. The material was disposed of at the Pottstown landfill.
The Canonsburg site is situated in the Borough of Canonsburg (Washington County), PA, approximately 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The site lies between Chartiers Creek and the Norfolk Southern Rail Corporation tracks. The site occupies 18.6 acres and includes a 6-acre disposal cell and adjacent open land.
The Burrell site is situated in Burrell Township (Indiana County), PA, approximately 1 mile east of Blairsville, PA, 40 miles east of Pittsburgh, PA. The site lies between the Conemaugh River and the Norfolk Southern Rail Corporation tracks. The site occupies approximately 69 acres and includes a 4-acre disposal cell and adjacent open land.
The Canonsburg site was operated as a radium extraction plant by Standard Chemical from 1911 to 1922. Later, Vitro Corporation of America acquired the property and processed ore to extract radium and uranium salts. From 1942 until 1957, Vitro was under contract to the federal government to recover uranium from ore and scrap. The Canonsburg site contained 376,100 cubic yards of residual radioactive materials (RRM). Approximately 54,000 cubic yards of RRM from the site were moved to the Burrell site between October 1956 and January 1957. For the next nine years, the site was used only for storage under a U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC- predecessor to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)) contract. In 1967, the property was purchased by the Canon Development Company and was leased to tenant companies for light industrial use.
Remedial action at the Canonsburg site consisted of placing the RRM in a disposal cell designed to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) longevity standards for 200 to 1,000 years of safe storage. In addition, RRM removed from 163 vicinity properties was brought to the Canonsburg site for disposal. The cell occupies 6 acres and has a clay liner to protect ground water from contamination by RRM. The tailings were placed atop the liner and covered with three feet of clay, soil and a bentonite mixture, which serves to prevent the escape of radon gas from the tailings and the penetration of water into the cell. The radon barrier was then covered with layers of rock and soil and seeded with grass.
Remedial action was completed in 1985 at the Canonsburg processing site. The RRM at the Burrell Township site was stabilized using an approach similar to that used at the Canonsburg site. Remedial action was completed in July 1987. The NRC placed the Burrell and Canonsburg sites under the general license for care and custody of disposal sites in May 1994 and Canonsburg site in January 1996, respectively.
The disposal cells are being managed under the U.S. Department Of Energy’s (DOE) Long-Term Surveillance and Monitoring Program (LTSM) in accordance with site-specific plans. DOE’s Grand Junction Office (GJO), in Grand Junction, CO, has responsibility for the Burrell and Canonsburg sites since September 1994 and April 1996, respectively. The federal government currently owns both disposal cell properties.
In a March 2001 news release DOE announce resumption of work to stabilize the bank of Chartiers Creek at the Canonsburg Site. The actions were necessitated by erosion of the southern bank of the creek.
In an April 2001 report to NRC on the Burrell site, DOE stated that they had scaled back ground water monitoring commitments based on results through year 2000 and proposed discontinuing vegetation control measures on the surface on the disposal cell (based on a June 1999 DOE report, #GJO-99-96-TAR).
The Flannery Building is situated at 3530 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh (Allegheny County), PA. The site consists of a steel frame masonry building with approximately 50,000 square feet of floor space on five floors, a mezzanine and a basement.
The Flannery Building was built circa 1910 by Mr. Joseph Flannery, President of the Vanadium Corp. of America (VCA) and the Standard Chemical Corp. (later Radium Chemical Co.). The building was a major processing and refining facility for radium from the VCA- Canonsburg, PA facility through the 1920’s and 30’s. The first major commercial production of radium from U.S. ores was pioneered at the Flannery Building. Production of self-luminous paint and concentrated radium compounds for medical, industrial and commercial uses was carried out in the fifth floor facilities of the building. At one time the building was said to contain the major portion of the world’s inventory of processed radium. News articles from 1927 showed photographs of a visit by Madam Marie Curie. An estimated 180 grams (or curies) of radium-226 was refined in this facility.
As a result of radium production, residual radium contamination existed on all levels, including the roof. After its use as a radium production facility ceased, the building passed through numerous owners who rented out the building as office space. Interior renovations were made several times. Limited attempts at decontamination were undertaken at various times. In the 1960’s, while under ownership of the Greek Catholic Union, some remediation of the radium contamination was performed by Combustion-Engineering (CE), including pouring a high density concrete slab over the fifth floor to shield out some of the highest levels of radiation. Limited remediation was performed by Applied Health Physics, Inc. (AHP) in selected areas through the 1960’s and 70’s, but no comprehensive characterization or decontamination was carried out during that time.
