BGRR Above-ground Concrete Air Duct Removal

July 2000

BGRR Above-ground Concrete Air Duct Removal

BGRR Above-ground Concrete Air Ducts


The Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor (BGRR) decommissioning project was divided into seven sub-projects as a result of the BGRR Decommissioning Project Removal Action Alternatives Study, January 2000. The projects were scheduled beginning with the easiest and moved to the more difficult, and from the items taking the least time to complete to those that would require more time to plan and execute. Removal of the above-ground air duct was part of sub-project Step 3.

Most of the BGRR cleanup projects took place under federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Removal Actions. These are cleanups where known contamination is dealt with as quickly as possible, to remove the potential for it to affect human health or the environment, in the absence of a Record of Decision (ROD). A ROD is a CERCLA decision document that requires more detailed and time-consuming characterization and analysis of contamination sources and possible cleanup options.


The Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor was an air-cooled reactor. During operation, cooling air was pulled through the reactor pile and sent through a series of filters and coolers within below- and above-ground ducts. The air was forced through the fuel element channels, which ran horizontally through the graphite cube. Air speed varied from 40 miles per hour in the ducts to over 100 mph in the narrower passageways. Once through the reactor, the air exited out two large plenums, two underground steel-lined concrete ducts, and then through a series of filters, coolers, and primary exhaust fans prior to discharge through the familiar 100-meter red and white stack.

The concrete above-ground ducts, part of the original BGRR construction, were about 225 feet long. The concrete outer surface of the ducts was found to be deteriorating; Age and exposure to weather was causing small pieces of concrete to flake off. This could become a potential hazard to workers and also opened a source of rainwater intrusion. The Department of Energy and BNL concluded that removal of the ducts needed to be performed as a time-critical Removal Action. Time-critical Removal Actions are approved by the EPA when there is a need for an immediate response to a known hazard. In November 1999, the BGRR Above-Grade Duct Removal Action Memorandum was issued.

Description of Removal Action

After planning and training were completed and equipment in place, work began in July 2000, and the first sections of the duct work were removed. After applying a fixative to the expansion joints and a strippable fixative to the duct interior surfaces to prevent the spread of radiological contamination during cutting, lifting, and transport; the 50-year old ducts were cut into sections using diamond-wire saws. The sections, which weighted up to 168,000 pounds, were lifted down and cut into 18 smaller pieces and packaged and shipped off-site. A total of 23 pieces of concrete were shipped to Envirocare. The total estimated cost of the project was $2,860,772. The project was reported as completed in the April 2002 edition of Cleanupdate.

Community Outreach

The BGRR Above-Grade Ducting Removal Action Memorandum was issued on November 17, 1999. Removal actions are "fast track" cleanups where contamination is dealt with as quickly as possible to remove the potential for contamination to affect human health or the environment. While there was no specific formal comment period required, community values and concerns were obtained in three roundtable meetings held in July and August 1999. A second set of roundtable meetings were held in October and November 1999 to describe the decommissioning alternatives that had been identified. Regular updates were provided at the monthly meetings of BNLs Community Advisory Council which had been formed in 1998 and to DOEs Brookhaven Executive Round Table. The Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor Decommissioning Project Removal Action Alternatives Study, which addressed all the proposed removal actions associated with the BGRR, was released in February 2000. A 30-day public comment period and a workshop and open house were held on this over-arching draft document.

Also, recognizing that the BGRR project would be on-going for an extended period of time, opportunities for additional input from the public were sought. It was decided that a Working Group consisting of local residents and representatives of several Suffolk County agencies and the Labs Community Advisory Council would be formed and that the BGRR website would be expanded. Weekly status reports were posted on the web site and the Working Group held its initial meeting in June 2000 and met monthly thereafter until April 2003.

Prior to signing the BGRR Record of Decision (ROD) in 2005, cleanup activities were completed under Removal Actions. The remaining cleanup actions at the BGRR such as the removal of the pile and bioshield and the final engineered cap, were performed as remedial actions under the ROD.

Documents / Links

BGRR Record of Decision