Saratoga County

Knolls studies storage facility plans

A new storage building for low-level radioactive waste materials may be built at the federally owned

A new storage building for low-level radioactive waste materials may be built at the federally owned Kenneth Kesselring naval nuclear propulsion training site.

Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, which operates the 3,900-acre site in rural Saratoga County, will soon start an environmental assessment of the proposal, with results of the study due next spring.

“A new facility is needed to streamline radioactive materials handling and storage operations, permit demolition of aging facilities and accommodate efficient maintenance of existing nuclear reactors,” KAPL officials said in a legal notice.

The building would be used to store slightly radioactive items such as replaced equipment, plastic sheeting and work gloves until it could be prepared for shipment to an out-of-state Department of Energy permanent storage site.

“The proposed [environmental assessment] will address and evaluate the potential environmental impacts associated with operations in the new facilities and demolition of existing radiological facilities at the Kesselring site to provide space for the construction of a new facility, if required,” said KAPL spokesman Gene Terwilliger.

The Kesselring site has been used since 1959 to train thousands of U.S. Navy sailors in the operation of reactors for nuclear-powered submarines and surface ships, as well as to develop new ship-propulsion technologies. The Department of Energy owns the site, and KAPL — which is based in Niskayuna and owned by Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corp. — operates it under contract with the federal government.

The site, concentrated on about 65 acres surrounded by thousands of acres of woods, contains two small operating nuclear reactors, as well as one permanently decommissioned reactor, and machine shops, offices, laboratories and other facilities.

Terwilliger said the site in recent years has generated about 615 cubic yards of radioactive waste per year, which he said is equivalent to the waste generated by 24 average households.

“The site has been safely handling low-level radioactive material since reactor operations began in the late 1950s,” Terwilliger said.

The environmental assessment will review three options, including the new building, making no changes, and building a temporary storage facility.

“For all options, the facility design will meet rigorous [Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program] standards for radiological facilities including systems for the safety of personnel and environment,” Terwilliger said.

The size and cost of any new building will be determined after the environmental assessment is complete, he said. The first draft of the assessment should be released for public comment in the spring.

Public comments on issues people feel should be covered in the environmental assessment must be submitted by Sept. 30.

Comments may be sent to David Delwiche, Naval Nuclear Reactors Field Office, P.O. Box 1069, Schenectady, NY 12301, or emailed to [email protected] Comments may also be made by telephone to 395-6366.

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