Low-level radioactive waste from a nuclear research site cleanup in Niskayuna could be coming to this Saratoga County town, to be loaded onto rail cars for shipment to a Texas landfill.
The materials would be packaged in hazardous waste containers in Niskayuna, then trucked to Corinth, where they would be loaded, said Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific Holdings, owner of the Saratoga & North Creek Railway.
“We think there will be no hazardous situation for anyone involved in it,” Ellis said Wednesday.
The U.S. Department of Energy, which is overseeing the cleanup at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, said no final decision has been made.
Corinth town Supervisor Richard Lucia said the Town Board has scheduled a presentation on the plan by the Saratoga & North Creek Railway for March 19, and until then, he won’t state an opinion.
“It’s still up in the air, from what they told me,” Lucia said Wednesday. “The numbers have to work out right.”
On Monday, Saratoga & North Creek Railway General Manager Justin Gonyo outlined the plan to the Warren County Board of Supervisors. Under the proposal, radioactive material that Ellis said compares to “an X-ray” would come from cleanup currently being done at KAPL. It would be trucked to Corinth, where it would be loaded onto rail cars and transported to a radioactive materials disposal site in Andrews, Texas.
Ellis said Iowa Pacific already brings other radioactive waste to Andrews, and railroads across the country handle radioactive and hazardous materials every day. Iowa Pacific has also hauled some of the contaminated sediments from the Hudson River PCB cleanup to Texas, he noted.
“Handling hazardous materials is a way of life for us,” Ellis said. “We handle hazardous materials every day.”
The presentation to the Corinth Town Board is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 19, at Town Hall, Lucia said.
The rail line that runs from Saratoga Springs to North Creek is jointly owned by Warren County and the town of Corinth. It is used by the Saratoga & North Creek Railway for tourism and ski runs between the two communities. The railway has operated since 2011.
Iowa Pacific, based in Chicago, runs both tourism and freight lines across the country.
Last year, Iowa Pacific received federal approval to haul freight on the North Creek-Saratoga line and began hauling carloads of gravel-like railroad ballast material from a former mining site in Tahawus, Essex County.
The loading of the radioactive material would be done at a siding in Corinth.
“There would be no dirt, no waste. We’d just see some boxes and lift them onto a car, and off they’d go,” Ellis said.
Those cars would be brought to the Saratoga railyard and hauled from there to Texas by CP Rail, Ellis said.
The U.S. Department of Energy, which is overseeing the cleanup at a former materials separation facility at Knolls, said no final decisions have been made on how to transport the waste.
“The department, working with its contractor is in the process of developing plans for the safe and cost-efficient off-site disposal of low-level waste from the Separations Process Research Unit (SPRU) located at the Knoll Atomic Power Lab,” said DOE spokeswoman Paivi Nattamo. “Transportation options for future waste shipments will be evaluated. No final decision has been made regarding future waste transportation.”
The SPRU building was used for research and plutonium extraction from the 1940s until 1953. The bulk of radioactive materials was removed after that, but a cleanup of residual radioactive and chemical contamination has been underway since 2010, according to U.S. Department of Energy information.
The most contaminated materials were removed in 2014; project completion is expected this year.
DOE said decontamination and decommissioning is taking place in two buildings and an interconnecting tunnel, and contaminated soil is also being removed. URS Energy and Construction Inc. of Moundsville, West Virginia, is under contract with the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management to conduct the work.
KAPL conducts research and provides support for the U.S. Navy’s nuclear propulsion program, operating the Niskayuna research facility and a naval training site in West Milton.