Since the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor (BGRR) was shut down in 1968, many actions have been taken as part of the complex decommissioning. The actions undertaken throughout the BGRR complex ensure that the structures that remain are in a safe and stable condition and prepared it for long-term surveillance and maintenance.
The decommissioning of the BGRR was conducted under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). In 1992, an Interagency Agreement (PDF) among the DOE, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) became effective. The IAG provided the overall framework for conducting environmental restoration activities at BNL.
The selected remedial alternative is documented in the BGRR Record of Decision (PDF) which was approved by the DOE and EPA with the concurrence of the NYSDEC on January 31, 2005. The selected remedy included removal of the graphite pile, biological shield, canal structure, reasonably accessible contaminated soils, and the installation of a water infiltration control engineered cap and monitoring system for the remaining structures and subsurface contaminated soils. The BGRR reactor building is located within the central portion of the BNL site.
The actions undertaken to decommission the BGRR included removing contaminated structures, hazardous materials, and radioactively contaminated equipment and components to deactivate and stabilize the remaining portions of the facility in preparation for long-term storage. The actions taken included:
Historical leaks and spills at the BGRR complex have resulted in concentrations of Strontium-90 (Sr-90) in groundwater above the drinking water standards. The leak was confined to Lab property and both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) agreed that it posed no threat to BNL employees or to public health, nor did it affect any drinking water supplies.
The selected remedy for these areas of Sr-90 contamination was groundwater extraction, treatment using ion exchange, and on-site discharge of the treated water. The treatment system began operating in January 2005. The system consists of nine extraction wells. Three extraction wells are located south of the BGRR and six are located south of the WCF. The extracted water is piped to the treatment system located inside Building 855 where it is treated with Clinoptilolite resin to remove the Sr-90. The groundwater is also treated for low-level concentrations of VOCs using liquid-phase activated carbon. The water is recharged via three drywells located 850 feet west of Building 855.
Monitoring of the BGRR groundwater contamination continues in accordance with the Operable Unit III Record of Decision (PDF) which details the selected remedial actions for areas of groundwater contamination at BNL. The treatment system is expected to operate until 2026 and will be monitored until drinking water standards are met by 2070. The current status of the groundwater treatment is discussed in the annual Groundwater Status Reports.