Demolition of contaminated Knolls buildings complete

22 containers of radioactive waste remain on site, awaiting shipment to New Mexico
A May 22 view of the continuing cleanup at Knolls Atomic Power Lab.
A May 22 view of the continuing cleanup at Knolls Atomic Power Lab.

NISKAYUNA — Demolition of structures off River Road used in Cold War nuclear weapons research is complete, the U.S. Department of Energy announced Wednesday.

Buildings G2 and H2 at the Separations Process Research Unit at what is now Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory were constructed in the late 1940s to separate nuclear materials for national defense purposes. In the early 1950s, they were contaminated with radioactive and other hazardous materials.

Knolls Atomic Laboratory, a Department of Energy facility that researches naval nuclear propulsion, performed some cleanup over the years on the SPRU site, which sits on the Knolls campus. But some contamination remained.

The formal Department of Energy cleanup effort for this and other SPRU sites nationwide began in 1999.

Demolition of G2 and H2 was begun in 2016 and completed last month, the Department of Energy announced Wednesday. The remainder of the work, which includes removing concrete debris, soil testing and backfilling excavated areas, is expected to be completed this fall. 

Remaining on site for an undetermined amount of time will be 22 sealed containers of radioactive waste collected during the project. The Department of Energy said the containers eventually will be removed to the DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico. In March, the DOE applied for state approval of a permit to store the containers on site in Niskayuna.

The DOE could not immediately say Wednesday when the transfer might happen. The underground New Mexico facility was closed to shipments of waste for three years and resumed accepting material only about 14 months ago, according to the Carlsbad Current Argus.

“The DOE SPRU Field Office staff and our AECOM contractor worked together closely to safely and successfully complete this major project milestone,” federal project director Steven Feinberg said in a news release Wednesday.

“Safely completing demolition of Building H2 is a major achievement for our team,” said Keith Stone, AECOM’s SPRU disposition project manager. “With the backfill of the H2 excavation and environmental restoration of the SPRU site, we will have achieved DOE’s goal of eliminating the risks inherent in these 60-year-old facilities.”

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