Why the BGRR is Being Decommissioned
The Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor (BGRR) at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) is being decommissioned because the Department of Energy (DOE) decided in 1968 that it would be permanently closed. The reactor was shut down as it no longer provided the high neutron flux levels preferred by researchers and available at the High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR).
The BGRR was the world’s first reactor built solely to perform scientific research on peaceful uses of the atom. It was an air-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor. It operated from 1950 to 1968, and served as a valuable research facility.
Interim Cleanup Actions
Deactivation of the BGRR was initiated in September 1969. In March 1972, the last fuel element was removed from the reactor and shipment of the fuel to the DOE Savannah River Site was completed shortly thereafter. Portions of the facility were used as the BNL Science Museum from 1977 through 1997.
Certain structures, components and some soils associated with the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor (BGRR) are radiologically contaminated as a result of normal operation, water intrusion, and leaks throughout the history of the facility.
A number of removal actions and other interim actions were taken to reduce the radiological footprint of the BGRR complex and reduce the potential threat of contamination leakage to the environment. These actions included the removal of contaminated water from the below ground ducts, contaminated equipment from within the reactor building, contaminated debris from the exhaust fan house, contaminated soil and debris associated with the removal of the pile fan sump and fuel canal water treatment house, debris associated with removal of the above ground ducts, and contaminated steel and filter elements from within the below ground exhaust ducts.
Record of Decision
In March 2005, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and the regulatory agencies, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) agreed on a final remedy for the decommissioning of the BGRR. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) also played an active role in the remedy selection process.
The Record of Decision (ROD) for the BGRR documents the final remedy. It requires removal and permanent off-site disposal of the reactor, which includes the graphite-moderator (Pile) and the associated radiation biological shield (Bioshield). The ROD does not require the removal of all radioactive contamination. Because residual radioactivity will remain at the BGRR complex even after this decommissioning project is completed, an engineered cap will be installed to prevent rainwater from coming in contact with the contamination thus protecting the underlying groundwater. Land use and institutional controls will be established and remain in place until residual radioactivity decays to a level below human health and regulatory concern.
Monitoring of the groundwater in the vicinity of the BGRR will continue in accordance with the Operable Unit III ROD which details the selected remedial actions for areas of groundwater contamination at BNL.
Planning and Preparations for Decommissioning
Detailed planning and preparations for implementing the remedy documented in the ROD are currently underway. The decommissioning of the BGRR is expected to be completed in 2010.
Last Modified: October 1, 2010