Brookhaven Lab to dismantle reactor by September 2011

Brookhaven National Lab?s Graphite Research Reactor will be Brookhaven National Lab’s Graphite Research Reactor will be completely dismantled by September 2011. Photo Credit: Newsday file / 1982

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Brookhaven National Laboratory's long-closed Graphite Research Reactor will be completely dismantled by September 2011 with help from $28 million in new stimulus funding, federal officials announced Tuesday at the Upton lab.

The reactor - the world's first peacetime research reactor - ceased operation in the late 1960s. The remaining disassembling work includes dismantling a concrete and steel "biological shield," removing a 100-meter reactor stack, and placing an impermeable cap around the building's base, officials said.

The work is "a significant milestone in the environmental restoration of the Brookhaven laboratory," said federal Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman, who attended the event.

The stimulus funding brings the cost of closing the reactor to about $120 million. The lab has received $70.5 million in stimulus funding to decommission the reactor and perform other cleanup work.

The reactor is one of three - all closed - at Brookhaven Lab. The high-flux beam reactor will be taken apart in 65 years - there is too much radiation present to act before then - while the decommissioning plan for the medical research reactor has not been crafted, officials said.

The graphite research reactor played a key role in developing products ranging from motor oils to seeds used to produce new varieties of grapefruit. Much of the building, cooling system and soil below eventually became contaminated.

More than 700 tons of radioactive graphite were removed from the reactor core from February to May, officials said, and shipped to Nevada for disposal.

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"This is a unique project, as the graphite reactor is the first reactor of its size to undergo removal of its graphite core," George Goode, the federal lab's assistant laboratory director for environment, safety and health, said in a statement, adding that federal officials view the removal as "a case study for other planned graphite reactor decommissioning projects across the DOE complex."

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), who attended the event, used a news conference to tout the success of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which funded the Brookhaven project. Federal officials approved the funding last week, officials said.

"This nation is in better shape economically than we would have been if not for the recovery act," Bishop said.

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