Parkvale Bank purchased the building in the 1980’s and operated a branch of their bank on the ground floor for many years. In early 1984 Parkvale requested a survey of the building by DER (predecessor to DEP). A limited survey was performed by a Senior Health Physicist from the DER’s Southwest Regional Office (SWRO). On January 27, 1984, DER issued a letter stating that the building met guidelines for unrestricted access. Parkvale Bank sold the building to a local businessman shortly after receipt of the DER letter. The bill of sale state that the building was “free of radiation.” Within a few years the new owner had concerns about the possibility of contamination in the building despite the DER letter and the Parkvale Bank statement in the bill of sale.
The owner’s concern led to an investigation in 1989. AHP completed a survey of portions of the building and reported that radium contamination in excess of unrestricted access limits existed and also that radon levels exceeded EPA limits in some areas. However, AHP also concluded that no contamination existed in areas that would create significant radiological risks to the tenants or public.
Integra Bank, the mortgage holder for the new owner, proceeded to have Quadrex Corp. perform about 10,000 radiation measurements in the building. Although no intrusive measurements were made, this survey was the most comprehensive yet conducted. The Quadrex survey report, issued in 1994, clearly indicated widespread radium contamination. Quadrex also provided a cost estimate ranging from $955,000 to $1.2 million for decontamination. At the time of the Quadrex work, the building was occupied by numerous physicians’ offices, as well as a children’s audiology testing center on the fifth floor. Parkvale continued to operate their bank branch on the ground floor.
Legal action was initiated by the building owner against Parkvale Bank, based on alleged misrepresentation in the sale of the building. Finally, in mid-1998, an out-of-court settlement was reached and Parkvale bought back the building. The building was vacated in April 1999, and Parkvale’s contractor, Enercon Corp, initiated a major characterization and decontamination program in June 2000. In recognition of the building conditions and at the request of Parkvale, DEP’s Bureau of Radiation Protection (BRP) had established unrestricted release criteria in a PA Radioactive Materials License (PA-0821) issued in September 1999 to Parkvale Bank. At the start this phase of remediation work, fixed contamination levels were found as much as 300 times higher than the release criteria.
BRP gave this remediation project priority attention in early 2003, providing guidance to the licensee to ensure this building would finally be cleaned up, after more than 80 years of being contaminated. The licensee worked closely with BRP staff to come to an agreed-upon conclusion that the building was finally cleaned to acceptable levels for release for unrestricted use. The license was terminated in September 2003.
Work accomplished prior to license termination:
This project required a special approach when it was discovered that it was not feasible to achieve the strict release criteria, requested by the licensee, everywhere in the building. BRP worked with the licensee to develop individual dose assessments for locations that exceeded the strict release criteria. These areas, for reasons of structural integrity, inaccessibility, and/or safety concerns, could not be decontaminated further. Staff from the DEP SWRO performed checks at each of these locations, and each location was given final approval based on a review of all the documentation provided by the licensee and the SWRO staff.
BRP staff reviewed all the information provided by the licensee and performed independent radiological surveys of the building. As a result, Radioactive Materials License Number PA-0821 was terminated in September 2003 allowing the building to be released for unrestricted use.
More hyperlinks to decommissioning issues at and a history of the Flannery Building can be found on the Bureau's "Decommissioning the Flannery Building for Unrestricted Use" webpage.
The Frankford Arsenal site is situated in the city of Philadelphia (Philadelphia County), PA. The site is bounded on the North by Tacony Street, on the South by Frankford Creek and the Delaware River and on the West by Bridge Street and on the East by commercial property. The site occupies approximately 110 acres.
The site consists of a business park operated by Hankin Management Co. Site occupants include the PA Fish and Boat Commission, the Dietz and Watson, Inc. meatpacking plant and a City of Philadelphia High School. About 1200 people are employed on the site.
The Frankford Arsenal site derives its name from the former major military installation that was established on the property circa 1816. The arsenal closed in 1977 and most of the site was sold and is now operated as a business park.
