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Santa Susana nuclear facility to be cleaned up by 2017, agencies agree

State and federal agencies agreed Monday to clean up a former nuclear research facility in eastern Ventura County by 2017.

For decades, community activists and the state Environmental Protection Agency have urged officials to clean up the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a 2,850-acre facility once used to test and develop rocket engines and nuclear reactors.  In 1959, a reactor at the facility suffered a partial nuclear meltdown, and some area residents have since complained of health problems. 

The agreement signed by officials from NASA, the state Dept. of Toxic Substances and the federal Department of Energy paved the way for what will be an intense cleanup to include hauling contaminated soil to licensed waste dumps as far away as Utah.

According to a 2006 study, radioactive emissions from the earlier meltdown could have resulted in up to 1,800 cases of cancer within 62 miles of the site over a “period of many decades.”

That study was discredited by Boeing, who now owns the facility along with NASA. Boeing did not sign the agreement, and the cleanup will not include its facilities.

"We hope we can reach a similar agreement with Boeing and that our continued negotiations bear fruit as they did with DOE and NASA," Linda Adams of the California Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement.


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Comments () | Archives (1)

Please define a "partial meltdown". This is a term used by nontechnical people that makes the incident at the Sodium Reactor Experiment "SRE" look much more serious than it was. The incident at the SRE would be a 3-4 on a similar scale to a Richter Scale. At a 7 hour Expert Panel event last August 2009, the DOE brought in three nuclear physicists - Dr. Thomas Cochran of the NRDC, Dr. Richard Denning of Ohio State, and Dr. Paul Pickard of Sandia National Laboratories. Their conclusions were that only the volatile gases of Xenon and Krypton escaped, and that there was no harm to the community from that incident 51 years ago. The reactor core was removed as planned, and it went back online for about another four years. You could not do that if there was a "Partial Meltdown".
I think what the Times should focus on is that there has been more than 30 years of remediation on the NASA and DOE property. You should understand that where reactors have already been dug up and the soil was checked before it went back into the hole - they will want to dig up those holes as deep as 100 feet again just because the soil does not meet local Background.
So what you need to decide is this - is it riskier to leave soil in the ground that is slightly above background, or is is more dangerous to excavate and make it airborne.
Please remember, the more cleanup that they do, you will be impacted in two ways: 1) One hundred thousad trucks will run down Woolsey Canyon Road, another 100,000 trucks will run back up from the 118 freeway.
2) You get to pay for the NASA and DOE cleanup with your tax dollars.
So far, I figure that the DOE has put out about $245 million for their portion of the site. And I figure it will cost them at least another $300 million with this Agreement.
My guess is that this Agreement will cost NASA at least $150 million.
Right now, my biggest concern is the test stands. If there are any old Rocketdyne employees out there that think that we should protect the teststands, please contact DTSC and NASA.


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