Schenectady County

Niskayuna updated on demolition project

Two buildings at an inactive Separations Process Research Unit (SPRU) facility at Knolls Atomic Powe
The building G2, which is expected to be demolished beginning in March.
The building G2, which is expected to be demolished beginning in March.

Two buildings at an inactive Separations Process Research Unit (SPRU) facility at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory on River Road in Niskayuna are expected to be demolished within the next several months.

The demolition is part of the SPRU cleanup project overseen by the U. S. Department of Energy that began in 1999. The project’s contractor is the URS Corporation.

On Thursday, Federal Project Director Steven Feinberg, URS Deputy Project Manager Jeff Selvey and URS Engineering Manager Bill Duggan gave a presentation to the Niskayuna Town Board with the latest update and demolition time frame.

The buildings set to be destroyed were built in the late 1940s, and were used for research and plutonium extraction until 1953. “These facilities were devoted to research for the Navy nuclear fleet,” Feinberg explained Thursday evening. “It was a pilot chemical plant used to separate plutonium for materials related to the war effort back then.”

After closing in 1953, Feinberg said, KAPL was charged to take care of the cleanup of the buildings and the land associated with the property.

The bulk of radioactive materials was removed, but a cleanup of residual radioactive and chemical contamination in 27 acres has been underway since 2010, according to U.S. Department of Energy information. In 2008, URS was awarded the cleanup contract to demolish the facilities.

The buildings, known as G2 and H2, stand at about 24,000 square feet a piece, and are constructed with steel and thick concrete walls.

A team of around 80 workers have been working to decontaminate and decommission both buildings to get them “demolition ready.”

In September, seven tanks were removed from H2 that held contaminated sludge in vaults where they were housed for more than 60 years.

“Six of those vault tanks were about 10,000 gallons, and the last tank was removed at 5,000 gallons,” Selvey said during the presentation. “We built special shipping containers for these tanks, they were size-reduced and shipped to a vendor for disposal out of the state.”

The demolition of G2 is expected to begin in March.

Residual radioactivity is present, but has been verified to meet contract requirements, according to the DOE’s presentation.

“We are well underway with removing the contaminated concrete in G2 and process areas,” Selvey said.

The demolition of the inside enclosure of H2 will begin around late March or April, and will finish by the end of the summer. Feinberg said in addition to the two buildings, an interconnecting tunnel and contaminated soil will also be removed, but the rest of the KAPL site will remain.

The DOE is investigating using small explosive charges to be placed in about 90 small holes drilled in G2 and H2’s thick concrete walls to demolish the buildings, but not all will be detonated at once.

“We intend to keep it within a tented closure to make sure the ventilation system has the opportunity to clear any smoke,” Feinberg explained.

“Using this approach will reduce several months’ time of heavy equipment … to fracture the walls,” the DOE’s presentation reads.

The federal project director said demolition activity will only take place before 9 p.m., and a sound estimated to be between 60 and 70 decibels will be able to be heard from River Road once per building demolition.

Feinberg said the blast will last about one second.

During demolition, the total SPRU site emission will be 0.084 millirems, or measurement of effects of radiation on the human body.

“To put that into perspective, a single dental X-ray is 1.5 millirems,” Feinberg said. “The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) compliance limit is 10 millirems a year.”

Feinberg explained the soil will be cleaned up to the state Department of Environmental Conservation standards, and water misting will be used to control air emissions with daily samples taken by the contractor.

Waste will be removed and shipped to an approved facility outside of the state.

“We expect about 15 truckloads of waste to leave the site during demolition each week,” Feinberg said. “We have packaging protocols that will be checked and make sure they meet DOE requirements before leaving the site.”

After building demolition, DOE will cleanup the land surrounding the building. At this time, there are no approved plans for new construction.

“KAPL is considering what they’ll do after the demolition of the buildings,” Feinberg said. “As of right now, there’s no future plans that I know of.”

Reach Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger at 395-3113, [email protected] or @KateSeckinger on Twitter.

Categories: Schenectady County

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