The first recorded use of radioactive material at the site was radium dials in the 1940’s. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s depleted uranium (DU), used in fabrication and testing of munitions, became the predominant radionuclide. Small amounts of tritium were also used in luminous instruments. Other radionuclides used include strontium-90, cobalt-60 and cesium-137. Although there are historical indications that an undetermined amount of radium may have existed at the site, there has never been a PA radium license for this site.
The site is currently being used as a business park. Although previous U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licenses for DU and tritium were terminated after remediation in 1980-81, it has since been determined by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) that the site may not meet the criteria for unrestricted release. In response, NRC placed this site on a list of sites that required further evaluation.
In addition to possible radiological contamination, this site may contain unexploded ordinance (UXO), and/or toxic wastes. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineering (USACE) performed a review of the site to determine if it qualified for cleanup funds from the Formally Utilized Defense Sites (FUDS) program.
A Historical Site Assessment (HSA) was issued in December 2001. It was followed by a scoping survey to "determine if the present residual concentrations of the RCOPCs [Radioactive Contaminants of Potential Concern] in buildings and land areas at the FFA [former Frankford Arsenal] facility support the prior license termination action to release the Site for unrestricted use." The scoping survey report, issued in July, 2003, stated that "the results do not indicate widespread or considerable concentrations of residual radioactive material at the FFA."
The HSA identified a large list of Radioactive Contaminants of Potential Concern. Since the use of radionuclides ceased more than twenty-five years prior to the scoping surveys, only radionuclides with sufficiently long half-lives (i.e., greater than 3 years) could remain in existence at the site. They are:
None of these radionuclides were found during the scoping survey in concentrations sufficient to require remediation. Upon completion of the Radiological Scoping Survey Report of the Frankford Arsenal, USACE concluded that the site had been closed successfully and no hazardous radiological contaminants remained.
Regarding the potential hazards from UXO on the site, USACE hosted a public meeting on February 9, 2005, in Philadelphia to discuss USACE plans to address potential unexploded/unstable munitions at the former Frankford Arsenal. Simultaneously, USACE issued a draft Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) that contained recommendations and alternatives for response actions to address UXO at the former Frankford Arsenal.
The Royersford Wastewater Treatment Facility site is situated in Royersford (Montgomery County), PA.
The Royersford Wastewater Treatment Facility (RWTF) is a small wastewater treatment facility that processes the wastewater from the town of Royersford prior to discharging it into the Schuylkill River. RWTF is located in close proximity to a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensed nuclear laundry owned by UniTech Services Group (UniTech), formerly Interstate Nuclear Services (NRC license 37-23341-01, docket 030-20934).
UniTech accepts radioactively contaminated protective clothing from various facilities, launders the clothing and reissues the "clean" clothing back to the facilities. UniTech’s license allows them to discharge the wastewater containing radioactivity resulting from their process at or below the concentration limits specified in NRC regulations. Until January, 2004 this wastewater went directly to the RWTF along with the town’s wastewater.
The wastewater treatment process at RWTF caused the low levels of fission and activation product radioactivity, released by UniTech, to become concentrated in the sludge, filtrate and filter cake material at their facility. The result is a number of contaminated areas at the RWTF including reed beds (used for sludge dewatering), process cells and holding tanks.
Starting in February, 2004 UniTech began discharging its liquid effluent, after on-site processing and sampling, directly to the Schuylkill River. This has stopped discharges from UniTech’s facility to RWTF and has terminated further concentration of radioactivity at RWTF. It has not resolved the issue of cleanup and disposal of the radioactivity already on-site.
RWTF lacks the financial resources to fund the shipment of the radioactive materials on-site to a low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) disposal facility. Furthermore, UniTech has acted within the regulations and is currently not considered to be responsible for the cleanup and disposal costs.
During 2004, the digester tanks at RWTF became full and needed to be cleaned out. Based on the results of a dose evaluation, DEP authorized RWTF to send the sludge from these tanks to Pottstown Sewage Treatment Plant where it was processed and the resulting filter cake was disposed of in a municipal waste landfill.
Sludge contained in the RWTF reed beds was outside of the scope of the dose evaluation and remains on-site. Potential scenarios for disposal of this sludge include sending it to a LLRW disposal facility if funding can be secured, granting an exemption for disposal at a landfill or construction of an on-site disposal cell.
