BGRR Fuel Canal and Deep Soils Removal

February 2005

BGRR Fuel Canal and Deep Soils Removal

Backfilling the canal excavation


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 part of sub-project Step 4.

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. The Canal House, Building 709, contained the shallow portion of the spent fuel canal which was connected into the deep pit area under Building 701. When the reactor was refueled, spent fuel was placed underwater in the deep pit to cool; it was then moved under water to the Canal House. There it was prepared and loaded into casks for shipment to DOE's Savannah River Site. The rod storage vault was used between 1950 and 1958 to hold empty aluminum rods after the spent uranium fuel was removed. The Canal House provided protection and containment for the canal and cask handling areas.

Historical radiological surveys confirmed contamination in the concrete and asphalt areas surrounding the canal structure. The contamination was from spills during operations and from water leakage from the canal. The canal is believed to have leaked at its construction joint with Building 701.

Description of Removal Action

The canal structure and a major portion of the foundation were removed. The foundation was removed to a depth of 14 feet below the bottom of the canal floor slab. Removal of the underlying soil began on April 12, 2005. The soil also was removed to a depth of 14 feet. Excavation of the canal and demolition of the canal concrete structure was completed in May 2005. Approximately 750 to 800 cubic yards of contaminated soil and concrete were removed and loaded into super sacks for rail shipment, or truck containers, for disposal offsite.

Community Outreach

There were numerous opportunities for stakeholders to provide input as BNL's efforts to seek community participation continued to expand. 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 it February 1 and 26. Input from the BGRR Working Group, which had been established in June 2000 (and met monthly through August 2003) was obtained early on in the process.

This work was outlined in an Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis that BNL had prepared in August 2001. The EE/CA assessed various alternatives for remediating the canal area and identified a preferred alternative. The EE/CA was issued for public comment on August 15, 2001 and public meetings were held on August 28 and September 18, 2001. The comment period for the EE/CA was extended through October 19, 2001 at the request of the community. In addition, fact sheets were prepared and mailed to 2,300 stakeholders, a presentation was given to the CAC in October 2001, the BGRR website was expanded to include weekly progress reports, and updates were included in the cleanupdate newsletter, the Monday Memo, and the Bulletin.

Throughout the entire timeframe that BGRR decommissioning activities were taking place, the Lab's Community Advisory Council, and DOE's Brookhaven Executive Roundtable were kept up-to-date with briefings on the progress of all the projects

Documents / Links

Proposed Cleanup Plan

BGRR Record of Decision