Connecting Alaska to the World And the World to Alaska
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Army to Remove Rubble from Demolished Nuclear Power Plant by Truck, Rail and Barge

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Army Corps of Engineers intends to haul radioactive and hazardous materials from Fort Greely’s mothballed nuclear power plant to Fairbanks by truck, where it would be loaded onto railcars and transported to tidewater, then loaded onto barges and taken to nuclear-waste disposal sites in the Lower 48.

The Corps of Engineers official who’s overseeing decommissioning and dismantling of the old power plant said Tuesday that contractors will take most of the solid waste from the project to disposal facilities in-state. But because Alaska doesn’t have a facility that handles radioactive and hazardous materials, those will be packed up and taken out of state.

“Waste that cannot be disposed of in the state of Alaska will be shipped to the Lower 48 states for disposal, via a combination of truck transport, train transport and vessels,” says Project Manager Brenda Barber.

Barber said in a Tuesday presentation on the project that waste will be trucked from the site on Fort Greely where the power plant known as the SM-1A is located, to the Alaska Railroad yard in Fairbanks, where the material will be loaded onto railcars.

“It’ll be transported by train to either the Port of Whitter, or the Port of Alaska, where it’ll be loaded onto vessels,” she said. “From there, it’ll be shipped to the Port of Seattle or (other) West Coast port. Once it arrives, it will go by rail or truck to the disposal facility.”

Credit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Much of the debris that will be removed from the SM-1A is left over from initial dismantling done after the nuclear power plant was shut down in 1972.

Barber says plans call for two truckloads of radioactive and hazardous materials to roll out of Fort Greely weekly, beginning late next year or in 2023. She says the Corps plans to minimize traffic congestion the trucks may cause in communities along the route, especially during rush hour.

“We’ll be scheduling all of the decommissioning-related traffic for off-peak hours,” she said.

Barber told the small audience that turned out for the meeting at the Westmark that all radioactive and hazardous materials extracted from the site will be packaged and transported according to federal and state regulations, to maintain safety for the workers and the public.

“Safety is the Number 1 priority for the Corps of Engineers,” she said. “There will be minimal risk to the public throughout the duration of the SM-1 project.”

Corps officials say the most highly radioactive materials and components were removed soon after the SM-1A was shut down in 1972.

Credit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
A slide from Tuesday’s presentation shows the Corps of Engineers’ proposed route and schedule of transporting demolition debris to nuclear-waste disposal sites in the Lower 48.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first of two the Corps has scheduled to inform members of the public about the project and how they can weigh in on it. The second meeting will be held at 6:30 tonight at the Delta Junction Community Center.

Members of the public can log-in to the online meeting by going to the Fort Greely Facebook page or the Corps of Engineers' SM-1A project web page. That’s also where they can find out how to offer comments on two documents the Corps has recently issued on the SM-1A project.

Editor's note: This story was revised to clarify that SM-1A demolition debris will be hauled from Fort Greely to Fairbanks twice weekly.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.