It is likely that more site characterization and dose calculations will be necessary prior to making decisions. In the meantime, radiation dosimeters positioned at various locations around the site are analyzed quarterly to assure the safety of the workers on-site. This facility is not licensed by the NRC.
The Superbolt site is situated in the town of Carnegie (Allegheny County), PA approximately 5 miles southwest of downtown Pittsburgh. The site is bounded on the north, west and south by Chartiers Creek and on the east by Superior Street. The site occupies approximately 25 acres.
The site consists of several manufacturing buildings, office buildings and surrounding open areas. The portion of the site where U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC, predecessor to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)) work was performed consists of one building and adjacent area occupying approximately 1 acre. This building is currently owned by Superbolt, Inc (a manufacturer of mechanical stud and bolt tensioning equipment ) and is currently used for storage.
The Superbolt site was formerly owned by Superior Steel Corporation (SSC). SSC fabricated uranium fuel elements under contract to the AEC, at the site during the 1950’s.
SSC fabricated flat plate-type reactor fuel elements under contract to the AEC from 1952 to 1957 at this facility. The process consisted of operations such as rolling, brushing, shaping, cutting and stamping. These operation generated large quantities of radioactive dust. Cleanup during operation was limited to water wash-down of the processing equipment and facilities. No records have been found indicating that any final cleanup and surveys were performed at the time the contract was terminated in 1957.
In 1980 the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sponsored a preliminary survey of the site. The survey was performed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) and indicated that the site was contaminated with residual uranium. Contamination was found on floors, other building surfaces, in soil in sub-floor pits, and in an adjacent storage shed. A full characterization could not be completed due to conditions at the site (i.e., heavy equipment stored in the facility and heavy coke dust on building surfaces).
In 1985 the DOE identified the former SSC site as a site that was used by DOE’s predecessor agencies. DOE’s study of the historical records related to the former SSC site resulted in its determination that DOE did not have the authority to perform remedial actions under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Plan (FUSRAP) at the site.
In 1997 Applied Health Physics, Inc. (AHP) was contracted to perform a preliminary radiological characterization of the site and subsequently to perform soil and concrete remediation in the storage shed area.
During the summer of 2000, ORAU performed Phase 1 of a radiological scoping survey at the Superbolt site at the NRC’s request. This limited scope survey indicated that "significant residual contamination remains at the site within soils at the north and southwest ends (Salt Bath and Storage Shed areas, respectively) of the exterior of the facility and on the horizontal structural surfaces (floor and overheads) within Area C" (former uranium milling area). The survey report suggests that a more comprehensive characterization be performed at the site.
In January, 2002, DEP and NRC personnel visited the site to examine conditions and take radiation measurements. During this visit they discovered contamination in an adjacent, connected structure not previously thought to be part of the original fuel fabrication operations.
During August, 2003 ORAU performed Phase 2 of the radiological scoping survey project at the Superbolt site. The objectives of these surveys were “to determine if significant contamination remained on other portions of the site and to provide additional survey documentation for previously surveyed areas to further support future remediation of contaminated areas and/or to identify areas that are suitable for unrestricted use.” Information was also gathered to support development of a cost estimate for Phase 3 of the project, i.e., evaluation of the under-floor pits/trenches.
The results of the Phase 2 surveys indicate that "significant contamination, exceeding guidelines, remains … in Area 23B [currently used for storage] and … Area 23C. There were several areas of elevated activity throughout each of the other areas (Areas 23A [Mill Area], 23D [Rolling Area], and 23E [Motor Room]).”" Contamination was found on floors, lower walls, in dusts/residues, and in soil. Both fixed and removable contamination was found.
During each successive phase of survey efforts at this site, additional areas of contamination have been discovered.
The owners of this site have limited funds available to pay for cleanup work.
NRC and DEP plan to continue investigations at this site and discuss potential cleanup options. DEP is pursuing DOE to reconsider the site for inclusion in FUSRAP.
The Kiski Valley Water Pollution Control Authority Sewage Treatment Plant Ash Lagoon site is situated in Leechburg (Armstrong County), PA approximately 25 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The site is situated along the Kiskiminetas River and occupies approximately 1 acre.
The site consists of an ash lagoon located on the east end of the sewage treatment plant property. The lagoon, which has a clay liner, is 2 to 3 meters deep at the center and contains approximately 9,000 cubic meters of ash. A berm, 2 to 3 meters in height, surrounds the lagoon.
