In 1990 Brookhaven National Laboratory established an environmental restoration program to perform cleanup of legacy contamination that resulted from the early operation of Brookhaven National Laboratory as a national research center. Beginning in 1999, this cleanup included the decommissioning of the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor (BGRR) and the High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR) that were no longer in operation.
The BGRR was the world's first research reactor constructed solely for the peaceful use of atomic energy. The BGRR operated from 1950 to 1968. Defueling and shipment of the fuel off-site was completed in June of 1972. The BGRR complex was described as being in a safe shutdown condition by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and became a Surplus Facility within the DOE complex. From 1977 until 1997, portions of the facility were used as the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) Science Museum. Beginning in 1999 and completed in 2012, decommissioning and dismantlement of the BGRR complex was performed, including removal of the graphite pile and biological shield, and the facility was placed in long-term safe storage.
The HFBR was a research reactor that operated at Brookhaven National Laboratory between 1965 and 1996. Used solely for scientific research, the HFBR provided neutrons for experiments in materials science, chemistry, biology, and physics. During a routine maintenance shutdown in 1996, tritium from the spent fuel canal was found in groundwater south of the reactor. Operations at the HFBR were suspended, and the nuclear fuel was removed from the reactor and transported to another Department of Energy (DOE) site in 1998.
In November 1999, DOE announced it was permanently closing the reactor, and decommissioning and dismantlement of the HFBR complex commenced. In 2010 the HFBR building and activated components (reactor internals, reactor vessel, thermal shield, and biological shield) were placed in a safe configuration for a 65 year period of decay in storage. Final decommissioning of the HFBR confinement building will be performed at the completion of the decay period. The HFBR Stack is scheduled for dismantlement by 2020.
Long term surveillance and maintenance activities associated with the BGRR and HFBR complexes (reactors, stack, and surrounding grounds) are the responsibility of the Groundwater Protection Group (GPG). They are also responsible for the long term operations and maintenance of the groundwater remediation systems, the remediated portions of the Peconic River, and the implementation of controls for the remediated areas.