After being placed in standby mode in 1968, the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor (BGRR) was permanently shutdown in 1969. The BGRR was BNL's first big machine and the first peace-time reactor to be constructed in the United States following World War II. The reactor's primary mission was to produce neutrons for scientific experimentation and refine reactor technology. The BGRR was modeled after the X-10 reactor at Oak Ridge, TN. Construction was completed in 1949 and it first achieved criticality in 1950. (For more information see the 1950 entry BGRR Began Operation.)
Decommissioning the BGRR
Deactivation of the BGRR began in September 1969. In March 1972, the last fuel element was removed from the reactor. Shipment of the fuel to the DOE Savannah River Site was completed shortly thereafter.
During a site-wide top-to-bottom Facilities Review in September 1997, standing water was discovered in a vertical pipe connected to the below-ground ducts that had been used to cool the BGRR. The radiologically-contaminated water was removed, processed, and disposed of off site in December 1997. To reduce the potential threat of contamination leakage to the environment interim cleanup actions were taken at the BGRR to reduce its radiological footprint.
Planning for final decommissioning of the BGRR began in 1997 and was completed in January 2005 when the Record of Decision under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) was signed. During the planning process, interim cleanup actions or Removal Actions, were completed to reduce or eliminate potential threats to human health and the environment. The actions included the removal of:
- Five cooling fans
- The pile fan sump
- Aboveground concrete air ducts
- Lower canal and Water Treatment House
- Cooling coils and filters
- Below-ground ducts
- Fuel canal and soils, and
- Demolition of the Instrument House
Final decommissioning is expected to be completed in 2011 following the removal of the graphite pile and bioshield and after installation of an engineered cap over the BGRR footprint. Land use and institutional controls and routine monitoring will ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup.
While there was no specific formal comment period required for the Removal Actions, community values and concerns were obtained in roundtable meetings held in 1999. Possible alternatives for cleanup were developed at these meetings. Additional outreach events were held in February 2000 on the over-arching draft document the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor Decommissioning Project Removal Action Alternatives Study which addressed all the proposed removal actions associated with the BGRR. Regular updates were provided at the monthly meetings of BNLs Community Advisory Council (CAC) which had been formed in 1998 and to DOEs Brookhaven Executive Roundtable. In 2000, a BGRR Working Group was established. The Group met monthly from June 2000 through April 2003 and provided input to the decision-making process.
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