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For Release: April 1, 2002

Sally V. Harrington
Media Relations Office

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Approves NASA Decommissioning Plan

The way has been paved for NASA's Glenn Research Center to proceed with the decommissioning of the closed Reactor Facility at its Plum Book Station in Perkins Township, near Sandusky, Ohio.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved Glenn's Decommissioning Plan and amended the current license for the facility on March 21. The closed Reactor Facility consists of a 60-megawatt test reactor and100-kilowatt mock-up test reactor that operated from 1961 to 1973 testing the effects of radiation on materials used in space flight. Glenn anticipates that the Decommissioning will be complete by the end of 2007.

"We are extremely pleased to receive the NRC's approval," said Glenn Director Donald J. Campbell. "Their approval of our approach reflects confidence in the capabilities and experience of our project team which has worked to make this first Decommissioning milestone possible. The pre-decommissioning activities to date were just the beginning; now the real work begins."

Glenn has assembled a Federal Sector Team, which brings together NASA, Argonne National Laboratories (a part of the U.S. Department of Energy) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). This federal partnership will take advantage of the expertise and experience of these three agencies and enable the decommissioning project to benefit from the wide range of expertise that is required. USACE was selected because of their demonstrated expertise in the management of large construction projects and access to a group of prequalified contractors with experience in large-scale cleanup projects. For decommissioning the Reactor Facility, USACE has brought in Montgomery Watson Harza, Pasadena, Calif., as its prime contractor, along with subcontractors Duke Engineering & Services, Charlotte, N.C., and MOTA Corporation, Columbia, S.C., both of whom have radiological expertise.

During Decommissioning, which is often referred to as "construction in reverse," crews will remove and dispose of all radioactive components, equipment and materials within the Reactor Facility, thoroughly decontaminate and then remove all buildings and structures at the facility to three feet below grade and backfill the area with clean fill. When the project is complete, the area will meet the NRC's criteria for unrestricted use. The levels of radiation will be the same as area background levels, and the area will be clean enough to use for any purpose.

While awaiting NRC approval, NASA has successfully completed a number of pre-decommissioning activities, including the removal of loose equipment from the Reactor Facility and the packaging and transport of a shipment of low-level, solid, radioactive waste to Alaron, a licensed reprocessing facility in Pennsylvania.

"The NRC's approval represents another milestone, as we transition from a standby mode to an operational mode," said Tim Polich, Glenn Decommissioning Project Manger. "I'm excited about the direction we're going in -- one that will lead to our ultimate goal of a safe and successful Decommissioning."

Glenn is fully responsible for all aspects of decommissioning with its top priority being safety--safety of the public, safety of the workers and safety of the environment. NASA's commitment to safety is evidenced in every aspect of the project, which includes an in-depth safety analysis of each and every task and a rigorous program of safety training. Also in place is a comprehensive radiation protection program, requiring decommissioning workers to pass through full-body monitors at the start and end of each shift and providing them with personal dosimeters to measure their monthly and cumulative exposure to radiation on the project. NASA is also conducting continuous environmental air monitoring at locations both inside and outside the Reactor Facility. Air samples are taken and analyzed on-site each week, while samples of the area's surface water, groundwater and sediment are sent to an off-site laboratory for analysis each month. All results to date have been well within normal area background levels.

Throughout decommissioning, NASA intends to continue its commitment to open communication and public outreach. NASA has undertaken a number of initiatives to keep the public informed about the Decommissioning Project which include the following:

  • The establishment a 24-hour, toll-free Information Line (1-800-260-3838) that provides project updates and enables callers to request information and leave messages for NASA team members
  • The creation of a website ( that provides visitors with several sources of project information
  • The formation of a Community Workgroup - consisting of Erie County residents representing a wide variety of constituencies and professions - that serves as a vehicle for two-way communication between NASA and the larger community. The Workgroup has met quarterly with project officials since 1999.

Plum Brook Station is a test installation sight located about 50 miles west of Glenn on 6400 acres of land, which provides the required clear zone areas for testing done in four world-class test facilities. The facilities are used to perform complex and innovative ground tests for the United States government (civilian and military), the international aerospace community and the private sector.

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Page updated by Angela L. Spruce (Indyne, Inc.), Community and Media Relations Office

Responsible official: David M. DeFelice, Community and Media Relations Office


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