In December 1975, the Kiski Valley Water Pollution Control Authority’s (KVWPCA) treatment plant was placed into service. KVWPCA provides sewage service to approximately 8,800 customers.
In March 1977, KVWPCA started receiving waste water flow from the Babcock and Wilcox (B&W) Apollo nuclear fuel fabricating facility. B&W’s discharge consisted of sanitary sewage and wash water from a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensed nuclear decontamination laundry. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (DER, now DEP) revoked B&W’s permit to discharge the wastewater directly into the Kiskiminetas River and required B&W to discharge these waste streams to the sewage treatment plant. KVWPCA maintains they accepted the B&W waste stream under pressure from DER with the assurance that the discharge would be monitored for radionuclides by the NRC. In 1984, the B&W Apollo facility ceased operation and stopped discharging into the KVWPCA system.
The sewage treatment process included collection of solid wastes from both the primary and secondary treatment sections followed by dewatering and incineration on-site. The resulting ash was pumped as a slurry into a lagoon. KVWPCA stopped sending ash to the lagoon in June 1993. In 1994, KVWPCA was working with DEP to close the lagoon due to its being filled to capacity. As a requirement of the lagoon closure plan, radiological testing of the lagoon ash was performed by KVWPCA and DEP. These tests showed elevated levels of radionuclides in the ash at the bottom of the lagoon. DEP sent a portion of the ash sample collected from the lagoon to the NRC for confirmatory testing. The NRC results also showed elevated radionuclide levels in the ash.
In early 1995, the NRC performed a partial characterization of the lagoon. The results showed radionuclide levels in the ash were well above the limits for unrestricted use. The NRC characterization indicated that the apparent source of the radionuclides was the B&W Apollo facility. However, NRC records indicate the Apollo facility never discharged wastewater that exceeded their radioactive discharge limits. (Note: In 1994 NRC revised the regulations on radioactive discharges such that radionuclides in an insoluble chemical form can no longer be discharged to wastewater treatment plants by NRC licensed facilities. This revision is intended to prevent wastewater treatment plants from re-concentrating the radioactive material as was inadvertently done by KVWPCA).
Analysis of samples from the ash lagoon indicate concentrations of low-enriched uranium (i.e., approximately 4% uranium-235) averaged 78.7 pico-Curies per gram (pCI/g) and ranged up to a maximum of greater than 900 pCi/g. Based on the characterization data, it was calculated that the ash lagoon contains approximately 16 kilograms of uranium-235 and 400 kilograms of uranium-238.
Numerous meetings have been held between DEP, NRC, KVWPCA, and B&W to discuss remediation of the ash lagoon. B&W and KVWPCA reached an agreement which provides funding from B&W to develop a remediation plan and pay for some portion of the remediation costs.
The options considered by KVWPCA in the past included on-site stabilization, disposal of some or all of the waste at a municipal landfill and disposal at a licensed low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) disposal facility. The cost estimates for these options were $2.3 million for on-site stabilization, $1.4 million for disposal at a landfill, and $6 million for disposal at a LLRW facility (in 2002 dollars).
On January 5, 2005, NRC published in the Federal Register (Volume 70, No. 3, pages 925, 926, 927 & 928 individual PDF files, 925-928 complete HTML), a Notice of Availability of Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for the KVWPCA Site. The Environmental Assessment (EA) concludes that that all of the contaminated ash in the lagoon meets NRC’s criteria for unrestricted use and that there is no further need for NRC action at the KVWPCA site. This determination is based on dose assessments conducted in accordance with current NRC regulations (10 CFR 20, Subpart E) and NRC guidance regarding decommissioning sites contaminated with radioactive materials. NRC had previously published this as a Draft EA in the Federal Register (69 FR 56102, 56103 & 56104 individual PDF files, 56102-56104 complete HTML) requesting comments on the proposed action and on the Draft EA. NRC did not receive any comments.
NRC dose assessments were conducted for a wide range of potential scenarios including leaving the ash in place or removal of all of the contaminated ash from the KVWPCA site with disposal at a permitted municipal waste landfill. Based on NRC’s dose assessments, DEP will now consider a closure plan for the ash lagoon that includes disposal of the contaminated ash at a permitted municipal waste landfill in Pennsylvania in compliance with Pennsylvania’s solid waste regulations.