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Army Reaches Milestone in Decommissioning of Fort Greely’s Old Nuclear Power Plant

KUAC file photo

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed environmental studies of its project to decommission and dismantle a mothballed nuclear power plant at Fort Greely. And now that the agency has reached that important milestone, it will soon begin the process of hiring a contractor to tear down and remove the old facility.

The Corps of Engineers issued two documents this week on its plans to decommission and dismantle the SM-1A, an experimental Cold War-era nuclear power plant on Fort Greely that was shut down in 1972 and mothballed. The Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact are required by the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

“So we’re in a formal 30-day wait period, after which point the NEPA process will conclude,” says Project Manager Brenda Barber.

During those 30 days, the Corps plans to complete work on an historic-preservation agreement and apply for a decommissioning permit, Barber said. And while that’s in progress, the Corps hopes to move ahead on a smaller project that must be completed before the decommissioning and dismantling can begin: disconnecting the old nuclear components from the now diesel-fired plant that provides heat and power for Fort Greely.

“We are taking some initial steps to separate the utilities from the north and south end of building 606, which is the building that houses the nuclear reactor,” she said in an interview Tuesday.

Credit KUAC file photo
Project Manager Brenda Barber talks about the SM-1A decommissioning and dismantling during a talk in Fairbanks earlier this year. She says the Corps hopes to begin disconnecting the old nuclear and newer diesel-fueled heat and power systems in building 606 later this year.

Barber says the Corps is negotiating with Doyon Utilities, the contractor that operates the power plant, to administer the utilities-disconnection project, which the Corps hopes to begin soon.

She says the Corps’ team working on the SM-1A project also is preparing to begin soliciting offers from contractors interested in bidding on the decommissioning and dismantling project.

“I anticipate we’ll be releasing the request for proposals in the late summer,” she said, “and offering a site visit concurrent with the release of that proposal so that potential bidders can view the site and prepare their proposals for the larger contract.”

Radioactive materials will be removed from the site and transported to nuclear-waste strorage facilities in the Lower 48.

Barber says the Corps and contractors will adhere to stringent safety standards throughout the decommissioning and dismantling of the old SM-1A. She says the agency hopes to complete the project within seven years.

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.