BGRR Coolers and Filters Removal

October 2003

BGRR Coolers and Filters Removal

BROKK manipulator remotely removing filters


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. This action was sub-project No. 5.

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 BGRR operated from 1950 until 1968. It was fueled with natural uranium until 1958 and enriched uranium until it was shutdown. There were 28 ruptured fuel cartridges reported during the lifetime of the reactor. These fuel failures lead to the contamination of the cooling system and its components.

Located in the underground part of the air ducts, there were a total of 12 banks of coolers. Each duct contained 6 cooler banks and each bank was 3 feet wide, 2 feet deep, and about 10 feet high. The coolers were replaced once during the early pile operations due to excessive chilled water leakage. The filter housing was located at the end of the below ground ducts and filtered exhaust air from the reactor. Each filter cell consisted of a box-like frame with a removal cover and was 2 feet square by 4 inches deep. The frame consisted of 30 square feet of filter media. The filter cells were permanently welded together to form panels of 10 filter cells each, 2 cells high by 10 feet wide by 4 inches deep. Each panel weighed about 450 pounds. A total of 32 panels composing 320 filters were placed in each duct.

In 2000, samples taken from the coolers and filters identified radiological (plutonium-238 and cesium-137) and hazardous material (lead) contaminants. Asbestos was also present in the caulking that was used to seal the filter frame to the filter housing.

Description of Removal Action

The duct cooling coils and exhaust filters were removed by a remote-controlled device called the BROKK manipulator. All demolition was carried out in a temporary structure erected on a concrete slab. The filter material was broken into small pieces and removed through a vacuum hose connected to a cyclone separator. The material was then compacted on-site, packaged, and shipped off site for disposal at a licensed facility. More than 1,470 cubic feet of debris from the coolers, metal debris, and debris from the filters was generated. The project was completed in January 2004.

Community Outreach

There were numerous opportunities provided for stakeholders to provide input. As with previous Removal Actions, the Roundtable meetings held in 1999 helped to determine the extent of the BGRR cleanup activities. Additional input was received on the Decommissioning Project Removal Action Alternatives Study during the public comment period held from January 20 through February 28, 2000 and the two information meetings held on February 1 and 26,2000.

The Lab's BGRR Working Group, the Community Advisory Council, and Brookhaven Executive Roundtable were kept up-to-date with briefings on progress of all the projects at the BGRR. Weekly status reports were posted on the BGRR web pages so that interested readers could follow the progress of the project. Additionally, a public notice was published in regional newspapers upon issuance of the Removal Action memorandum. The BGRR Record of Decision was signed in January 2005.

Documents / Links

BGRR Record of Decision