Schenectady County

Knolls Atomic Power Lab soil cleanup begins

The process of digging out soil contamination at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory has begun, offic

The process of digging out soil contamination at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory has begun, officials with the company doing the work said this week.

Accelerated Remediation Co., of Idaho Falls, Idaho, is to manage cleanup of about 15 acres of radiologically and chemically contaminated soil at the Knolls site.

The $14 million project, part of a larger cleanup, began in late August and is expected to continue through July 2010.

The work involves using backhoes to dig up contaminated dirt. That dirt is then put in 18,000-pound bags. Three to four of the bags are then placed on a flatbed truck and shipped by rail for disposal in Utah, according to Brian Edgerton, program manger for the project.

So far, about 750 cubic yards have been excavated. A total of 7,240 cubic yards is to be taken.

The radiation does not pose a risk to the general public, according to a U.S. Department of Energy report, and workers are only at risk if they disturb contaminated soil and inhale it or ingest it.

The radiation is left over from a 1950s U.S. Atomic Energy Commission laboratory.

Workers handling the soil wear plastic booties over their shoes and gloves when working with it. No respirators are required, or special clothing.

Accelerated Remediation Co. is a subsidiary of Portage Inc.

The Department of Energy has been working since 2000 to decide what to do with the remnants of the former Separations Process Research Unit at KAPL.

The unit, operational for less than three years, focused on research into recovering uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel. The unit closed in 1953. KAPL then shifted from a general-purpose lab to a concentration on nuclear-powered ships.

The digging is part of a larger project to remove two buildings, a tank farm and tunnels on the site.

The Department of Energy awarded the $69 million contract last December to Washington Group International of Oak Ridge, Tenn. The bid was $100 million less than estimates.

Another portion of the project is to remove about 1,300 cubic yards of soil under the H2 and backfill the site with clean material.

The third portion is to remove 6,500 cubic yards of soil in a lower level parking lot and railroad staging area.

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