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Contaminated waste hauled out of Knolls Atomic Power Lab

Contaminated waste hauled out of Knolls Atomic Power Lab

Feds say cleanup of Cold War research site in final stages of cleanup
Contaminated waste hauled out of Knolls Atomic Power Lab
The Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory on River Road in Niskayuna is pictured.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

NISKAYUNA — Those flatbed trucks hauling shipping containers through town this past week are part of the final stages of cleanup of decades-old radioactive contamination at Knolls Atomic Power Lab.

The U.S. Department of Energy, which is overseeing the cleanup, said Thursday that the project should be complete later this year.

The Separations Process Research Unit was created off River Road as part of the larger Cold War effort to develop plutonium for nuclear weapons. Buildings G2 and H2, built as pilot plants in the late 1940s, were contaminated between February 1950 and October 1953, according to the Department of Energy. 

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.

Nearly 10,000 gallons of contaminated sludge was solidified and removed in 14 shipments for off-site disposal. Seven large tanks that previously held radioactive waste were removed. Tent enclosures with filtered ventilation systems were constructed around G2 and H2. Once the underlying contamination was removed, the tents were removed, and G2 and H2 were demolished.

Earlier this year, the Department of Energy sought a state permit to store 22 containers of radioactive and chemically hazardous wasted on-site until a plan to remove and dispose of it was finalized.

The containers now being trucked out of the site are not the 22 containers that had been stockpiled, rather they are full of other material generated by the ongoing cleanup, the Department of Energy said Thursday. 

DOE officials said the long-running cleanup is expected to be complete later this year. The department is posting periodic updates on the process on its website, at spru.energy.gov.

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