Demolition of the BGRR Instrument House

May 2005

Demolition of the BGRR Instrument House

Demolition of the Instrument House in progress


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 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, including the primary liner of the below-ground ducts.

The Instrument House, Building 708, was a steel, concrete, and brick structure approximately 45 feet long, 14 feet wide and 10 feet high. It was built over the underground primary air-cooling duct work and contained air-flow monitoring instrumentation, primary air exhaust water-cooling piping, and valves for Cooler operations. Portions of the building were contaminated with cesium-137, strontium-90, and cobalt-60 and uranium and plutonium.

The clean-up of the Instrument House was conducted in two phases. First, the above-ground portions of the building were addressed under the Above-Grade Ducting Removal Action Memorandum. Then, after the below-ground ducts underneath the Instrument House were dealt with, the building itself was addressed. Alternatives included decontamination or demolition. Community input helped determine the final action.

Description of Removal Action

In the first Removal Action in 2000, the equipment (air-flow monitoring instrumentation, valves, and cooling water manifolds) and piping in the Instrument House was removed along with the above-ground air ducts. Final demolition of the Instrument House began in May 2005 with the removal of the asbestos-containing roof material. The building was razed. The above-ground temporary access house was also demolished and temporary end caps were installed. The debris was packaged and transported off site for disposal.

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.

The BGRR Working Group, established in June 2000 met monthly through August 2003. The Lab's Community Advisory Council and DOE's 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.

A Feasibility Study and Proposed Remedial Action Plan on the BGRR were completed and released for public comment during 2004. Two information sessions and a public meeting were held to gather input from the community. The Record of Decision for the BGRR was signed in March 2005.

Documents / Links

BGRR Record of Decision